World Heritage Site renowned for its spectacular avifauna

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Officially known as the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary, this this birding haven may be diminutive (29km2) but hosts more than 375 bird species, and many more during the migratory season.

World Heritage Site renowned for its spectacular avifauna

The landscape is made up of man-made wetlands and microhabitats like low-lying lands completely submerged in water, grasslands and dense tree growth.

Its famous for heronries bustling with herons, storks, egrets and cormorants during the breeding season of July-October. Adults fly all day long to satisfy the insatiable appetites of their noisy chicks. In winter the park is a haven for waterfowl and raptors. Over 30 species of the latter, including buzzards, eagles, hawks, falcons and harriers, congregate here.

Misty views of the park’s stunningly beautiful habitats on winter mornings are magical. Apart from birds, mammals and reptiles such as Spotted Deer, Nilgai, fruit bats, pythons and freshwater turtles thrive here.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

History

This man-made swamp was founded by Maharaja Suraj Mal in 1733 when he ordered the building of the Ajan Dam. What used to be a seasonal, rain-filled natural depression behind the dam filled up to become a wetland ecosystem, augmented by diverting a nearby irrigation canal. Later royals invited British officials on shoots to curry favour.

Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchener inaugurated the first duck shoot here in 1902. The party of 17 killed 540 birds on that day but it pales in comparison to the highest figure of 4,273 birds in November 1938, bagged by the then viceroy, Lord Linlithgow’s party.

Due to the efforts of renowned Indian ornithologist Salim Ali, it was declared a sanctuary in 1956, although ‘VIP shoots’ continued until 1964 and Maharaja Brijendra Singh retained hunting rights until 1972. It was declared a Ramsar site in 1981, a National Park in 1982 and a World Heritage Site in 1985.

Experiences

You can explore miles of track on foot, or hire bicycles from the visitor centre.

You can even hire a rickshaw, operated by locals who have been trained as birding guides. These rickshaws ply on the main central avenue through the park, saving your legs for exploring the numerous branch tracks that invite your attention.

From the Director's Travel Diary

Hiring a bike and taking my 9 year old daughter pillion riding on a bumpy ride through the park to see the pelicans. We still remember that misty winter morning years later.

I was lucky enough to spot the last pair of Siberian cranes that visited the park in the early 2000’s. Sadly, they visit no more, due to years of poaching and wars on their migratory route.

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Our Accommodation Ratings

Opulent: Exceptional, unashamedly the best of sheer luxury. (£££££)

Luxury: Outstanding levels of 5* comfort, hospitality and facilities. (££££)

Premium: Excellent levels of comfort and hospitality and a wide range of facilities. (£££)

Mid-Range: Good levels of comfort and hospitality, with a reasonable range of facilities. (££)

Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)