GUJARAT – THE RANNS OF KUTCH
Best time: Late January to early March
India ranks in the world’s top ten countries for biodiversity. It represents about 7% of the world’s flora and 6.5% of the world’s fauna, recording 1,225 species of birds, 614 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 350 species of mammals. Of these, 173 species of mammals, 78 species of birds and 15 species of reptiles are considered threatened.
There are more than 700 National Parks and Sanctuaries in India. Some noted wild habitats are unique for birds, mammals and reptiles where rare species are encountered with pleasure.
The Rann of Kutch is a one such wild place in India’s Gujarat State. There are two: the Little Rann of Kutch and the Greater Rann. They are low-lying areas where monsoon water assumes the shape of shallow lakes and swamp. They dry up in winter, yet several water bodies remain active. The islands within them, known as "bets" possess lot of grass cover, hence ideal for avian species to stay. Though some what inaccessible due to either severe mash conditions or dense grass-groups, the entire region is rich in wild life, loads of birds can be spotted during winter -- waterfowl in the water bodies and other species in the arid and semi arid terrain.
Day 1 - Depart London Heathrow
Overnight flight to Ahmadabad via Doha
Day 2 - Arrive Ahmadabad
On arrival we shall be met by our driver and taken to our lodge in Desada where we shall arrive for dinner.
Days 3 & 4 - Little Rann of Kutch
We have morning and afternoon jeep safari drives in the Little Rann of Kutch. We should encounter almost 100 species of bird in the course of our vsits to this semi-arid region.
Houbara and Cream-coloured Courser will be strong possibilities here besides Larks, Pallid Scops Owl, Hoopoe Lark, Greater Flamingos, Dalmatian Pelican, Common Cranes, Spoonbills, Painted Storks, Mallards and other ducks, Painted and Chestnut-bellied Sand Grouse, Harriers (3 species), and Indian Nightjar as well. Wild Ass may encountered soon after entering the reserve and other mammals that we may see include Indian Fox, Desert Cat, Wolf and Chinkara
Day 5 - Little Rann of Kutch to Moti Virani in the Greater Rann of Kutch
After breakfast we drive for about 5 hours to Moti Virani stopping occasionally if we finf anything interesting, though by now we should have checked off most of the birds of the region.
We shall reach our modest-basic B&B which will be our base for our exploration of the stunning Greater Rann of Kutch. We shall go on a jeep safari shortly after arrival.
Days 6 and 7 – Greater Rann of Kutch
We shall devote these days to some hard-core birding by jeep with a driver and expert local bird guide, covering such areas as Port Mahadev, Chari Dhand, Bani grassland towards Naliya.
We shall have some walks of a mile or so as we search for Great Indian Bustard, Houbara, White-browed Chat, Grey Hypocolius as well as Wolf and Chinkara.
Day 8 – Moti Varini to Jamnagar
After lunch we shall drive for about three and a half hours to reach Jamnagar in the afternoon. We shall stop for birds en route and shall also visit an aquatic area after a short walk.
Day 9 – Jamnagar
After breakfast we’ll visit a reservoir in the city before heading on to the Khijadia Bird Sanctuary. We shall return to Jamnagar for lunch and visit some backwater sites.
Day 10 – Jamnagar to Sasan Gir
After breakfast we shall head off on a four-hour drive to Sasan Gir. We shall go on a jeep safari in the afternoon from 2-6pm
Days 11 and 12 – Sasan Gir
On these two days we do morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the Gir Lion Park where we shall look for Asiatic Lion; other cats that we may see are Leopard, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat and Jungle Cat.
Day 13 – Sasan Gir to Velavadar
After our morning jeep safari we shall make the five hour drive to Velavadar where we shall explore this grassland habitat for new birds.
Days 14 and 15 – Velavadar
We shall have two days exploring the Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary. We shall do most of this on foot, but will use the jeeps to take us to the more remote places. Harriers, Larks and grassland birds as wellas Blackbuck should all be seen here. With a bit of lckwe may also see Wolf.
Day 16 – Return to Ahmadabad
After breakfast we will make the three and a half hour drive to Ahmadabad and the airport to catch our flight home. Time permitting we may be able to visit the Thol Bird sanctuary en route.
Day 17 – Arrive London
Our flight will arrive in the morning of Day 17