If not birds then what at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary? This time focus of my article is not the birds but the pictures of birds I have clicked.
This was my 2nd visit within 3 years to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and I am already looking forward to my 3rd visit (For pics from my first visit, click here). Best part of this place is perhaps not the spectacular views of the birds who come from as far off as Siberia (they could be travelling like 4000km), I think it is the fact that even a disinterested or indifferent tourist ends up falling in love with the experience that this place has to offer.
For everyone’s benefit – all about stay, food and the like
So, let me start off by sharing where it is and where to stay if you plan to visit and few other tips. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is about 20km from Fatehpur Sikri (it’s itself an awesome place to visit, click here) – so not far off if you are planning to visit Agra, and some 35km from Mathura – that’s the diversion you need to take if you are coming from Delhi/Gurgaon (which is about 185km). From Gurgaon it is 4 hour comfortable drive.
There are quite a few places to stay within 500m of the entrance to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. They are not too costly and serve just OK to good food. However be mindful of that fact that you will most likely have to eat in the hotel you are staying in as there aren’t any restaurants around and other hotels usually have food for the tourists staying in their hotels. We faced the problem with dinner as we didn’t like the food we got at Hotel Saras and had hard time finding another place to eat, though Hotel Sunbird served us good food.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – the actual sight-seeing
To enter the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary you’ll have to buy tickets at the entrance and you can park your car there for free. If you want you can take your car further 1 km inside by paying 100 INR but my suggestion is no need to do that. From wherever you park, to enter the main part of the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary you have three options – hire a rickshaw at 100 INR per hour (that’s what I did), hire a bicycle (don’t know the rate) or just walk. Walking and cycling can be tiresome as the sanctuary is spread over a large area.
If you want a guide you can get that for 250 INR per hour. The rickshaw guys have OK knowledge and they act as kind of guide at no extra cost officially except that at the end of the tour they expect you pay them extra for the extra service they have provided you. 2nd is better option as they in any case pester you for tip in the end. And yes, make sure to rent a good pair of binoculars (rate 100 INR for the trip) – the rickshaw guy should have one, that way you can enjoy the bird watching more.
Now coming to the serious point – why go there and my experience
I thoroughly enjoy each moment I spend inside Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, in fact I feel like not leaving the first spot that gives me a glimpse of the birds. Now with my heightened interest in photography how amateurish it might be, I want to just sit there and wait to capture that perfect, elusive and exclusive moment. But that means patience which I have in plenty and time which is unfortunately a luxury most of the times.
Anyhow, till I reach that stage where I can share something worthwhile through pictures that I capture, let me take you through my me-too-syndrome try outs. Here’s some of the moments from my recent visit to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, please click on the thumbnails to enjoy more:
Fatehpur Sikri – a beautiful place (forced to live under the shadow of more popular and nearby tourist destination Agra), has a charm of its own and having read a little history myself and with strong recommendation of my dad who doesn’t waste his opinion, I finally made my much awaited trip to history a reality. And like I always like to do, I thought I’ll share my experience and maybe be of some help to the tourists and enthusiasts who may plan to visit it one day and also to those who may never.
Reaching Fatehpur Sikri fort, little tricky
First things first. Fatehpur Sikri is about 40km from Agra and about 20km from Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Reaching the Fatehpur Sikri fort is not that easy as it could have been, especially since the signages on the highway could have been a little better. We drove from Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and struggled a little in finding the right diversion, however with some help from the locals we finally made it. Though the real trouble was yet to start.
“Govt approved” guides can make life miserable, leave bad taste in mouth too
Once you reach there the first thing that hits you is not the Mughal history and architecture for which you would have gone there, rather its lack of management by authorities, confusion, non availability of right sources for information and the most striking and annoying of them all – too many unsolicited guides. These “Govt approved” guides will throw themselves at you, butter you, tell you how economical it would be for you to hire them and start misguiding you from the word go. And if you show lack of interest, they’ll start reducing their rates, tell you their livelihood depends on you so you must hire them and finally if you still not hire them, may end just short of cursing you in front of you, they may do it behind your back though.
Park and take the CNG bus- they pretend but it’s no Agra
Anyhow, if you are going by your own vehicle, there is a parking place about a km and half short of the fort, you can park there for INR 60. From there take the bus, the fare is only INR 5. To board the bus, go towards the back of the parking, there you’ll see a shopping area – cross it and at the far end you’ll see a few buses parked. I don’t know whether this is intentional, but the place to board the buses is almost impossible to find and just too far off. Anyhow.
Fatehpur Sikri fort – lots of amazing things, just right there
The Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri has so many things that it offers and I just loved it. The architecture of course is impressive, the red colour a strong reminder of Red Fort at Delhi and Agra Fort and having taken my new DSLR to its first historical place – which is my favourite kind, I had a rocking time. What you get to see inside the fort or the city includes Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Anup Talao, Panch Mahal and lots of stories and anecdotes. Good part, it’s not too spread out so you can take the complete tour in just about 2 hours.
The guides who don’t leave you for your life even here will tell you there are like 26 mahals and what not and that you should hire them but I am not sure how useful hiring them is. We gave in to their (read my wife and my friend’s wife) demands and finally a guide became part of our tour, or should I say we became part of his tour. He agreed to show us the fort and everything around for 100 INR, which of course at the end of the tour was something he first disagreed to and demanded more, then accepted as what we had agreed upon initially but asked for more as a matter of his right, then as a favour or tip and then finally as something moral for us to do. For us the moral of the story – DON’T HIRE THEM.
Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid and Tomb of Salim Chishti are close by too
Anyhow, once we had finished the tour of the city/fort, we walked (3-4mins) to the very impressive complex which houses Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid and Tomb of Salim Chishti and a few other things too. We entered from the King’s Gate, which is remarkable. Once we entered the complex two things caught our eyes straightaway – one, the white marble Tomb of Salim Chishti and two, the huge backside of the Buland Darwaza. As a matter of fact the Buland Darwaza is so huge that it’s distinctively visible even from the Fatehpur Sikri city/fort.
While inside, pay your respects and pray at Tomb of Salim Chishti if you want, take a round of the entire complex and all the structures inside and then go to the Buland Darwaza. It looks fantastic when you are looking at its backside and it’s breathtaking once you look from the front. I think for many of the tourists this one gate i.e. Darwaza would be worth a trip to this place if nothing else.
Be one with history or just buy a souvenir
The kind of sad part though is that right outside the Buland Darwaza as well as the King’s Gate you’ll find hawkers selling one thing or the other and I think many tourists like it also as they get to buy souvenirs, I for one somehow don’t like it much. When I visit a historical place I like to be left alone and appreciate it more if the place looks and feels like as it would have when it was actually inhabited – a feeling that was so strong when I visited the Bhangarh Fort (click here to read about it) and walked through its streets. But I guess this is the price more popular tourist destinations have to pay for being popular. Anyhow.
To sum it up – Fatehpur Sikri is a place that has a lot to offer and good thing is all you need is 3-4 hours and you can enjoy it all. And though the time of our visit was purely coincidental as that was the only time we had, however visiting it in the evening can be a better experience. The whole architecture appears to get even more spectacular in the evening. However, you plan your visit at it suits you and make sure to go there if you are visiting Agra or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – half a day is all that it will take.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary…A place that will make you fall in love with birds…
I had visited some three years back and the memories are still refreshing… The best time to visit is December or January, I went in January.. If you love birds, you are up for an experience of a life time.. And if you are not too taken by the birds, wait till you have visited this place..
If you are luckier than most, well we were to some extent, you may end up with unexpected experiences… A tiger from Sariska Tiger Reserve had wandered into this area and was there (these tigers are tracked using radio transmitters) the night before.. We saw his “Pug” mark – the feeling was awesome and in fact more rewarding then our visit to Sariska two years later (in 2012), when we couldn’t even enter the reserve..
Any how, coming back to the birds of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, you can blame the fog for not-so-clear pictures…