Taking advantage of the long weekend because of the Republic Day holiday on Thursday in India, we visited Keoladeo National Park, the famous bird sanctuary at Bharatpur. Let me say at the outset that H and I are no bird watchers but we are ready to travel at the drop of a hat or even a pin. And four days are more than enough to go to Bharatpur and come back from New Delhi. The park was also recommended strongly by Lily.
We took Mewar express from Hazrat Nizamudin railway station at 7.50 pm and reached Bharatpur around 11.00 pm. A tempo guy said he would take us to a hotel. Most of the hotles are streatched along half a kilometer area near the bird sanctuary but at 11 in night the gates of the guesthouses were locked and no one answered the call bells. After many failed attempts, we finally managed to wake up the owner of the Falcon Guesthouse (it is highly recommended for budget stay by the excellent guys at the Indiamike.com forum and I agree with them). It was past midnight by now. The owner told us that the rent was Rupees 400. We gladly took the room and crashed.
Next day, we headed straight to the park after having the breakfast. I took photographs of the two boards at the enterance of the Keoladeo National Park, where the details of the timing of the park, guide rates and enterance fee are given. Takes the hassel out of writing about it. The rates become more readable if you click on the photographs to view them at the full size. The enterance fee for Indian nationals is Rupees 25 and for foreign nationals Rupees 200. Anyway, as I said before click on the photographs to see the entire boards more clearly.
We walked up to a barrier after which motorized vehciles are not allowed. At this point we found an area where a boat was parked and H decided we would go on a boat ride. It was an excellent decision. Prior to visiting the Baharatpur park, all my experience of bird watching was on treks where an enthusiast would point at sometihng high up which was hardly visible. But this year in Bharatpur there is ample water and it was a very in your face kind of experience. H and I can appriciate birds only in this way, I guess.
I managed to capture these three painted storks from our boat ride. In the picture below are their babies high up in the tress. They make an enormous amount of noise. There must have been more than a thousand painted storkes in the park, it was easy to photograph them. Though I sincerely wish I had something better than my lousy Nikon Coolpix 3200 with just a 3X optical zoom. Not at all good for wildlife photography.
Looks all grace in flight, isn’t it? Don’t ask me what it is, if you know the name of this white bird, tell me too (It is a large Egret. I know now because Lily has been kind enough to mention it in the comments). The water reflection is an added bonus. The day was bright and most of the time water reflections were crystal clear. But there is a small problem with many of the photographs I took, I used the digital zoom and on full screen the image looks blurred and grainy. The digital zoom on my Nikon Coolpix seems quite useless for taking wildlife shots and the 3X optical zoom is just not enough.
Here, I can tell you another story. These are two different pythons. To see if the python was sun bathing, our boatman got out of the boat after pulling it across the bank at one point. The water is quite shallow in the wetland, at the most six feet deep and the boatman was using a long bamboo stick to guide the boat. There were five of us in the boat, waiting for his report. Meanwhile, the guide (hired by another group sharing the boat ride with us) tried to get out and managed to push the boat midstream. We all were laughing and wondering how the boatman will get the boat to the shore again? Well, he threw the bamboo to the guide and told him to push it at one side and a little while later at the other, and we were near the bank again, it was that simple. He then told us that a python was sunbathing indeed. That is how I got the first picture.
The second python was sunbathing near the canteen next to the Keoladeo (Shiva) Temple and was surrounded by a host of people. It was even easier to click the second python.
The wetlands are the lifeline of the park. The park is huge and we travelled partly on foot and partly on rented bicycle (the bicycles can be rented at the main gate for Rupees 25 for the entire day). One can hire a rickshaw too, the rickshaw pullers have been trained by WWF and they are expert birdwatchers. All in all, an excellent trip and I am told that the season lasts till February. So if you live in and around Delhi, what are you waiting for?