Rajasthan State

Keoladeo Ghana National Park

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Rajasthan,

India,

Best for: Storks, cranes, eagles, and hawks, pythons, porcupines, wild boar, nilgai (literally “blue cow”), India’s largest native antelope

 

Logistics: If there’s one Indian refuge truly for the birds, it’s this one in southern Rajasthan—31 miles from Agra (home to the Taj Mahal) and a three-hour drive from Delhi. Merely 11 square miles, the car-free park is navigable on foot or bicycle; or hire a cycle-rickshaw at the entrance. (You’ll need to negotiate a price.) Don’t worry about getting uncomfortably close to these creatures; snakes generally nap in the sun and the other animals are shy of humans. In the mid-18th century, the maharajah of Bharatpur established this area as private hunting territory. Since then, avian enthusiasts have identified more than 350 species of birds here. Hunting ceased in the early 1970s; in 1985, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the winter months—when the reservoirs where the maharajah used to shoot thousands of ducks are full—staggering numbers of birds arrive from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Siberia. You might spot an open-bill stork, Kentish plover, Eurasian curlew, white-necked ibis, white-tail lapwing, red-collard dove, or endangered Sarus crane (the tallest flying bird). Open year round, the best birding is from September to March.

 

Accommodations: The nearby 23-room Bagh heritage hotel sits in a centuries-old (200 year old), 12-acre orchard and hosts a vegetarian restaurant, gym, and massage services. Take advantage of the on-staff naturalist, or rent bicycles (doubles from $100; www.thebagh.com).

 

Tip: Winged creatures are too numerous and guides too cheap not to hire one.