Little Rann of Kutch - Chasing the Indian Wild Ass

Little Rann of Kutch – Chasing the Indian Wild Ass

Between the Great Rann of Kutch and Ahmedabad lies the Little Rann of Kutch. And I did not expect much of it because come on, it has little in its name itself. I mean, I have witnessed the vastness and beauty of Great Rann and we know its grandeur and so it is quite common to expect something less in beauty than it. But I was totally wrong with this stupid logic of mine. The only reason why I decided in the first place to visit Little Rann of Kutch is that it is famous for the Indian Wild Ass which you will not get to see anywhere else. It is in fact called as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. Don't ask me what is so fascinating about a donkey! Have you ever noticed a donkey? Those brilliantly shining wide eyes? Prettier than that of a deer. And that furry coat. I love donkeys and these Indian Wild Ass you don't get to see anywhere else. They are endangered species and we are known to be the problematic species. So I was so sure of visiting this place. Come along with me to visit LKR (Little Rann of Kutch).

safari Little Rann
Safari through the desert

Safari through Little Rann of Kutch

The morning was cold and the homestay where I had put up had arranged for the safari through Little Rann of Kutch. The jeep arrived to pick us up. I, my friend and one more family, all of us set on the little expedition. You need to make an entry at the forest gates, pay an entry fee, submit your ID card proofs and then you are let in to go. The forest office had no enthu, nobody came out to check the vehicle, it was in a lethargic state and that kind of pretty much said what to expect in the safari as well. And no forest guide joined us. In fact, the forest department does not arrange any safari and you need to have the vehicle arranged by yourself. I asked our driver, "can we just like that drive into the forest?" The driver did not pay any heed and thus inherently he had set the expectations of the safari - "don't ask me stuff, am not gonna reply to you". With not so good feeling the jeep went through some bumpy ups and downs into the arid forest.

Note: The forest entry fee plus camera charges comes roughly to about Rs.400/- or Rs.500/-. 

common crane
Common crane pair

Soon the vast desert of Little Rann of Kutch unwinds in front of us. It is nowhere close to being called "little". This is also a salt marsh flat land. But had dried up much much better than Great Rann. The earth was fudgy and had cracked up everywhere. That is in fact how the piece of land looked everywhere in Gujarat. Not because it is dried or going through a draught but that is the nature of the land. It was like driving through a vast desert aimlessly. Nothing could be seen till the horizon. It is not like there are trees and bushes and safari pathway. There are just mirages everywhere around you and you start to hallucinate. Believe me, if you drive in by yourself with no guide, you will go in circles, lose your way and go mad. You can have "in the wild" kind of moment here. Something else was also running in my mind, "this place is just an open land with nothing in it! No life! Am fooled!".

Also Read: Great Rann of Kutch, where the land kisses the sea.

Driving through Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary
Driving through Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary
parched earth gujarat
Parched land of Gujarat

After driving around for a while we came close to a bushy place and we could make out that something was moving. I was thrilled. Not that I was expecting an Indian Wild Ass because this one appeared to be in dark color. But then it turned out to be a calf looking for her mom. I turned into my cribbing mode and started asking the driver if there is anything at all in this barren place or are we just gonna go zip zap zoom around this desert. And then out of the blue, the driver pointed to the horizon and there were three nilgais galloping away. The Nilgais looked like bulls! Big bulls running into the unknown. They were fast for my camera and they were really far off. Believe me, it is a desert, it is a vast stretch of land and yet as they ran into the oblivion, they disappeared in thin air! They were just gone in a while. I pinched myself wondering if it was a dream! Meanwhile, the uncle in the back seat was regretting for not removing the camera lens while the Nilgai had disappeared. 

Nilgai Little rann of hutch
Nilgai running through the desert

The first sight of Indian Wild Ass

"Bhaiya.. Milega kya?" I once again started my tune of crib song. He realised the rising tension and drove to another spot. Between the thorny bushes, we could see them. The Indian Wild Ass. It looked at me as though it was terrified to the core. There were just two of them. It looked like a donkey was growing into a horse and somewhere in between, it stopped the growth. With a nice pale white coat and brownish tint at places, they looked like studs. One of it did not give a damn and kept grazing. The other one just froze. He wouldn't move or nudge and just kept standing there. I took a couple of pictures excited with the first glimpse of it. We stood there for a good ten minutes and the donkey just froze. I felt sorry and we decided to move before he gets a panic attack. 

wild ass little rann of hutch
The one on left froze :)

The driver had a sense of accomplishment and 'I am done with my duty' kind of look. He said, "shall we go to the river bank for breakfast?" and I gave back a is that all look? It is Wild Ass, how difficult is it to spot them? I started my rant again and went on about how I am a writer, I need stuff to write, I can't write about two asses, blah blah blah blah! Looking back, I was such a pain :D But it caught his fancy and he was like what do I write, where do I write and got a new enthusiasm. He now had a smile, he now knew where we can spot Indian Wild Ass, he now even knew the statistics of the jungle. So we took a detour and drove to another spot where there could be a possible sighting. 

Indian Wild Ass
The conjoined twins of LRK

A herd of Indian Wild Ass

We came to a road where the land was marshy on either side and there were few bushes. At a distance, we could see a herd. This was a herd of Indian Wild Ass! I was super excited. About six of them were there. They were hidden behind the bushes though. The driver said the jeep cannot go into the marshy land but we can walk up to there. So I and my friend decided to walk towards them, the family decided to stay put. The ground was mushy clayish fudgy and we watched our steps as we walked towards them. They looked alert in our direction but continued to graze. And most of them were determined to show only their asses :( We decided to wait patiently and kept watching them from a distance. 

Indian Wild Ass resting at Little Rann of kutch
Indian Wild Ass resting at Little Rann
Indian wild ass herd grazing at Little Rann of Kutch
Indian wild ass herd grazing at Little Rann of Kutch

The sun was just getting brighter and the rays were right on those wild asses giving them a nice golden hue. I wish I had a better camera then. They were just glowing. And out of the bushes walked in even more wild asses. There were now like twenty odd wild asses grazing in front of us at the Little Rann of Kutch. My joy knew no bound. I did a happy dance standing there and the donkeys were wondering who these are. After about half an hour spending our time with these endangered donkeys, we decided to return to the jeep. Lots of posing Indian Wild Ass for you, :)

wild ass Little Rann
Studs of Little Rann
Indian wild ass
Somebody is watching us!

Birding at Little Rann of Kutch

On the way to the river bank, we saw a bunch of common cranes frolicking around. Initially, they were also showing only their ass to us. But then a flock of them flew in and it was nice to see them :) Especially when they flew, they were really huge! 

common crane lrk
Flock of Common Crane at Little Rann

When we reached the river bank I could not believe my eyes. Because I was not expecting to see them in Gujarat nor Little Rann of Kutch nor at any part of this trip. There were flamingos all over the river. It is actually called Bajana creek. They were at a distance but this unexpected surprise made me go giddy. It appeared as though in the middle of the river it was running pink. They were all busy digging in for breakfast and all of them had their head dunked into the water. I wanted them to lift their heads up, see me, flap their wings and perform a dance but they were busy eating. I did not have a good camera back then and my pictures were turning out blurry. So I just decided to watch them. I used to have a book with colorful birds printed on the pages of it. And they were all exotic birds, so I used to live in this bubble for long that flamingos are found somewhere in exotic locations and not in India. But now it was there right in front of me. This is called, "dream come true". :)

Flamingos at little rann of hutch
Flamingos at Litte Rann

There are also small salt pans in action here and there. We stopped at one such place to see how salt is made. I just felt bad for the family staying there in this harsh weather, middle of a desert, making salt. Making salt is not easy, it cuts your skin and the reflection of the salt crystal nearly blinds you. I did not feel like taking any pictures here. LRK is known for birding. I wish my jeep driver could have been more of a naturalist. There were a variety of ducks and geese around the Nawa Talab (lake) and neither did I know the name nor him. If you are lucky, you might get to see some desert fox, jackals, boar and hyenas too. At the end of the safari, the jeep randomly came out through some pathway on to the road. Am telling you, don't venture on your own! The forest staffs are not even gonna bother if you came out or not. 

pelicans and ducks
Pelicans and Ducks in front

How to Reach Little Rann of Kutch

I drove down from Bhuj after a visit to Great Rann of Kutch. So it was Bhuj then Lakadia and Patdi and halted at Patdi. From Patdi to Ahmedabad I did by public transport. The bus along the Ahmedabad Bhuj highway will stop at Dhrangadhra, you can get down here and halt here too. From Patdi am not sure from where I caught the bus to Ahmedabad. I was stuffed into a minivan with 20 other villagers who were heading to the town and we all got down at one of the national highways and made it to Ahmedabad. So it is pretty much doable by bus. Gujarat bus is good and this section of road to Bhuj and Rann are very good. 

Also Read - Weavers of Bhujodi - this will make a good addition to your trip.

wild boar ark
Wild Boar family

Where to Stay at LRK

Patdi is where I halted. You can find accommodation at Dhrangadhra or Dasada as well. The most popular in this region is Devjibhai and his eco-camps. He is a conservationist by himself and going on a safari with him would be interesting. When I checked, his accommodation was full. The other popular one is RannRiders and that was not in my budget. And so opted to stay at another resort in Patdi. The stay was good but the safari was not that great so I leave it to you to search for one :)

You can book your stay here - Little Rann of Kutch Stay Options

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