Usually deserts are seen as places devoid of life and beauty as there are no lush green forests, picturesque snow covered mountains or hills with waterfalls. Desert is generally defined as a place without scenic beauty. But contrary to this, one cannot afford to ignore the immense elegance of the desert landscape. The leisure time spent here forces you to ponder about the very existence of you and this world. Rann of Kutch provides with a similar opportunity. Get to know the deserts a little better this season. The charm of the vast deserts, saltpan, incredible mirage, spiny tailed lizard, salt resistant varieties of flora and fauna and other species arise a keen interest in the visitor.
Explore a whole new world as you visit the little Rann of Kutch wildlife sanctuary. This amazing place, which is one of its kinds, is the only sanctuary inhabiting the endangered Indian Wild ass. It is the largest sanctuary in India. This is the only place on earth sheltering this population of Wild Ass. It was set up in 1973 with the purpose of protecting the endangered species of wild ass. The sanctuary is extended over an area of five thousand kilometers. Wild ass is a wonderful creature which is just slightly larger than a donkey with immense strength and speed like a horse. The sanctuary harbors a wide variety of wildlife such as antelopes, snakes, jackals, desert foxes and wolves. The area also supports a wide range of avifauna.
Situated in the north Gujarat state, the sanctuary has two entry gates, one is Dhrangadhra and the other is Bajana. It was included under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The area of Rann of Kutch is mainly a saline desert. The region is flooded for one month during monsoon season. The bets, which are the islands or elevated plateaus, are found in good numbers. They are enveloped with grass and serve as the feeding ground for the large population of twenty-one thousand animals.
One can also visit other interesting wildlife preservation areas that are located in this region, near the city of Bhuj in the Katch district namely Kutch Desert Wildlife, Banni Grasslands reserve, Chari- Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary and Kutch Bustard Sanctuary. These sanctuaries offer a large diversity of flora and fauna.
Although one can visit the sanctuary during anytime around the year but it is better to avoid the summer months for visiting. The months from October to march are best suited to visit the sanctuary as the weather is cool and grasslands are green and fresh for animals. To spot animals, one must choose to go on morning safaris. Also many migratory birds can be spotted as they visit the sanctuary during this season. In the summer months, the heat is almost unbearable so months after April are not an appropriate time to visit this place.
There are many options to stay near the Little Rann of Kutch wildlife sanctuary. Devjibhai's Kooba is an extravagant option for wildlife enthusiasts. Located near Sumera Lake, it is just 20 km away from halwad and 45km away from Dhrangadhra. The place offers comfort and simplicity. The food is delicious and there are umpteen chances of exploration surrounding the place. One can feel like home here. Kooba hut camps are also available to enjoy the feel of nature. It is ideal for comfortable yet inexpensive accommodation. There is an eco resort called Ram Riders near Dasada. It is beautifully placed aside the agricultural fields and offers various activities like camel safari and jeep safari. Another resort named Desert Coursers is near Zainabad. Reasonable prices and simple interiors make it an ideal staying option. Luxury camping options are also available. For a royal stay, the royal safari camp is available near Bajana entrance of the sanctuary. The food is simple home made.
The little Rann of Kutch offers not just the sights of wild asses but many other species of animals. These species include 32 mammals' species. One can spot chinkara, Indian wolves, striped hyenas, blackbucks, nilgais, caracals and two types of desert foxes. A varied assortment of bird species are found in the Little Rann of Kutch. Around 75000 bird nest are formed every year. Some of the commonly sighted birds are houbara bustard, blue tailed bee eater, demoiselle cranes and ceraneous vulture. The sanctuary is a delight for birders as one can spot a huge variety of birds. Other birds seen in the region are desert wheatears, white browed bulbul, sand grouses, and ten species of larks, shrikes, geese, sandpipers, Indian flamingos, shanks, stints, ibis, ducks, moorhens, Saras crane, godwits, Indian coursers, pelicans and spoonbills. The amazing sanctuary reside a good range of wildlife from mammals to avifauna. It has about 93 invertebrate species of these; one is annelid species, 25 zooplankton species, 12 mollusks, 4 crustaceans, 27 spiders and 24 insects. Other than this, there are 4 amphibian species and 29 reptile species. The reptile species comprise of 14 lizard species, one crocodile, 2 species of turtles and 12 snakes. 9 mammal species are found in the sanctuary including 33 subspecies. Along the sides of Gulf of Kutch, tidal wetlands are located which serve as a breeding space for prawns. The sanctuary harbors a large population of extra-ordinarily sturdy Indian wild ass. These horses like creatures are vast and can traverse areas up to 50km in one hour. They are one of the rarest animals who can withstand scorching temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius. In areas where other animals cannot survive, the wild ass can flourish. The months from august to October are the breeding months of these animals. The small marine and estuarine fisheries can be seen in the region that serves as the feeding space for various birds that arrive during migration. Several species of fishes and prawns are found in these small fisheries.
One cannot expect to see lush greenery as the sanctuary is situated in the desert region. The flora diversity is limited to the region along the edges of fisheries. 205 species of flowering plants and vegetations are found in the small plateau like region called bets (small islands or plateaus). Other types of forests found in the region are scrub forests on the bets. This variety of flora resides similar fauna diversity.
Capture the beautiful landscapes, the sight of rare and endangered wild ass and many interesting animals and birds. The safari trip enables you to get the most out of this visit. One can easily spot these animals near the bets or fisheries where they come to eat or quench their thirst. Up to five people per vehicle, people can enter the sanctuary. The charges for Indians are Rs.350 and Rs.1200 for foreigners from Monday to Friday. On weekends this tariff goes up by twenty five percent. One must take along a sanctuary guide on the safari trip which might cost them another Rs100. Camera charges for Indians are Rs.100 and Rs.600 for foreigners. Jeep and mini bus safaris are also organized at Dhrangadhra, Zainabad or Patadi. Private jeeps are also available at these places for hiring. The bajana range, in the vicinity of wetlands, attracts many migratory birds. Most options of accommodation and transport are available in Dhrangadhra. The accommodations nearby the Little Rann of Kutch provide the option of safari trips. One can choose to stay in the camps organized by the staff of the forest dept. camping out at night takes you to a new world; the view of clear sky revives you and refreshes your soul. Every year thousands of visitors, wildlife enthusiasts and birders visit the Little Rann of Kutch wildlife Sanctuary. They stay in the camps nearby the sanctuary to spend time in the close vicinity of the wildlife residing in the forest.
The Little Rann of Kutch is easily accessible by any mode of transport.
Air: Ahmedabad, Bhuj and Rajkot are the nearest airports. They are in close proximity of Eco camp.
Rail: Dhrandgadhra is the nearest train station which is about 18km away from the sanctuary. The sanctuary is 130 km away from Ahmedabad railway station. The station is connected to both Delhi and Mumbai. To see the picturesque landscape view of Bajana range, one can get down at Virangam station.
Road: The pleasing sanctuary is well connected with the metropolitan cities of Delhi and Mumbai. Halvad and Dhrangadhra are the roads that connect many important places. The Wild Ass Sanctuary is just 130 km away from Ahmedabad, 45 km away from Viramgam, 175 km away from Rajkot and 265 km away from Bhuj, accessible from all of these by ST buses. From Ahmedabad to Dhrandgadhra, it takes just two hours. One can find transport easily at Dhrandgadhra and accommodation as well. There is a government guest house, as well as private lodge.