Yes, there is more to Agra than just the Taj Mahal. There are several sanctuaries and wetlands in and around Agra ideal for watching birds and other wildlife. In this post we will talk about about some of the well known and then some lesser known places that a wildlife enthusiast or nature lover can visit when they’re in Agra.
Wildlife Hotspots around Agra
Wildlife spotting around Agra can be adventurous and a great alternative for those of you looking to go beyond the Taj. To visit some of these places you will need a local familiar with the area as the exact location, timings, road conditions and wildlife reports are not available online or if they are then the information is likely not updated on a regular basis.
As an avid birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast, we make it a point to visit the below places of interest on a regular basis. Some of my favorite places within a couple of hours drive from Agra are listed below. We hope you take some time out to visit and enjoy these nature abundant places on your next visit to Agra.
Hundreds of Sarus Cranes near Agra
Great white pelicans in Kheetam Lake
• Kheetam Jheel or Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is an hour from Agra going towards Mathura on the old Agra – Delhi highway. During the walk through the forest and around the lake you can see pelicans, several species of migratory birds, raptors, pythons, jackals and nil gai (antelopes). There is an entry fee per person and vehicle to visit the Park. Vehicles are allowed up to a certain point. No naturalists are available so you have to explore the sanctuary on your own. There are no hotels near the sanctuary and you should plan to stay in Agra. Please carry your own water and food as the sanctuary does not have any facilities for tourists yet.
• Keoladeo National Park: one hour from Agra going towards Jaipur is the world famous pedestrian friendly Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. Besides thousands of birds during the winter months you can also see spotted deer, sambhar deer, nil gai, jackal, hyena, turtles and other reptiles. On occasion leopards are known to enter the Park too and a few years ago a tiger was also spotted in camera traps. You can hire rickshaws, rent bicycles, a golf cart or simply walk the park to see it’s wildlife. There are several hotels within walking distance from the Park, advance bookings are highly recommended during peak season (November to March).
Collared Scops Owl in Keoladeo National Park
• Jodhpur Jhal – a water catchment created by the Irrigation department near the village of Jodhpur also on the old Agra-Delhi highway. Migratory birds visit in massive numbers during the migratory season and it’s also a great place to see sarus crane and raptors. The drive to Jodhpur Jhal is through farms which are prime habitat for birds of prey such as falcons, eagles etc. This is a relatively new wetland and is very promising as a flock of Greater Flamingos has made Jodhpur Jhal their home which is way past their annual migration (normally they fly off by March – April).
• Bari & other wetlands near Dholpur: An hour and half from Agra on the way from Dholpur to Karauli are several wetlands that are home to migratory birds in the winter months. Pelicans in the hundreds, flamingoes, ducks, geese, sarus cranes, common crane and raptors such as osprey, marsh harrier, black winged kite can be spotted here. Mammals we’ve seen include the jungle cat, deer, jackal and sloth bear and leopards are also known to be in this region.
Osprey eating fish
The talking Date Palm Tree
• Patna Bird Sanctuary: An hour and half drive from Agra going towards Avagarh is a small and lesser known bird sanctuary called Patna (not to be confused with the city Patna in Bihar). This sanctuary was once the hunting grounds of the Avagarh royal family. In winter thousands of migratory birds make their way to this wetland surrounded by farms on all sides. The wetland also has a section of mysterious date-palm trees and no one knows when and who planted them. Some of the palm trees have naturally taken the shape of human faces and appear to be speaking to each other.
Striped Hyena during the Chambal River Safari
Indian Vultures in Bayana
• Bayana: Ideal for birdwatchers keen to see endangered vultures (Indian, griffon, king and slender billed) and other birds of prey. These vultures have found a new home on the safe and steady rocky ledges of a hill in this historic town between Bharatpur and Karauli. Nearest place to stay is Bharatpur and can be combined with a visit to the Chambal River Safari. If you have more time we can also take you to the historic fort ruins that are on top of the same hill where the vultures roost.
As you can see there are indeed some amazing wildlife spotting opportunities around Agra. Other than Keoladeo in Bharatpur, the places we mentioned above are not on a wildlife enthusiast’s itinerary so you can expect to be one in a handful of tourists visiting these places. To make the most of your visit to any of these places, plan to dedicate at least a full day to each place. If you rush and plan too many things in the same day you won’t enjoy and it could end up being a waste of your time and money.
Jungle Cat during the Chambal River Safari
Chambal River Safari Virtual Tour
When visiting these places keep in traffic conditions in the city and fog on the highways in the winter months especially towards the end of December till mid January. Therefore, you need to be flexible with your travel plans as low light conditions are not favorable for driving (and photography) and visibility only begins to improve around noon. Always carry drinking water, food and cash as there are no tourist friendly facilities or ATMs other than in Bharatpur. Road conditions can get bad to worse so please be flexible and keen an open mind when traveling to these locations.
All the above locations are accessible by road and can be self driven or reached by a pre-booked taxi as there are no Ola or Uber services available in these areas. Trains and buses are not recommended other than from/to Bharatpur which lies on the Agra-Jaipur highway. Please get in touch, should you have any questions or would like to visit these places. We can take you there as your naturalist and also arrange for transportation to and from these places.
Nilgai (antelope) herd in Patna Wildlife Sanctuary
Greater flamingos at a wetland near Agra
• There is no guarantee that you will see the above wildlife. The river and / or sanctuary is their habitat and sightings depend on water level in the river, human interference, weather conditions, migratory pattern of birds, most of which are beyond your and our control.
• What to carry: photo identification, camera, binoculars, warm jacket (in the winter), backpack, sun glasses, cap, vizier, sun block, some cash, drinking water.
• Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly not permitted in National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
• Please do not throw trash on the floor even if you don’t see a trash can. Please ask your naturalist to help to dispose it off properly.
• To prevent any disturbance to wildlife, we do encourage call playback to attract birds, feeding or baiting of wildlife.