The giant turtles of Keoladeo national park
Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur has been the earliest and most popular of bird sanctuaries in India so much so that until few decades back whenever plans to visit a bird sanctuary will come in mind, name Keoladeo used to prop up almost instantly. But this park, popular for its cranes and once a critical wintering ground for endangered Siberian cranes, is also known for its giant soft shelled turtles. Park has seven species of turtles.
The number of turtles is very good, in few hundreds. There are many myths and folklores associated with these turtles, but indeed there lifespan is very good. In that sense many turtles here are said to be living here for more than couple of hundred years. Now the catch is that this park doesn’t have perennial source of water. It depends lot on monsoon rains and water sourced from near by reservoirs through canals. So when water gets dried up, turtles move towards a pond located besides a historical temple situated right at the second barrier of the park.
Watching turtles at this pons is an exhilarating experience. There is a temple complex, an ashram adjacent to the pond.
There are stairs going to the pond from the temple side. The caretakers of the temple often feed turtles with wheat flour in attempt to bring them towards the stairs for exciting tourists to see them. In return, tourists will pay them tip for their efforts.
Its fun to watch this lovely creature coming up to the stairs to get some quick food. They are different in age and sizes. Often more than one will come to the stairs.
For me personally, it was first time to watch these turtles so closely and it was very exciting to photograph them. Monkeys around the temple often bring a twist to the tale, when they loot the bounty meant for the turtles. Its thoroughly entertaining.
But despite these side-artists, the main character is still the turtle. Here comes one :
Getting some close shots was fascinating, like this one-
Putting its neck back into the shell…
A closer look of feet and the eyes:
In other water bodies of the park..
So, next time you go to the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur don’t forget to give some of your time to this lovely creature as well.
Where: Keoladeo Ghana National Park (erstwhile Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) is located in Bharatpur city of Rajasthan. Park boundaries almost touch the Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh border. Park is just 20 kms from Fatehpur Sikri and 65 kms from Agra. Park gates are located right on the Agra-Jaipur National highway. The turtle pond, as it is famously known is just a kilometre from the park gate and left of the second barrier, which actually is the entrance to the park.