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. Keoladeo National Park is the proud owner of a UNESCO World Heritage Site title.
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Visiting Keoladeo National Park
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. During the winter months, the park can be quite cold, with temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. The desert climate means that temperatures reach highs and lows depending on the months. If you visit in winter, be sure to look out for the Indian Pythons bathing out in the sun.
Getting around the park is fairly easy, although vehicles are prohibited 2km into the park. Well-defined footpaths making walking easy, and bicycles can be hired to cycle around quite pleasantly. The most advised form of seeing the park is to hire a rickshaw, the drivers are trained by the park and are very knowledgeable about the birds - so ask your questions!
The park is open all year round, from sunrise to sunset. During monsoon season when the waters are high, it is possible to hire a boat with a well-clued up oarsman who will educate you on the birds and provide a relaxed way to travel around the park and see the wildlife up close and personal.
Nilgai in Keoladeo National Park © Don Mammoser / Shutterstock
Places to Visit Near Keoladeo National Park
The park itself is quite spectacular, but you will be happy to know the surrounding area also holds some gems that are worth seeing. Nearby is the Government Museum, Bharatpur Palace and Lohagarh Fort. About 35km away is the impressive Deeg Palace, made up of multiple palaces and gardens.
Featured Image, Flamingos in Keoladeo © Sourahb Bharti / Shutterstock