Keoladeo Ghana National Park - 2019
Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that hosts thousands of birds, especially during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to be resident. 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 World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo Ghana 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 (11 sq mi) 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 and breeding. The sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world and is known for nesting of resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to winter in this park but this central population is now extinct. According to founder of the World Wildlife Fund Peter Scott, Keoladeo National Park is one of the world’s best bird areas.
The sanctuary was created 250 years ago and is named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries. Initially, it was a natural depression; and was flooded after the Ajan Bund was constructed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, then the ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, between 1726–1763. The bund was created at the confluence of two rivers, the Gambhir and Banganga. The park was a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organised yearly in honour of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, then Viceroy of India.
The park was established as a national park on 10 March 1982. Previously the private duck shooting preserve of the Maharaja of Bharatpur since the 1850s, the area was designated as a bird sanctuary on 13 March 1976 and a Ramsar site under the Wetland Convention in October 1981. The last big shoot was held in 1964 but the Maharajah retained shooting rights until 1972. In 1985, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site under the world Heritage Convention. It is a reserve forest under the Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953 and therefore, is the property of the state of Rajasthan of the Indian Union. In 1982, grazing was banned in the park, leading to violent clashes between local farmers and the government.
Keoladeo (Bharatpur) National Park (27°10'N, 77°31'E) is a World Heritage Site situated in eastern Rajasthan. The park is 2 kilometers (km) south-east of Bharatpur and 55 km west of Agra. The Park is spread over approx. 29 square kilometer 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 Dichanthium 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 characterised 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 metre 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.
Facilities for Tourism and Visitor:
By virtue of being one of the best bird watching sites of Asia, more than 100,000 visitors come to the park every year. The range of visitors varies from very serious birdwatchers to school children. Of the visitors, 45,000 are foreign tourists. In addition the location of the park is such that tourists visiting Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur invariably stop over at Bharatpur. The park opens from sunrise to sunset around the year. Food and accommodation facilities are available within the precincts of the park. 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. Besides the normal tourism activities and self arranged bird watching tours of the Keoladeo National Park, visitors can also opt for a tour of this birding destination by selecting from an array of luxury tourist train services. Luxury trains like Palace on Wheels include Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in its tour itinerary.
Best time to visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
While you can plan a trip anytime you want to, the best time to visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is August – November for watching resident birds and October – March for spotting migratory birds.
Opening timings: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm (In Summer Season)
6:30 am – 5:00 pm (In Winter Season)