The Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that plays host to thousands of birds especially during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Park their home. It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland and one of the national parks of India. The reserve protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, provides grazing grounds for village cattle and earlier was primarily used as a waterfowl hunting ground. The 29 km2 reserve is locally known as Ghana, and is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. These diverse habitats are home to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species,7 turtle species, and a variety of other invertebrates. Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for wintering breeding etc. The Sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world. It is known for nesting of its resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to winter in this park but this central population of Siberian cranes is now extinct. According to Peter Scott, Keoladeo Sanctuary is the world’s best bird area.
One third of the Keoladeo National Park habitat is wetland systems with varying types of microhabitats having trees, mounds, dykes and open water with or without submerged or emergent plants. The uplands have grasslands (savannas) of tall species of grass together with scattered trees and shrubs present in varying density.
A similar habitat with short grasses, such as Cynodon dactylon and Dicanthium annulatum also exists. Woodlands with thickets of huge Kadam trees (Neolamarckia cadamba) are distributed in scattered pockets. Richness and diversity of plant life inside the Park is remarkable. The Park’s flora consists of 379 species of flowering plants of which 96 are wetland species. The Wetland is a part of the Indo-Gangetic Great Plains.
In an area characterized by sparse vegetation, the park is the only spot which has dense vegetation and trees. The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forests intermixed with dry grasslands. Where the forest has degraded, the greater part of the area is covered with shrubs and medium sized trees. The park is a fresh water swamp and is flooded during the monsoon. For most part of the year, effective wetland is only 10 km2. The rest of the area remains dry.
Dykes divide the wetland into ten units. Each unit has a system of sluice gates to control its water level. Depth of water ranges from 1 metre to 2 metres during rains (July, August and September). In subsequent months, October to January, the level gets lowered. The area starts drying from February. In May and June, the entire area dries. Water remains only in some depressions. This alternate wetting and drying helps to maintain the ecology of the fresh water swamp, ideal for water-fowl and resident water birds. Arrangement to pump water from deep tube wells to fill small depressions to save seeds, spores and other aquatic life also exist. They are also helpful in extreme years of drought.
The park opens from sunrise to sunset around the year.
The ticket is Rs 200 per foreign visitors and Rs 75 for Indian visitors. There is no charge for taking a digital camera inside the park. The charge for a video camera is Rs 450.
The nearest airports are in Delhi, and Jaipur. Daily flights are available between Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Varanasi, and Lucknow. The nearest railway station is Bharatpur Junction. Bharatpur is connected with other parts of the nation by very good roads. There are regular bus services from Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Jaipur, Alwar and adjoining areas. Many trains from New Delhi (New Delhi – Mumbai and Agra – Jaipur route) stop at Bharatpur. Bharatpur is easily reached by train or bus, although private taxis from New Delhi or Agra can be employed. The Park gate is close to the bus stand and railway station.
Vehicles are not permitted inside the park, but you need to park them in the designated parking area for Rs 50 for a four-wheel vehicle. After this you can choose to walk, bicycle, or go by cycle rickshaw, Tonga or boat when the water level is high.
Gents standard bicycle is available for Rs 25 and Ladies cycle is available for Rs 40. Do check that the bicycle is in good condition. For all services including parking you will have to pay and take a token from the counter at the main gate.
If you do not wish to drive bicycle or walk, then take a rickshaw for Rs 100 per hour. The cycle rickshaw wallah’s displaying yellow plate meaning authorized double up as guides also carry binoculars which are for Rs 50 per hour.
The only accommodation inside the Keoladeo National Park is available in the property of government Bharatpur Ashoka Forest Lodge and lesser expensive Shanti Kutir, which is maintained and run by the ITDC. Bharatpur Forest Lodge is a quaint hotel in the vicinity of natural treasure trove of the park and has a total of 16 rooms to offer to visitors. Its circuit house and dak bungalow also offer good accommodation options. Visitors coming to Bharatpur can also stay in palaces, havelis and other heritage properties converted into hotels. It’s always advisable to have one’s accommodation pre-booked, especially so during winters. An array of 3-star hotels and resorts are also located in the vicinity of the park where visitors can stay cozily.
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