One of my most memorable trips when I was in India is when I visited one of the National Parks in West Bengal, India. It has always been one of my life-long dreams but I never imagined that I would be able to experience it while I was in India. Actually, I didn't know that this country has so many National Parks because the only thing that is coming into my mind when I heard of Safari is Africa which is quite expensive since I only have limited budget. While I was in West Bengal, I learned that there are several National Parks which are not as expensive as Africa. After doing some research and getting information from the tourism board of West Bengal, I was able to experience this life-long dream unexpectedly. You can read my first Safari experience in my post about the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.
For those who are also dreaming of doing a Safari but have a limited budget like me, you might want to check the National Parks of India which is way cheaper than in Africa. Since India is a huge country with diverse cultures and receiving millions of tourists annually, there are so many Airlines flying in and out of India. One example of them is Emirates that have flights to India every week.
After a few months after visiting Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, I can still feel the excitement and joy when I first saw the wild animals in their natural habitat. So every time I arrived in another state of India, I always research for National Park that I can possibly visit. So just in time while I was in Amritsar in the Punjab state, I learned that there are also several National Parks in the state of Rajasthan which is my next stop after staying for a while in Punjab.
On my fourth month in India, I decided to visit the state of Rajasthan. After spending some time in Amritsar, I took the 12-hour train ride from Amritsar to Bharatpur where I spent more than week. My main purposed of visiting this side of Rajasthan is to explore the Keoladeo National Park or also known as the Keoloadeo Ghana National Park. This vast wetland is a bird sanctuary and listed under UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place provides shelter to a number of bird species and attracts different species from around the world including the Siberian Cranes.
Earlier, this man-made wetland was a duck-hunting reserve of Lord Curzon, one of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. Formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, this 2,783 hectares is now serves as a breeding and resting ground for many migratory birds. The National Park was named after the temple of Lord Shiva (Keoladeo) located inside the forest.
I and my friend arrived before sunrise and there were a few numbers of foreign and local visitors already waiting for the park to open. Since the sanctuary is too big and quite impossible to cover on foot, most of us rented a bicycle offered by the park. There are also pedicabs outside the gate offering their service.
According to the information board in the main entrance, the sanctuary is famous for birds that flock in large numbers during winter season. They arrive all the way from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, China and Siberia. The whole sanctuary is composed of woodlands, grasslands, woodland swamps and wetlands.
This reserve also protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, provides grazing grounds for village cattle and thus, serves many purposes. This diverse habitat supports 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.
Here are some birds I saw inside Keolodeo:
According to the guide that accompanied us, there are also Mammals in the area which include feral cattle, sambar, spotted deer, porcupine, wild boar, jungle cat, leopard, Indian gray mongoose, fishing cat, smooth-coated otter, jackals, hyena, gerbils and many more.
Here are the other wild animals I saw:
I would recommend visiting Bharatpur when in Rajasthan. A trip to this National Park is a must to do thing if you have interest in birding. If you want to visit the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, the best time is from August to November to see the resident breeding birds. And if you want to see thousands and thousands of migratory birds, October to February is the best time to visit.