“Our Jeep gushed through the parched land into what seemed like nothingness. The landscape was in the shades of black, brown, and pale blue, not a single tree around. Struggling to keep my hair in place, I barely managed to stand in the moving jeep, hoping to get a better view of the mystic land. Suddenly, the jeep slowed down, engines turned off. Camouflaged into the surroundings, was a herd of Indian Wild Ass (Khur).
Vivid memories from one of the most mystic and enchanted land, The Wild Ass Sanctuary, Little Rann of Kutch. The last place on earth, that is home to Indian Wild Ass (Khur). Spotting the shy creatures, a vast group of flamingoes dotting the marshland pink and white and the unique salt pans was indeed a surreal experience. If I must name the best experience of Gujarat, Wild Ass Sanctuary it was, after the White Rann of Kutch. Read more about the Rann Utsav here.
This week fresh from the #Rannkikahaniya series, this article provides you with all the information you need to know to plan a visit to Wild Ass Sanctuary. Let me first tell you little Rann of Kutch.
What is Little Rann of Kutch?
The Word Rann of Kutch (the word Rann means Desert) usually brings the visuals of gorgeous white dessert featured in many Bollywood movies but there is more to Rann of Kutch than just the white Rann (as it is called). The Little Rann of Kutch is another hidden gem one must explore while visiting Kutch. Do not get confused by its name, little Rann is not little by any means. This arid marshland is spread across approximately 5000 square km. Little Rann of Kutch has stunning visuals, diverse flora & fauna to mesmerize any traveler.
Little Rann of Kutch is the 15th Biosphere Reserve. Its strategic location on the bird migration route makes it the perfect feeding, breeding, and roosting ground for many migratory birds.
Little Rann of Kutch: Home to Gujarat’s largest wildlife reserves
The main attraction in Little Rann of Kutch is the Wild Ass sanctuary. The unique topography of this area varies from marshlands, waterbodies, grey, parched lands, salt pans, scanty shrubs, and much more. Apart from the animals, the wildlife sanctuary is also a paradise for bird lovers and wildlife photographers.
Not just the natural beauty, this region has also beautifully preserved the local traditions and culture. This area is inhabited by ethnic tribes including Rabaris, Bharvads, Agariyas, and mirs. Witnessing the locals adorned in traditional attires and large silver jewelry is a feast to the eyes.
Little Rann of Kutch: Wild Ass Sanctuary
The Wild Ass Sanctuary is home to Indian Wild ass or ghudkar. It is one of the last places on earth to spot these magnificent wild animals. Though the place is dedicated and dominated by the Indian wild ass, it’s also home to almost 30 to 35 different types of mammals. The most common animals spotted here are caracals, Indian wolves, blackbucks, striped hyenas, antelopes, and Chinkaras. If you are lucky, you will be able to witness all these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
The Sanctuary is also a refugee to many migratory birds like Desert Wheatears, Lark, the White-browed Bulbul, Indian Coursers, Saras Cranes, both Indian Flamingoes, and Pelicans.
How to reach Little Rann of Kutch/ Wild Ass Sanctuary
The wild Ass Sanctuary has two main entrances – Dhrangadhra and Bajana.
By Rail: You could reach the little Rann of Kutch by rail via the Dhrangadhra railway station which is 16 km away. Another railway route which you could take if you wish to enter the Sanctuary from Bajana is via the Viramgam railway station.
By Road: The Wild Ass Sanctuary is well connected to major cities in Gujarat by Road. It is 130 km from Ahmedabad, 45 km from Viramgam, 175 km from Rajkot, and 265 km from Bhuj. It takes 2-3 hours to reach Dhrangadhra and Bajana from Ahmedabad.
By Air: The closest airport is Ahmedabad international airport, another option is the Rajkot international Airport.
How to visit
The best way to explore the vast span of Wildlife Sanctuary is through a Jeep Safari. Jeep safari is mostly a part of the package at the resort you are staying. However, you can also go on organized jeep and minibus safaris from Dhrangadhra, Patadi, or Zainabad. Private jeeps are available for hire at these places too.
We entered the Sanctuary from the Bajana entrance, which is close to the wetlands where you can spot migratory birds.
You can obtain the entry permit from the Forest department at Dhrangadhra and Bajana. The entry fee varies depending on the weekdays or weekends. Also on whether you are an Indian or domestic traveler.
During the week, the rate is 600 rupees for Indians and 2,600 rupees for foreigners. It increases Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. The guide may cost you another 300-400.
In addition, if the safari is not a part of your accommodation package, you may have to pay 2,000-3,000 rupees for the jeep, which accommodates a maximum of 6 persons. You also need to pay additional charges for the cameras.
Where to stay
Depending on which entrance to the Sanctuary you choose, you can either stay at Dhrangadhra or near Dasada. Some of the popular options are Rann Riders (it’s the most popular traditionally designed eco-resort in the area), The Royal Safari Camp, another eco-friendly resort. We stayed here during our tour.
You can also check out Desert Coursers, a resort run by the Dhanraj Malek, a scion of the royal family of Zainabad. Bhavna Resort and farms, Patdi and Little Rann Resort, Zainabad are a few more places you can consider.
How many days do you need to visit Wild Ass Sanctuary?
One day is enough to explore the Wild Ass Sanctuary.
I recommend including the nearby areas also in your itinerary. Depending on the time and available budget you can easily plan a 3-10 days trip.
Best time to visit Wild Ass Sanctuary
The best time is from October and March. During this time, the vegetation is fresh, so the wild animals come to feed on the freshly grown grass. You could easily spot them during a jeep safari.
An early morning jeep safari is the best way to explore the Little Rann. During the mornings, there are more chances to spot the wild animals. The Afternoon safaris are also available.
Things to do/ experience during the Dessert safari
1. Witness the spectacular Sunrise
If you choose the morning safari, the panoramic backdrop of the rising sun on the vast stretches of wet marshlands will welcome you.
2.Spot the India Wild Ass (Ghudkhar or Khur) & other wild animals
During the safari, you could spot wild ass in its only home. These shy animals move in herds. They can run as fast as a horse. You can also spot other wild animals like desert foxes, jackals, antelopes, etc.
The Sanctuary is a paradise for bird lovers. The Kutch wetland is the largest breeding ground for the flamingos. You can spot a variety of other migratory birds also.
4. Witness the Salt pans and salt making
Salt pans are another attraction at the Little Rann of Kutch. Witness the vast salt pans and meet the salt farmers of the Agariyas tribe who migrate to this area in October to toil the land and produce salt.
Things to keep in mind while visiting Wild Ass Sanctuary
1. It is better to opt for a morning safari.
2. Do carry sunscreen, sunglasses, a windcheater, and a scarf to protect your skin and hair.
3. The marshy land could be hard on your feet, so choose the right set of footwear before heading
here. There is no harm in carrying extra footwear.
4. Do carry drinking water with you
5. For photography you need a good camera
Exploring the rich diversity of Little Rann of Kutch, getting familiar with the unique landscape has been one of the most exhilarating experiences so far. If you are planning a trip to Kutch, do not forget to include this hidden gem in your itinerary.
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