Keoladeo National Park is India’s premier birdwatching sanctuary – an avian wonderland that attracts vast numbers of feathered creatures thanks to its strategic location, protected status and extensive wetlands. Some 385 species have been recorded here, including around two hundred year-round residents along with 190-odd migratory species from as far afield as Tibet, China, Siberia and even Europe, who fly south to escape the northern winter. Keoladeo is probably best known for its stupendous array of aquatic birds, which descend en masse on the park’s wetlands following the dramatic arrival of the monsoon in July. These include the majestic saras crane and a staggering two thousand painted storks, as well as snake-necked darters, spoonbills, white ibis and grey pelicans. There are also various mammals in the park, including wild boar, mongoose, antelope, jackal, jungle cat, chital, nilgai and sambar.
The best time to visit is following the monsoon (roughly Oct–March), when the weather is dry but the lakes are still full and the migratory birds in residence (although mists in December and January can hinder serious birdwatching). Rajasthan’s decade of drought finally came to an end in 2012 with an unusually long monsoon. Consistent rainfall combined with a series of three new permanent irrigation channels – designed to keep the water level in the lakes consistent – replenished Keoladeo’s waterways which had all but dried up during the drought.