Sultanpur National Park: Pathos for a Sitting Duck

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance but you still catch my eye
Tell me baby do you recognize me?
Well it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me
George Michael, Wham!

Don’t try to read between the lines of the above quote. Yes! It’s a quote from a song and you’d know the context in which I have used them if you do manage to go through this post. I take it; it’s difficult though :-)

Sultanpur National Park

The layout Map of Sultanpur National Park

Remember the movie Prince Caspian from Chronicles of Narnia Series? The visit was reminiscent of the movie where the children return to find their “Eden” that is Narnia usurped and destroyed by human invasion.

Something similar had happened to Sultanpur National Park and the creatures responsible for this plight are alcohol-thirsty-kurkure-chomping- virtuoso-scribblers-yet-to-be-toilet-trained brats, PDA maniacs, picnic-happy- garbage-littering-neighbor-complaining-pakau-family-guys and know-no-bound-doting-couples who believe they have a right to self expression and freedom.

These kinds of creatures have become ubiquitous these days in and around Delhi and their most favorite hangouts are well you see one could easily spot them at public parks, heritage buildings, ethnic/theme parks/marts and even shopping malls. They know everything; they are the nouveau-westernized-open-thinking-trigger-happy bourgeoisie individuals. The only thing they don’t know is responsibility, respect and humility.

Birding in Sultanpur National Park

Now for the quote! Well, no other phrase could explain my predicament on revisiting Sultanpur National Park this year on Diwali. After reading an article in Hindustan Time which said how the birds are once again are making Sultanpur National Park their home, it was really difficult for me to convince the traveler in me not to go to this bird sanctuary after my earlier experience.

The traveler in me said “what’s life like, if we don’t take chances now and then”. He even quoted me when I tried to convince him that it’s crazy really to revisit the park. He replied “some people never go crazy. Imagine the kind of life they live.” After that there were no options but to call a few friends and go, albeit with trepidation.

Weekend Getaways Delhi

We – Vineet (my friend) and I – decided to arrive early at the park to maximize our luck – I should have known as I always run out of it when needed most – and we left real early (04:30 AM from Inderpuri)on our quest to spot as many birds as we could. We drove smoothly as there was no traffic and arrived around 6:00 at the park to find out that it was closed. As opposed to other sanctuaries and parks which remain open from sunrise till sunset, Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary opens it gates at 7:00 AM.

Birding near Delhi

From then onwards it was like the chronicle of a death foretold. It was a cold day and skyline was smeared with fog. Even as we smoked to add to the ambience and pathos of our situation I was not really hopeless as I could see couples of painted storks, cranes and birds that be. Waiting hours passed soon and at 07:00 sharp we entered the park. Rs. 10 for entry and Rs. 25 for camera was the fee per person.

Attractions near Delhi

Again when it came to parking the car, the guard told us that they parking is not allowed anymore as a vehicle was stolen from the parking a few weeks ago. Instead he advised us to park our vehicle by the resort restaurant where it would be much safer and we readily obliged.

Birding in Sultanpur

Coming back to the song I quoted above, soon after entering the park the lines “Well it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me” were so true to the context. The park was in total disarray even worse than what it was an year ago. Last time when I had visited Sultanpur National Park it was less littered with plastic classes, empty bottles of alcoholic drinks, empty Kurkure and chips packets disposed off here and there and what not. The radial road was in the state of gross disrepair and the vantage points from where we had sighted many birds last time were conspicuous by their absence.

Places to visit near Delhi

The marshland appeared more like grassland with bushes blocking the way everywhere. There were more grazing cattle inside than birds – I mean the birds which were supposed to be there according to the article. The ambience inside the park was more allusive to the Eliot’s Wasteland than the Wordsworth Tintern Abbey. You must be thinking I am totally nuts…talking like this :-) Well the thing is that I am writing this line on a few miles away from Sultanpur National Park, on revisiting the banks of “not quite” marshlands of the park and 15 months had passed since my last visit to this one time birder’s paradise.

Tours to Delhi

Aw! Digressions apart, the park is in real sorry state. I can’t believe that it is even considered a bird sanctuary. I paid a visit to my native village on the occasion of my Grandpa’s death and I could spot more varieties of avifauna which included Herons (great egrets, great blue herons, black heron, grey ones and more), Kingfishers (yellow billed, pied and common) and resident birds that one usually spots in a reserve than what I could spot inside Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary.

Weekend Getaways

The marshland that was and the wetland that could have been are almost destroyed or are nearly on the brink of destruction. The landscape strewn with litter, callous visitors (including picnickers, drinkers and couples) and apathetic authorities have insured that we, the visitors spot more love-birds than actual birds. The park which once gave high hopes to birders and travelers alike is now a sitting duck under constant attack from insensitive, cold, alcohol and pop-corn/chips happy visitors.

travel story Sultanpur

It’s ironic that now they have a hall (kinda museum) named after India’s most celebrated ornithologist and naturalist Dr. Salim Ali. In a stark contrast to the desolation and apathy inside the bird sanctuary is the adjacent resort of Haryana Tourism. With its well manicured lawns, spotless surroundings and more verdant ambiance, one could see where the focus of state tourism department actually is. It is sad to notice that resort is preferred over the park on which it actually depends to promote itself in the first place. This relationship is not a symbiotic relation but a parasitic one.

Bird Sanctuaries in India

I wanted to start my story with sentences like I spotted Black Necked Stork, Great Egret, Great Blue Herons, Darters, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Red Vented Bulbul, Red Wattled Lapwings, Black Winged Stilt and many resident birds including lots of Hoopoe but I could not even though I did spotted them. You see even though I am an optimist who prefers BRB (Be right back) as his epitaph over RIP (rest in peace), I am not much hopeful when it comes to Sultanpur.

When I do revisit a place I usually find it in better shape albeit with some minor alteration which could be attributed to urbanization and technological advancement. No place may remain exotic or truly pristine. Even traveler in me knows this truth. But Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is in really truly and utterly sorry state. My only concern if it is too late for redemption?

Here are a few more images but all look so gloomy :-(

National Parks of India

National Park near Delhi

Birding tour

Bird watching near Delhi


  • Bill McReynolds says:

    Great post and photos, Nikhil Ji! Do you think the sanctuary is subject to abuse by being so close to so many millions of people, leading to overuse? You are certainly well-informed…the BirdMan of NCR!

  • Chandra81 says:

    Hello Mr. McReynolds
    It’s not the millions of people who are at fault. We have many good well preserved park in here and Keoladeo…a world heritage site… has more proximity to these millions of people and yet still one of the best bird sanctuaries in the world. And I assure you there’s no overuse as there are only few who do visit this sanctuary. The issue is of being indifferent when it comes to the authorities and the visitors… after all we are the world and at the end of the day for any thing that’s wrong with the world only we’re to blame :-)

  • Very beautiful park .

    The pics are good specially that red beetle and painted stroke flying over the lake……………………

  • Nandan says:

    Seems that you really had an awful day. I did a little search and I see following story which came on Nov8, 2011.

    May be it is one of those regular-stock-stories and not a real journalism.

    The question which comes to my mind is that apart from sharing and raising awareness (like this travel experience) , what else can be done ? . To start with, I have dropped this Ghumakkar link at HT’s page.

    Coming back to birds, I was at Okhla Bird Sanctuary last Wednesday. It is not as rich as Sultanpur but considering that it is in backyard, it is worth a visit. We did spot Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Common duck (or something like that, comes from Mongolia), Horn Bill, Kingfisher and one more very small bird which as per our guide is only found in Okhla.

    We had arranged a guide from Sultanpur and he seemed pretty well informed and equipped. He had this fantastic telescope on a tripod which was giving us HD-TV kind of view of birds. Pretty awesome. I am thinking of making a visit there sometime next month. Hoping that things would better. :-)

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks for the pics, Nikhil. All the pics were great, but especially loved the one of a pair of symmetrical Egrets wading in the lake. It looked more like an Audubon painting than a photograph.

    I think that you should add ornithology to the interests listed in your profile.

  • pravesh.suyal says:

    Great pics…..when’s the best time to visit?

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