Friday, 15 January 2016

Land of Tigers: Ranthambore and Sariska Forest

Every year, we plan a long trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year, it was not possible to plan in the month of February hence we decided to visit in the month of January. This time we selected Delhi – Amritsar – Bharatpur Bird sanctuary – Ranthambore National park – Sariska National park and Jaipur. To avoid length of blog, I have divided it into 4 parts. In this part, will like to share my travel experience from Ranthambore National park and Sariska Tiger Reserve

Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Tiger from Ranthambore
Tiger Cub set for Hunting 

Travel Blog link on Bharatpur: Bharatpur: Bird’s paradise!!!

About Ranthambore and Sariska:
              Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (Also known as Ranthambore National Park) is in Rajasthan, India. It is one of the best Parks in the India to spot tigers. It is spread over 392 sq km area. Ranthambore was established in year 1955 and declared as tiger reserve project in 1973. It is famous for tigers but it also other animals such as leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear, gray langur, macaque and chital.

               Sariska Tiger Reserve is located in Alwar district of Rajasthan. It is spread over 282 square km area. It is the first tiger reserve in the world to have successfully relocated tigers from one park to Sariska. There are around 14-15 tigers present in the park. Apart from tigers, you can spot leopard, jungle cat, caracal, striped hyena, Indian jackal, chital, sambhar, Nilgai, Chinkara, four-horned antelope, wild boar, hare, Langur, rhesus monkeys. Sariska is also home of birds like grey partridge, white-throated kingfisher, Indian peafowl, bush quail, sandgrouse, treepie, golden-backed woodpecker, crested serpent eagle and the Indian eagle-owl.

Out entire Travel plan
  • Pune to Delhi Indigo flight on Thursday night – 7th Jan 16 
  • Train to Amritsar on Friday Evening – 8th Jan 16 
  • Day in Amritsar and late night train to Agra for Bharatpur 
  • 3 days in Bharatpur and evening train on 13th Jan 16 
  • A Day in Ranthambore for2 safari (original plan was of 3 Safari but we missed it due to train cancellation). Late evening Private cab on 14th Jan for Sariska. 
  • A Day in Sariska for 2 Safari and evening public transport bus for Jaipur – 15th Jan 
  • 2 days in Jaipur and Jaipur to Pune night Flight

owl
Owl

13th Jan 2016: Bharatpur to Sawai Madhopur:
              After beautiful visit to Bharatpur national park, we left Bharatpur by 4:00 PM train. We reached Sawai Madhopur by 7-7.30 PM. Soon we reached our hotel named Tiger Haveli. It was an average place to stay for a shorter duration. Next day we got to know a few nice hotels which we missed during our search.
              We had our dinner in Tiger Haveli which was not up to the mark. It is not at all recommended from my side. We submitted our permits to hotel owner. He converted it into Safari. One thing which I observed in Ranthambore was, these people try to make money from every possible ways. When I was in Kanha National park last year, the locals helped us a lot without any extra chargers. Also you will not get jeep booking if it shows all booked on their website BUT in Ranthambore safari ran on black market or agent market system. We had already booked our safari but if you are ready to pay extra cash to hotel owner / agent then they will arrange entire jeep / seat in jeep at any given time.
             Just because of local’s attitude I rate MP forest management on top of Ranthambore even those Tiger sighting is higher in Ranthambore forest.

Royal Bengal Tiger
Royal Bengal Tiger

Expense:
  • Train ticket to Sawai Madhopur: INR 240/- (for 2 person) 
  • Hotel Booking: INR 1000/- for 1 night 2 person 
  • Auto (Sawai Madhopur to Hotel): INR 100/- Donner: INR 240/- (Masala papad, Vegetable dish and Rotis)

14th Jan 2016: Ranthambore:
               We woke up at 5:00 AM. No one from the hotel staff was available and hence we left hotel by 6:00 AM on safari. The safari jeep came at 6 AM as decided. We were having Zone 3 permit. T19 Tigress and her 3 year old cubs were dominating this zone. We entered inside forest soon. Ranthambore is divided into 8 zones. People say zone 6, 7 and 8 are less preferred due to less number of tigers.

Malik Lake

               Even though tiger was main attraction for us, we were not fixated on stars like tigers; other inhabitants of the forests were a delight to observe too. It was cold morning and entire zone was on silent mode. Zone 3 and 4 shared Malik Lake area which gives more probability for Tiger sighting. Indian peacock and spotted deer welcomed us when we approached towards Malik Lake. We saw number of pugmarks and started following them. We tried our best but luck was not with us to spot tiger.

Mamma look here for photo

Spotted deer
Spotted deer

               We spent more than hour to track different pugmarks and then decided to spend more time near Malik Lake. We saw a group spotted deer, Sambar deer, Barking deer and many crocodiles in the lake. Malik talao (Lake) is the largest lake from park and consists of ruined small fortification which was used as king for hunting. Our Zone 3 safari totally failed as we were hardly able to spot any mammals but still we got to experience different winter moods of the forest.

Crocodile

Sambar deer
Sambar deer

               We came out from forest by 10:30 AM and went to the hotel. We decided not to have lunch in Tiger haveli so we went out in search of a good hotel/restaurant. We came across one hotel and the owner welcomed us. He helped us by providing some good tips and information about this place. He had one more hotel newly opened so we went there and loved the place. While leaving this place, tempting smell from kitchen forced us to have lunch. Food was delicious. The hotel name is Rajputana Heritage

Open billed stork and Spotted deer
Open billed stork and Spotted deer

Male Sambar
Male Sambar

              We got ready for our evening safari. It was our last Safari before we leave for Sariska Tiger Reserve. This was our last safari in Ranthambore. We entered inside park by 2.30 PM. For around one hour, we explored the forest area and went towards Malik Lake. When we entered in the lake area, we saw 1 to 2 jeeps watching something. It was a grown tiger cub taking rest on the bank of the lake. The guide took our vehicle close to the tiger keeping safe distance.

T19's Cub
Time to relax.. T19's Cub 

T19s Cub

               Tiger cub was T19’s son. It was just a year old grown cub. Looking at his massive muscles, he didn’t look like year old tiger. We decided to wait. Watching him for 30 min was good experience. After some time, he took a hiding position in grass. Definitely he saw someone coming down the hill. When we saw carefully, it was a group of Sambar deer.

Tigress T19's Son...I am just 15 month old boy

15 month old Boy

Target locked
Target locked...I'm set for hunt.

              He paused in same position till Sambar came close to lake. Somehow the distance between the tiger and deer was little bit far but the guide told us that still he will attempt an attack. The young tiger tried to attack on every prey. It was visual treat for us. After few minutes, the cub took great sprint towards the Sambar. It was simply amazing experience. He was unfortunate to catch him. He jumped in late at the end and Sambar had narrow escape from life and death race.

Target locked...Ranthambore


Thrilling experience at Ranthambore

              After the failed attempt, he crossed the lake and went in zone 3. Few Jeeps were standing in Zone 3 and waiting for their turn. Cubs went close to jeep and then disappear in the woods. It was great to watch this activity. It was 5:30 PM and we decided to leave this beautiful land of Tiger.

Other side of Lake after Failed attempt of Sambar hunt

Woolly necked stork

          We reached at the hotel by 6:30 PM. Our next destination was Sariska. We rented a car to reach Sariska. We left by 7 PM. It was quite long journey. We had our dinner at The Tiger Treat and left for Sariska. We reached at RTDC Tiger Den hotel for stay.

Expense:
  • Morning Safari permit: INR 260/- for 2 person 
  • Morning Jeep safari: INR 2200/- 
  • Guide fee: INR 300/- 
  • Lunch: INR 320/- for 2 person (Papad, vegetables and roti) 
  • Evening Safari permit: INR 260/- for 2 person 
  • Evening Jeep safari: INR 2200/- 
  • Guide fee: INR 300/- 
  • Car rent (Till Sariska): INR 4500/- (Normal rate is between INR 4000-4200/- and hotel owner chargers us wrongly) 
  • Dinner at The Tiger Treat: INR 340/- (Aloo Paratha, Panner Paratha and 2 coffee) 
  • RTDC Stay: INR 2500/- for 2 person 1 night

15th Jan 2016: Sariska:
          We woke up at 6:00 AM and reached at Forest office gate. We submitted our permit to take morning safari. Sariska is divided into 3 zones named as Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3. There are total 13 Tigers present in forest. We got zone 2 for morning safari.
          We went inside by jeep by 7 PM. It was cold morning and we were unable to spot anything for couple of hours. We saw few pugmarks but no tiger sighting. We saw few groups of spotted deer and Sambar. The forest is dense as compared to Ranthambore and the forest people are very friendly. We spent a lot time to explore different routes. At the end, we saw a jungle cat in the forest and safari ended by 10.30 AM.

Wild Cat at Sariska
Wild Cat at Sariska

Male Spotted deer
Male Spotted deer

Painted Stork basking on ground

            We went to the RTDC hotel and had breakfast. Food was average in taste and manageable. We got refreshed soon and checked out. They accepted to keep our bags in the clock room. We spent our free noon time in RTDC’s garden.

Common hoopoe

               For evening safari, we went again to the forest office. We got zone 3 for this safari. Safari time was 2.30 PM to 6 PM but the driver suggested us to go inside by 3:30 PM to avoid harsh sun light. We were hardly bothered about the weather so we forced him to take us inside. Finally he agreed when my wife ordered him to take jeep inside as we wanted to explore the forest and not only tiger sighting.
             When we entered in the forest, we (including guide) decided to visit the lake. We saw painted stork, ruddy shelduck, Common teal, spot billed duck and few other wet land birds. We saw 2-3 crocodiles in the lake. After spending an hour, we went inside the forest.

Ruddy Shelduck

Common Teal

Crocodile on bank of Lake

            Our search for the tiger began with the help of deer’s call. But we failed to spot any tiger till evening. We almost visited all lake and water pond area. We saw Jungle cat, spotted deer, sambar, peacocks and some forest birds.
           We came out of the park by 6:00 PM. We picked up our bags from the hotel and caught the bus for Jaipur from Sariska. Now our 2 days of Jaipur trip began.

Flight...

Expense:
  • Morning safari permit: INR 254/- for 2 person 
  • Morning Safari jeep chargers: INR 2680/- (which includes guide chargers + chargers for 4 person permit as we hired jeep for 2 people) 
  • Evening safari permit: INR 254/- for 2 person 
  • Evening Safari jeep chargers: INR 800/- for 2 person (As two more couple wanted to join us in our jeep) 
  • Bus to Jaipur: INR 200/- for 2 person 

Process for Safari booking:
1. Go to http://www.rajasthanwildlife.rajasthan.gov.in/booking.do site and book your entry seat. (This payment is only entry permit and not jeep safari chargers)
2. To view more details of Booking Fee and Timing click on MORE Info Button for respective forest.
3. Register your account to book a permit as booking as guest option is not available.
4. Please carry your mentioned ID proof for safari. Only those tourists are allowed in park whose names are mentioned in permit. To modify permit before safari, you need to contact forest department.
5. Carry print out of your permit as showing online receipt at counter doesn’t work every time.
6. Once you get permit then make you stay and journey arrangement
7. Once you reach in Ranthambore, either asks your hotel manager to make arrangement of forest registered jeep (Every hotel charge around INR 50-75/- per person) OR visit at gate at 7 PM for next day morning safari and at 1-2 PM for same day evening safari to block jeep against your permit number.
8. Safari jeep can pick up from Hotel. For this service, you have to pay extra cash. Generally INR 300/- for whole Jeep or depends upon hotel owner/agent/jeep owner.
9. Sorry to say but forest management / agent network works on money hence they will ask you extra cash for every service. I have been to other forest as well and confirming your permit, blocking a jeep, trying to give you suitable guide etc. by hotel owner is free and as part of hotel/resort’s hospitality.
10. On the date of safari, reach 45-60 min prior to safari time at entry gate. E.g. if morning safari starts at 6AM then verification process starts at 5.30 AM and for evening safari, if timing is 3PM then verification process starts at 2.30 PM
11. Show your permit and ID proof at entry gate and pay INR 250/- chargers for Guide.
12. Board your jeep to enjoy beautiful Kanha forest

Tips:
  • Make sure that your jeep should be among first 5 vehicles to enter in forest. It increases your chances in summer to spot Tiger on road in respective zone 
  • Try to avoid zone 6 and 7 as chances are less to spot tiger. 
  • Tiger activity in particular zone changes as per time. So do not believe of anyone who says a chance of spotting tiger in xyz zone is higher than other. It completely depends upon your luck and observation of guide. 
Contact number for Reference
  • Hotel Tiger Haveli: 07462-223825, 09928889936. ( www.tigerhaveli.com ) If possible avoid hotel Tiger Haveli. Our experience was quite average 
  • Rajputana Heritage: Vishnu Rathore 09414726616, 09251086627. (http://rajputanaheritage.com ) Newly opened property with beautiful interior and friendly hospitality 
  • Hotel Green view Ranthambhore: Vishnu Rathore 09414726616, 09251086627 (http://www.greenviewranthambore.com ) same owner of Rajputana Heritage. This is budget hotel 
  • Tiger Safari Resort: Deepak Maheswari 07462221137, 07462224582. (http://www.tigersafariresort.com ) 
  • Goyal Tour & Travel (for car rent): Anshul Goyal 09414818877, 08104432150. 
  • The Tiger treat, Bilona: 09351387066, 09351149027. Restaurant between Ranthambore – Sariska 
Travel Blog on Jaipur: Coming Soon!

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Bharatpur: Bird’s paradise!!!

As mentioned in my previous blog on Delhi-Amritsar; this year we had planned to visit Delhi – Amritsar – Bharatpur Bird sanctuary – Ranthambore National park – Sariska National park and Jaipur as our wedding tour! So, in this part, I would like to share my travel experience from Bharatpur.

Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Welcome to Bharatpur...
Welcome to Bharatpur... PC: Devendra Singh

Travel Blog link on Amritsar: Visit to Capital Delhi and divine Amritsar

About Bharatpur Bird sanctuary:
Bharatpur city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is located close to New Delhi, Agra and Mathura. Bharatpur also falls on Golden Triangle (Tourist triangle) of Delhi – Agra – Jaipur due to which tourist prefer to visit this place.
Bharatpur is famous for Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park which is also known as Bharatpur Bird sanctuary. The name of Keoladeo national park is formed because of Keoladeo Shiva temple which is inside the park. The park is home of many international and national migratory birds. Major attractions are Pelican, Saras crane, black necked stork, different variety of ducks and many more birds. It is also home of Spotted dear, Nilgai, Jackals, Sambar and hyenas.

Natural Tunnel in Bharatpur
Natural Tunnel in Bharatpur... PC: Renuka Kulkarni

Day 3: 10th Jan 2016 – Amritsar – Agra – Bharatpur:
                Our train was running late due to heavy fog. We were expected to reach Agra by 11.30 AM but we actually reached at 5.30 PM. We skipped our visit to Taj Mahal and added it in our wish list for next trip. I had seen Taj mahal thrice before marriage but not with Renuka. The timings to visit the Taj mahal is from sun rise to sun set. Considering the time we had, we decided to do a quick visit to Fatehpur Sikri and then Bharatpur.

Buland Darwaja...
Buland Darwaja...PC: Himanshu Kakade

               Many buses are available from Agra to Bharatpur so we had not booked a car for us. But to avoid public transport after sunset we gave a call to our hotel owner to arrange car for us. He arranged car quickly and driver picked up from Agra station when we arrived. In Fatehpur Sikri, we saw Buland Darwaja and Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti. This place is full of guides and they are more interested in making money. They force you to hire a guide, buy chaddar and other items as well. Every time, I said a big no or I told them my budget is INR 50 including guide and chaddar so they lost interest.
              Fatehpur Sikri was Akbar’s planned dream capital but at the end he kept Delhi as Mugal’s Capital. The first place which you can see is Buland Darwaja. The gate is grand and is easily visible from distance. It was built in typical Mughal architecture. Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti is a famous darga made up of white marble. Entire fort is in red color and darga in white color. Timing to visit this place is from sunrise to sunset. The locals say if you make a wish here by knotting thread then your wish will fulfill soon. There is no entry fee but the guides fool you by saying if you hire us and you won’t have to pay entry fee. force you to hire a guide, buy chaddar and other items as well. Every time, I said a big no or I told them my budget is INR 50 including guide and chaddar so they lost interest.

Buland Darwaja from Inside...Clicked in year 2008

Salim Chisti...PC: Himanshu Kakade

               After a quick visit to Fatehpur sikri, we reached Bharatpur. Our stay was at Iora Guest House from Bharatpur. Our intention was photography and birding so I got suggestion to stay at OIRA hotel which was a perfect decision. The hotel is owned by Mr. Devendra Singh and he is a very good photographer, expert in birding and is a very caring person. Hotel consists of 7-8 rooms. Rooms are large in size and clean. Hotel has restaurant facility as well but you need to place an order in advance. Food was tasty and within budget. He arranged an auto cycle for next 2-3 days. The person (cycle rider) has worked in the forest from last 20+ years so he is one of the best guides there.
              After having a delicious meal, we took rest. We were set for Bharatpur birding.

Iora Guest House
Iora Guest House

Expenses:
  • Amritsar to Agra Train: INR 763/- for 2 person (Sleeper class) 
  • Agra to Bharatpur via fatehpur sikri Car rent: INR 1800/- 
  • Car parking at fatehpur sikri: INR 80/- 
  • Iora Hotel room: INR 3000/- for 3 nights 
  • Laundry at Iora Hotel: INR 150/- 
  • Dinner at Iora: INR 340/- for 2 person (Started, soup, vegetable and Roti) 
  • Water bottle: INR 22/-

Day 4: 11th Jan 2016 – Bharatpur:
               We woke by 5 AM and were ready for bird watching. Our Cycle rider/Guide Paramanand (famous by name Gabru) came at 5.30 AM. He is 45+ year old, short in height, calm and polite person. We became friends quickly. As we wanted to spend the entire day inside the forest for photography, hotel owner offered us a parcel meal from the forest canteen. He arranged a person to delivery our meal in canteen which is in the middle of forest. What more can I expect as we were able to save almost 1-2 hours, coming out from forest, taking a meal and then going inside the forest again.
             After quick formalities of the park, we entered to explore the world of birds. A pair of owl welcomed us after entering in the park. Due to foggy weather, it was low light condition. Soon we reached at first check post. There is a boating point on the right side and famous spot to search for Siberian Ruby throat. We spent round 20-30 min and then the beauty made its appearance from bushes. We took few shots before he went back into the bushes.

Click on all photos for full screen view
Owl

Siberian Ruby
Siberian Ruby

              We left this spot to explore more birding activity. We saw a jackal on the road but were unable to click good photo of him because of low light. After a kilometer-long ride water-bodies on both sides gave us an opportunity to explore more. We saw spot bill duck, coot, Painted stork, White eye pochard, ibis, Heron etc. We settled down near the waters to observe them and tried to click a few shots. As the forest was very less crowded with tourists we could enjoy the chirping of the birds as well!
White eye Pochard
White eye Pochard
White eye Pochard, bharatpur
White eye Pochard


               After spending an hour, we decided to move ahead in search for some other ducks. I heard a voice of a woodpecker pecking into tree. We stopped and started looking for him. Renuka pointed up and we were just a few feet away from golden backed woodpecker. The pair was busy in their work on the tree. I was hardly able to click any photos from my 600 mm lens as the pair was so close to us.

Golden backed Woodpecker, Bharatpur
Golden backed Woodpecker

              We enjoyed their presence around us for some time and then left them alone. We saw the purple heron steadily watching the waters. He was not moving a muscle and we got to know that it’s hunting time. His motionless wait in the water tested our patience. After some time, he got a catch (a fish) in price for his fabulous hunting efforts. Other birds like Darter, Cormorant were also busy with some fishing activity.

Purple Heron with catch at Bharatpur
Purple Heron with catch at Bharatpur
Click on all photos for full screen view

Purple Heron with catch 

Purple Heron with catch

               When we planned Bharatpur, I had chalked down the list of birds which I wanted to see or click in Bharatpur. After Siberian Ruby throat, we saw knob-billed duck. It is also known as Comb Duck. There was a pair of Comb duck and I had never seen comb duck at such a close distance. It is one of the largest species by size in ducks. Male duck has black knob on the bill. Neck color is white with with dark spots and body color is glossy blue-black with some shades of Blue and green shade at the end.We followed them for some time. They went inside the pond after some time. We decided to sit down for some time.

Comb Duck
Comb Duck

             You can see variety of ducks in the lake if you spend some time on bank without making any noise. Sometimes you get confused where to focus for pictures by seeing an activity in the lake. Most of the tree porch or trunks in lake were occupied by Darter bird. We asked our guide-cum-auto cycle rider to take some rest and we decided to explore nearby area on foot. Soon we spotted nice place to sit down and enjoy the world of birds.

Gadwall Female

Spot Billed Duck, Bharatpur
Spot Billed Duck

Northern Shoveler, Bharatpur
Northern Shoveler

Oriental Darter

              We saw some activity of Ruddy Shelduck and Northern Pintail duck. Other birds which we found in the lake were northern shoveler, Common Coot, Painted stork, Kingfishers, Herons, Gadwall, Black naked ibis and many more. There are some grass islands in lake which were occupied by Nilgai and spotted deer’s. I got some nice clicks of Ruddy Shelduck and Northern Pintail duck. We moved ahead after spending more than hour.
              Ruddy shelduck is known as Brahminy duck in India. The male has orange-golden brown body feathers. Light orange shade on head and neck, separated from the body by a narrow black collar. Tail feathers are black in color with green speculum feathers inside wings. Black collar is missing in females. Colors on wings are noticeable during flight only
            Northern pintail is migratory bird. It is found across Europe, Asia and North America. Male has a chocolate-brown head and white breast with a white stripe extending up the side of the neck. Female suck is mainly scalloped and spotted in light brown with a more uniformly grey-brown head.

Ruddy Shelduck at Bharatpur
Ruddy Shelduck at Bharatpur
Northern Pintail at Bharatpur
Northern Pintail at Bharatpur

Northern Pintail at Bharatpur
Northern Pintail at Bharatpur

               There was a colony of Painted storks. A huge number of storks were busy with their family. All adult storks came to their nest with fish catch. Watching an adult stork feeling the baby stork was a very different experience. Gabru told us that same nest is reused by these storks every year. By the time we were enjoying this activity, we heard the sarus crane call. Watching Sarus crane gives you a same feeling like
watching Tiger in the Tiger Forest. Gabru was aware of location and we left for Sarus crane.

Painted Stork

              Sarus crane is considered to be an iconic species of open wetland area. This is the tallest bird found in India. They grow up to 6 ft. They form pair and stay in long relationship. Loud trumpeting, jumps and dance movements are best things to watch in Sarus Crane. We crossed Keoladeo temple and took right route for K Block. The pair was somewhere in K block’s grassland. There is one watchtower and soon Gabru showed us the pair of cranes from watchtower area. They were far away from us on the grassland.

Sarus Crane at Bharatpur
Sarus Crane at Bharatpur

               As the pair was not in wetland area, Gabru told us to take a walk towards them and hide somewhere in the bushes. Being wildlife photographers; we were aware of these technics so we decided to go close to them still keeping safe distance between them and us. We did not want to disturb them. We took a walk and then started crawling with the help of bushes. We took around 45 min to cover 500 meters. Slowly we approached towards the cranes with 600 mm lens and tripod. This was our lifetime experience as the distance between the cranes and us was hardly 25 feet. We settle down in the bushes and enjoyed their romantic dance. Due to the bushes, we were unable to capture these beauties in the camera. But when you’re so close to Sarus crane then we thought to live the moment rather than doing photography.

Sarus Crane at Bharatpur
Sarus Crane

Sarus Crane at Bharatpur
Sarus Crane at Bharatpur

               After around 30 mins, they decided to leave grass land so they started walking towards our right. Due to this distance between us reduces to 15 feet. We kept dead silent but they sensed us in the bushes and changed their walking direction. We got up from the bushes (still we were hiding in bushes) and captured some clicks before they walked away from us. As we did not want them to fly away, we decided to go back.
              When we were walking towards the watchtower from K Block grassland we saw Gabru waving his hand to come soon. We sensed that he had found something else for us as well. We reached soon and he showed us the Black necked Stork in the wetland area. They grow up to 6 feet. Color of Male and female are same but adult female has a yellow iris while the adult male has it brown. The young ones have brown iris up to the age of six months. The black-necked stork is a carnivore and hunt small birds such as Coot, Grebes, Shoveler, Jacana etc. We were lucky enough to spot two species from our list back to back in same area. I set my camera and clicked some photographs.

Black Necked Crane - Female
Black Necked Crane - Female

Black Necked Crane - Female
Black Necked Crane - Female

               It was 12:30 PM in the clock and we were hungry. We got to know from the hotel owner Devendra Singh that our meal was ready and delivered it in forest. Gabru dropped us at the canteen and he brought our meal. We 3 had our meal with some cold drink and snacks. The forest canteen is located near Keoladeo temple. You can get tea, coffee (on weekends) cold drink, chips and Vada pav (on weekends). After the meal, we took 15 min break before we began for post lunch birding.

Blue Throat at Bharatpur
Blue Throat at Bharatpur

               Now we decided to take a left side route after Keoladeo temple. On Left side there is small watch tower. We saw a pair of Owl and Rose ring parakeets. After a few km, we saw a group of lesser whistling ducks. Lesser whistling ducks is also known as Indian whistling duck. It is found in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. We spent some time to observe them. Our eyes were looking for Bar headed goose and Grey legged goose which were in my list.

Lesser Whistling duck
Lesser Whistling duck

              At one point you have to take a right turn whereas the road that goes straight is restricted for tourist. There is small walkway route on left (hardly two people can walk at a time) which is between two water bodies. Our Auto cycle rickshaw rider Gabru told us to take walk on that route which may offer something for us. He was right, we went inside and we saw group of Bar headed goose. We enjoyed their activity for more than 30 mins.The species has been reported as migrating south from Tibet, Kazakhstan and Mongolia before crossing the Himalaya.

Bar Headed goose

              When we were busy with Bar headed goose, we saw a pair of Black necked stork landed few meters away from us. We decided to move towards them. Male Black necked stork was trying to impress the female with his wing display. Real treat for us. It was one of the best movements. Their dance steps, Wing display, call and wing movement can be heard from few meters away. We waited till the pair decided to stay there.

Black necked stork at Bharatpur
Black necked stork at Bharatpur

Black necked stork wing display at Bharatpur
Black necked stork wing display at Bharatpur

               We took return walk and saw Bar headed goose left inside in lake. There were some small patches as well so rather than coming back on road; we decided to wait for some action. Soon Renu pointed finger towards one duck. It was a tufted duck alone roaming in the small pond. The adult male is all black except for white flanks and a blue-grey bill with gold-yellow eyes. It has an obvious head tuft that gives the species its name.The adult female is brown with paler flanks, and is more easily confused with other diving ducks.

Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck

               There was a pair of Ruddy Shelduck. We were in a bush which was on the bank of the pond. We kept silent with zero movement, and the pair slowly came close to us. Overall it was enjoyable time for us. We came back at our Auto cycle rickshaw and headed left ahead. We were thankful to our guide Paramanand ji as he not only was our rider but he also helped me carrying my Camera kit, Tripod and sometimes my lenses as well.

Ruddy Shelduck
Ruddy Shelduck

               When we came back, Gabru told us that he had spotted a group of Grey leg goose. We went there but the lighting conditions and the distance between us was not enough to capture them in camera. Still we saw these beautiful species for some time. It was 4.30 PM in the clock and we decided to start our return journey.

Grey Leg goose
Grey Leg goose

               We took a 15 min break for tea/coffee in the canteen. There is one famous point known as sunset point. There is a tree porch in water body where there was a Darter bird and sunset at background, what more can you can expect. Please note that Darter bird and any other birds are not trained to be there for photograph and its purely based on luck.
               We spent the remaining time at the sunset point. After sunset, we started our journey. It was 6.30-7 PM and we heard jackal calls. Gabru was so much experienced that he told, now we will be able to see pack of Jackal for sure. We saw around 6-7 Jackal on the main route, playing with each other. Our day one ended on a good note.

Sunset at Bharatpur
Sunset at Bharatpur

Jackal pack..
Jackal pack..Sorry for Image quality as it is taken after sunset

We were tired and had early dinner in hotel. After delicious meal, we took rest.

Expenses:
  • Bharatpur bird sanctuary entry: INR 150/- for 2 person 
  • Bharatpur bird sanctuary Auto Cycle charge: INR 1200/- for 12 hours (Rate is INR 100 per hour) 
  • Snacks in Forest canteen: INR 67/- 
  • Pack Lunch from Iora hotel: INR 202/- for 2 person (Salad, vegetable and Roti) 
  • Tip to Auto cycle rider: INR 300/- 
  • Dinner at Iora hotel: INR 252/- for 2 person (Soup, Salad, Vegetable and Roti) 
  • Water bottle: INR 25/-
Day 5: 12th Jan 2016 – Bharatpur:
               We woke by 5 AM and were ready for bird watching on our Bharatpur Day 2. We hired Our Cycle rider/Guide Paramanand and he came at 5:30 AM. We reached in the park and completed the formalities. It was a foggy weather and we waited for an hour for better light. The day before we had seen jackals but light was not enough for photography. Gabru suggested us one route on right side for walk. This area is used by jackals for morning migration into other part of the forest. The route partially goes around one lake. We decided to take a morning walk on that route. Trail ends at Hotel Ashok which is the only hotel inside the sanctuary.

Welcome to Bharatpur
Welcome to Bharatpur...PC: Renuka Kulkarni

               The trail was beautiful and we saw one jackal which crossed the trail route quickly. We were not able to spot many birds as such but saw activity of coot, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Spot Billed duck, northern Pintail, Northern shoveler, Common teal and all IBIS. We enjoyed the beautiful trail which is combination of dense trees, curved route, lake and lovely light conditions. Apart from spotted deer there was no one on the trail to accompany us. After around an hour, we came at hotel Ashok’s backyard. Our friend Gabru was waiting for us at near hotel area. We joined him and went ahead.

Common Teal at Bharatpur
Common Teal at Bharatpur

             He asked us whether we are interested in boat ride. Spotting a Night jar during ride was the only purpose. We thought to take a ride as one more photographer was waiting to share boat ride. Soon we boarded a small boat and left inside for ride.

golden back woodpecker busy with breakfast at Bharatpur
Golden back woodpecker busy with breakfast at Bharatpur

              The boat trail was beautiful and offered us good sighting of Booted Eagle and night jar. We spent around 35-45 mins on the ride and clicked a few shots of other birds as well. Rather than birding in lake, I enjoyed nature and beautiful landscape.

Booted Eagle at Bharatpur
Booted Eagle at Bharatpur

Nightjar at Bharatpur
Nightjar at Bharatpur

               We came back and waited in the same area to try our luck for Siberian ruby throat. We were able to spot him after 15-20 mins but he appeared inside deep bushes. It was not good lighting condition hence we left this place.
                We went ahead and decided to spend more time on the bank of waters. Two pairs of comb duck were roaming in the pond. We spent time around these pairs and then moved our location for some other clicks. We saw most of the wet land species within the morning slot. Most of the birds except Pelican were covered in day one hence our focus was just to explore the area and look for something different.

Comb Duck at Bharatpur
Comb Duck at Bharatpur

                By 11:30 AM we reached at Temple and had a cup of coffee. We decided to take a right side route after the temple. This area is known as Python point because it was good location to spot Python few years back. After few km, wetland area was over and then we hardly spotted anything. Just a quick entry of Jackal, group of deer, Nilgai, Sambar and wild boar were sighted in this route.

Gadwall Duck

White eye pochard duck and Nilgai at background

               When we were about to complete our round, we saw a person on cycle looking for something. We went there as the person was the son of head officer of Bharatpur forest. Gabru told us that he is really good photographer and explorer so he must have found something different. When we reached there, he had shown us solo Pelican. He was far away from us so I just managed to get a record shot. We got to know that due to lack of quality water, Pelican have rejected Bharatpur as their winter stay. He saw more than 10-15 Pelican in high sky but they left Bharatpur. As we had seen huge number of Pelican at Velavadar forest and in Pondicherry, we left him alone.

Pelican at Bharatpur...Record shot
Pelican at Bharatpur...Record shot

              By 1 PM, our lunch arrived at Forest canteen. We had our meal quickly. We wanted to see the Python so Gabru took us at Sapan Mori. He informed one forest guard that we were coming at Jatoli check post and to show us the Python location. If we are lucky then we may spot him near Python hole. We took more than a km walk and lost our route at one junction. We gave call to Gabru to come inside and take us to the check post. He came inside and we went at check post which was hardly few meters away from that junction. An old guard took us inside the forest near one Python hole and we saw huge Python basking in sand. He sensed us and quickly went inside the sand hole.

Indian Python
Indian Python

                 We came back on the main route after visual treat of Python. It was 4 in clock so we decided to spend some time between Temple and sunset point. Got some bird clicks before we settled down at sunset place. Before the sun and any bird coming into the frame for sunset, I saw spotted deer on a small island. A mother was taking care of her calf displayed the love bond between mother and child.

Spotted Deer at Bharatpur
Spotted Deer at Bharatpur

             Clock hand touched 5:30 PM and the sun was ready to say goodbye to us. Next day we were supposed to leave for Ranthambore. Soon cormorant came on the tree porch and gave some good clicks of Bharatpur sunset.

Sunset at Bharatpur
Sunset at Bharatpur

               After Sunset, Gabru requested us to hurry up for return journey as we could get a chance to see the jackal in a bit better light condition. We left the sunset place and Gabru drove cycle quickly. By 6:10 PM, we heard Jackal calls. We saw one jackal walking almost parallel to the road. We went a bit ahead and stopped at one place. Gabru was so expert that he told us, jackal will try to come on road from this point which was few feet ahead of us. And yes, the jackal appeared and I got a manageable click.

I'm here.... Jackal at Bharatpur

               Our Trip to Bharatpur ended and we thanked our cycle rider/guide Paramanand (known by name Gabru) for the wonderful journey. I promised him to visit Bharatpur again in next year if he is available for me. He also showed interest to assist me as we 3 developed nice bonds.
               We came to our room and had long chat with Devendra Singh. I’m thankful to Devendra Singh as he helped us a lot during our stay. We had meal in hotel and went in room for bag packing. With sweet memories from Bharatpur, our day ended.

Expenses:
  • Packed Breakfast: INR 80/- for 2 person 
  • Bharatpur bird sanctuary entry: INR 150/- for 2 person 
  • Snacks in Forest canteen: INR 54/- 
  • Boating chargers: INR 150/- for 2 person (Boat charge is INR 300/- whereas we shared with one person) 
  • Tip to boatman: INR 50/- 
  • Pack Lunch from Iora hotel: INR 202/- for 2 person (Salad, vegetable and Roti) 
  • Bharatpur bird sanctuary Auto Cycle charge: INR 1200/- for 12 hours (Rate is INR 100 per hour) 
  • Tip to Auto cycle rider: INR 200/- 
  • Dinner: INR 190/- for 2 person (soup, Aloo Paratha, Panner paratha and curd)
Day 6: 13th Jan 2016 – Bharatpur, Bharatpur – Sawai Madhopur:
               We woke us early morning and had breakfast. Devendra Singh took his car to drop us at the station. Our train was Patana-Kota express. When we reached at the station, we got to know that the train was delayed due to weather. As per train’s new time, we were definitely going to miss the day’s afternoon safari at Ranthambore. We were confused as we did not want to waste entire day without doing anything.
               When we checked at train counter, we got to know the next available train was at 4:30 PM. We cancelled our existing ticket and got the ticket for evening train. Now again we had the morning slot for Bharatpur safari. The day before, we were discussing that we explored forest but forgot to visit Keoladeo temple. May be it happened so we can visit the temple.
               We called Devendra Singh and informed about our new plan. He welcomed us and we kept our bags in one room. By 9 AM, we entered Bharatpur forest again. For morning slot, we hired cycles and decided to explore forest. It was different experience and exercise for us inside the forest. Again thanks to Devendra Singh as he was also in the forest and clicked nice photos of us.

Bharatpur Lake... PC: Renuka Kulkarni

              We crossed first check post and spent more than an hour near the waters between the check post and Sapan Mori. We got some random clicks of wet land birds. Devendra suggested us to take right at Sapan Mori and go till end as there are high chances to spot jackals and we could also get to see something different. We went on this trail by Cycle. We saw Serpent eagle, Black name ibis, Comb duck, common teal, Gadwall and many more common ducks.

Alone in lake...At Bharatpur

Oriental White ibis at Bharatpur
Oriental White ibis at Bharatpur

                After more than a km ride, we saw a jackal on the road. We went slowly ahead and managed to click some photos of it. He was walking on the road in opposite direction. It was nice experience to follow him slowly keeping safe distance. After spending around 45 mins, we turned back.

Jackal at Bharatpur
Jackal at Bharatpur 

                We went to the Keoladeo temple and took Darshan of Lord Shiva idol. It is said that Keoladeo National Park has got its name from this temple. When this place was a jungle one cow used to come here regularly and empty its milk near Plantain trees. Seeing this regular activity, they excavated under the tree and found this Shiva Linga at depth under the ground. Then this temple was built for Shiva and He is named Keoladeo (Shiva) temple.

Keoladeo Temple
Keoladeo Temple... PC: Renuka Kulkarni

               After the temple visit, we started our return journey. We came out slowly by memorizing our last 2 days birding area. We reached at main gate by 2 PM. We took a walk for hotel and ordered lunch. After lunch and power nap, we hired Auto for railway station. We boarded the train on time for our next journey to Ranthambore.

Time to say Bye bye to Bharatpur... PC: Paramanand a.k.a. Gabru

Please click on Next blog to read about our further journey: Safari in Ranthambore and Sariska forest. (Coming soon!)

Expenses:
  • Auto from station to hotel: INR 80/- 
  • Auto from Hotel to sanctuary gate: INR 20/- 
  • Bharatpur bird sanctuary entry: INR 150/- for 2 person 
  • Cycle on Rent: INR 80/- for 2 cycles (Rate is INR 40 for 4 hours and INR 80 for 8 hours) 
  • Snacks in forest canteen: INR 60/- 
  • Lunch at Iora hotel: INR 90/- (Aloo parathas) 
  • Coffee: INR 30/- (Only one coffee) 
  • Water bottle: INR 50/- for 2 bottle 
  • Auto to station: INR 80/- 
  • Train ticket Bharatpur to Sawai Madhopur: INR 240/- for 2 person
Contact number for your reference:
  • Iora guest house Hotel (Owner: Devendra Singh): 09828041294, 09461643412. http://www.ioraguesthouse.com/
  • Parmanand Auto cycle rider/Guide (Known as Gabru): 09784357242.
Travel Blog on Ranthambore-SariskaLand of Tigers: Ranthambore and Sariska Forest

Some clicks from Bharatpur:
Renuka at Bharatpur
ME at Bharatpur... PC: Renuka Kulkarni
Pied Kingfisher

Lesser whistling Duck

At Bharatpur

Squirrel at Forest Canteen... PC: Renuka Kulkarni

Ruddy Shelducks...

Sarus crane... PC: Renuka Kulkarni


I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. 

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune