Since my childhood, I have always heard that in Haryana in the name of culture there is only Agriculture. From whatever I have seen around the state, the adage does not seem to be untrue. Besides being the place of the historical/mythological battlefield of Mahabharata, the state does not have much to offer in terms of travel and tourism. Add to it the rude language and the hostile people who are definitely not known for their hospitality. Incidentally, this is the state where I have lived the longest. Though always at the periphery, sometime in suburbs of Chandigarh and sometimes of Delhi.
Sultanpur National Park
Looking for the getaways to spend weekends in an interesting way, I came across Sultanpur National Park which is actually a stone’s throw away distance from Gurgaon. But not many people seemed keen to visit it. I waited for December to come, which I read was the best time to visit the sanctuary. As this is the time when most migratory birds come here. So this weekend, we headed towards Sultanpur, 17 km’s from Gurgaon, on Gurgaon Farrukhnagar Raod. I got 2-3 different driving directions and I chose one randomly. Only to discover that it was a nightmare to cross Gurgaon from this route. And on my return figured out that the other routes were equally bad.
The failure of any signboards indicating anything like a national park, made us miss the crucial turn. And we realized we are too far from Gurgaon, so have probably left the sanctuary behind somewhere. We traced our way back by an adventurous drive through various villages, kuchcha roads and lots of mustard fields.
Maharana Pratap Statue
Somewhere on the way, we saw a small garden with a huge statue of Maharana Pratap. On close examination, this was a place donated by Sisodia brothers to erect the statue. And it was inaugurated by a descendant of the Maharana. What is funny is that all around the monument are engraved the names of the hundreds of people who donated anything for this monument. There are a few rooms at the back of the garden and the board there says that it is a Vridhh Ashram (an old age home). But on inquiring from the women who were using the garden to get some Vitamin D, I was told that there is a Baba who comes there once a week and operates from these rooms.
He treats people through tantra and obviously, he is the only person to use the premises. Do I not keep telling you that at times, your lost ways too take you somewhere and leave you with some insights about the place?
Bird Sanctuary National Park
Finally, after two hours on road, we did reach the National park. It is a marshland, around a Lake, which allows the birds to come here and live in natural surroundings. The whole park has an area of about 360 acres which makes it a large park. There is an island kind of formation in the park. This where most of the birds come and stay. It is also separated by a distance from the circumference of the park. There is a paved path that would take you around the lake. In between, there are jetty like pavements that would take you closer to the water. And give you a better view of the birds on the central island, which does not seem accessible by foot.
There are 2 machhans that we could see, where you can climb and be at a height of few feet to have bird’s eye view of the lake. We climbed on one, which was quite high. It was basic but with all safety features built in. The view from the top as one would expect was good. Though beyond the periphery of national park you could feel the flat plain land, some fields, and some high-rise buildings coming up. My fear is that Gurgaon may expand in that direction and eventually lead to the non-migration of birds. At places you can see thousand of birds sitting in rows with perfect discipline, almost giving an impression of a school classroom.
Education / Interpretation Centre
There is an education and interpretation center which probably has a library and an audio video center with features on birds and their species. But being a weekend it was closed and we could not look at it. I am not too conversant with the variety of birds but this is what the text on the website says: Approx 250 species of Birds are found at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. Some of them are resident, while others come from distant regions like Siberia, Europe, and Afghanistan.
Resident Birds of Sultanpur
Name of some of the resident birds of Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary are: Common Hoopoe, Paddyfield Pipit, Purple Sunbird, Little Cormorant, Eurasian Thick-knee, Gray Francolin, Black Francolin, Indian Roller, White-throated Kingfisher, Spot-billed Duck, Painted Stork, White Ibis, Black-headed Ibis, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, India Crested Lark, Red-vented Bulbul, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Red-wattled Lapwing, Shikra, Eurasian-collared Dove, Red-collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Spotted Owlet, Rock Pigeon, Magpie Robin, Greater Coucal, Weaver Bird, Bank Mynah, Common Mynah and Green Bee Eater.
Migratory Birds at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary
Every year more than 100 migratory bird species arrive at Sultanpur in search of feeding grounds and to pass the winter. In winter Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary provides a picturesque panorama of migratory birds such as Siberian Cranes, Greater Flamingo, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Common Teal, Common Greenshank, Northern Pintail, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Rosy Pelican, Gadwall, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Starling, Bluethroat and Long-billed Pipit.
Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary has birds in summer too. About 11 species of migratory birds such as Asian Koel, Black-crowned Night Heron, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Comb duck, Blue-cheeked Bee Eater, Blue-tailed Bee-Eater and Cuckoos come here.
It takes 1.5 hrs to take a full round of Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary on foot. Tourist can have a glance of Neelgai (Blue Bull) and Black Buck too.
There is a hotel/resort Rosy Pelican on the side of the national park. Where you can stay if you want to catch the birds early morning. There is a restaurant operated by Haryana tourism. Since you are not allowed to carry your own food, and there is nothing else in the vicinity, you would be forced to eat there. But if possible this may be avoided. The food is bad, the toilets were pathetic, service poor and the basic hygiene missing. If someone from Haryana tourism is reading this, please do something about it.
I would recommend a visit to the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. But am not sure if you should do it this year as all the roads leading to and from this place are under construction. Making it a nightmarish experience to go there. But if you happen to be a bird watcher, it is a must visit for you. Do carry a powerful binocular & zoom camera with you.