India can be described as heaven on earth, even more so when it comes to such activities as bird watching. The country has many bird sanctuaries in which the habitat needed for certain birds to prosper has been preserved.
You may be surprised to hear that winter is ideal for bird watching as many migratory birds nest here during the cold months of other countries, adding to the already rich fauna. The best moments for bird watching are either early morning or near the twilight hours.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan
Named the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in the past, this used to be a hunting spot for ducks for the maharajas and later the British. Since then, the name has been changed and it became a UNESCO World Heritage in 1985. You can take photos here or film the surroundings and on opticsandlab.com you can find some gadgets to help you.
Here you’ll find over 370 species of birds, migratory and non-migratory, including the Siberian Crane, which comes here during winter. The park is open all year long, but monsoon season often covers most of it during the rainy months. You can travel by walking, riding a bike or a boat – especially when water levels get too high.
You’ll find the park about an hour away from Agra, the famous historical city where you can see the Taj Mahal. The entry fee in the park is 75 rupees for Indian citizens, while foreigners have to pay 500 rupees (about seven US dollars). The park is open from sunrise till sunset.
These wetlands represent a highly popular destination for many water birds that migrate during the cold season. What is truly impressive here is that you’ll often have the chance of getting really close to them with your boat so you’ll be able to admire them even better.
What makes this trip such a success is the eco-tourism that is community-based. In the not so distant past, the villagers of the area used to hunt the birds, but now they changed their attitude as they discovered tourism can offer much more money. This means they use their hunting skills to let you get as close as possible to many species of birds.
The wetlands are about 1.5 hours away from Bhubaneshwar. The cost of visiting the area depends on several factors, but about 1,200 rupees for around two hours is a likely price to pay. The best time to visit it is during the winter months (December – February) when many migratory birds arrive in the area.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka
This is the largest bird sanctuary in the state of Karnataka and is made up of several islands and isles alongside the Cauvery River. These islands form major nesting grounds for many species of birds which made the area turn into a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1940. While you’ll see many birds, be careful of the crocodiles as well!
You can take a boat to visit it, but you’ll be able to walk on foot in the same areas as well. You’ll find the sanctuary about 30 minutes away from Mysore. Again, the prices are different for citizens and foreign tourists, as Indians have to pay 70 rupees to visit it, while foreign tourists have to pay 400 rupees for the experience. A 20-minute group safari in a boat has the same prices as above for Indians and foreigners. You may also hire a private boat, which is probably even better, and you won’t have to pay too much for it. The place is open between 8.30 am and 6 pm. The best months for visiting are January to March.