Whilst most people consider the Taj Mahal to be the highlight of their experience in northern India, one of the best mornings I had by far was spent at the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this manmade park is one of the richest bird areas in the world, boasting no fewer than 366 species of birds, 379 species of plants, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, seven species of amphibians and five species of lizard.
Visiting Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan
We started our visit early in the morning when the park first opened – this was when the air was coolest and most of the animals within Keoladeo National Park were just getting up and about. As our guide wandered off to rent himself a bike, we were taken over to a rickshaw which would be our form of transport for the rest of the day.
We did want to cycle around ourselves – after being in India for about ten days at this point, we’d had enough of everyone doing everything for us! – but since temperatures were set to peak into the mid-40s that day, our guide seriously advised against it.
We started the tour being led under the partially shady tree canopy, over a very uneven, rocky surface. Our guide pointed out all kinds of birds along the way, some of which live permanently in Keoladeo National Park and others of which only visit for brief times during migration periods.
We saw many different species of birds across a wide range of colours and sizes – including parakeets, storks, owls and peacocks which, unfortunately, were not up for giving us much of a show that day. But the fauna we saw during our trip wasn’t just limited to birds – the park is also home to 27 different species of mammals, only a few of which we saw.
Wild boar mothers with their young, loads of sambar deer clustered together and the odd porcupine were some of the most interesting creatures we spotted, but the highlight of our day was definitely when we ventured right into the centre of Keoladeo National Park.
There are several large lakes and ponds speckled throughout the Keoladeo National Park, one of which is the residing spot of many catfish and soft-shelled turtles. Since there isn’t much in the way of natural sources of food for these animals to gorge on, some of the locals take it upon themselves to take care of the animals and feed them – we were lucky enough to see the feeding process in action.
It’s at this same point in the park where we found massive tribes of monkeys all living together. Just like the locals take care of the carp and turtles, they also feed the monkeys in the same place, which is why they were all gathered here. With the exception of witnessing a few rough fights over the best bits of food, watching the monkeys behave completely in their natural habitat was beyond amazing. Watching how the mothers take care of their young was truly touching.
If you ever sign up for a Golden Triangle tour in North India, a morning at the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan is definitely worth it. Most tour companies offer this trip as an optional added extra and don’t promote is as being as spectacular as it really is – now you know better! You can stay in wonderful top quality hotels in India for the entire duration of your tour for remarkably low prices, which makes visiting the incredible country for an adventurous, yet still completely comfortable, holiday even easier.