One does not expect much from a place when it already has ‘little’ in it! Having witnessed the vastness and sheer beauty of the ‘Great’ Rann, I did not have much hope from its ‘little’ counterpart. Oh, this stupid logic of mine! The only reason why I decided in the first place to visit Little Rann of Kutch was because of the famous Indian Wild Ass, which you will not get to see anywhere else. It is called as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. Now, don't ask me what is so fascinating about a donkey! A lot, actually!
Have you ever noticed a donkey for real? Those brilliantly glistening, wide eyes are prettier than that of a deer. Their furry coats seem so warm and cosy. Sadly, they have become endangered species because of us selfish Homo sapiens. I was determined to visit the Little Rann of Kutch, the beautiful place between the Great Rann of Kutch and Ahmedabad. Join me as I take you on a Safari...
Safari through Little Rann of Kutch
The morning was cold, and the homestay where I had put up for the safari was warm!
A jeep arrived on time to pick usー: my friend, one more family, and me.
At the forest gates entry, we paid the entry fee, submitted our ID proofs, and were then let inside. I felt as if the forest officer had no enthusiasm as they lagged a bit in proper checking (they did not check our vehicle)! The forest entry fee (including the camera charges) was roughly about Rs.400/- or Rs.500/-. We hoped that this might not be the state of our safari also - lethargic. It came as a little shock to us that no forest guide would be joining us. In fact, the forest department does not arrange any safari; you need to have the vehicle arranged by yourself!
I asked our driver if we could drive into the forest straightaway. The driver, however, did not pay any heed to us. He did drive into the forest as the car bumped up and down on the difficult terrain.
Honestly, with this dull start, I did not place my hopes too high on this safari. Put on your seat belts while I narrate to you the incidents that followed this bumpy ride.
As we went further ahead, the desert of Little Rann of Kutch unwinds in front of us. I soon realised that is nowhere even close to being called "little."
This was a salt marsh flat land but has now dried up. The earth was fudgy and had cracked up everywhere. That is how the land looked everywhere in Gujarat (This is only natural and not because it is dried or going through a drought).
We drove aimlessly through the limitless dry land. Nothing could be seen up till the horizon. It lacked trees and bushes and a fixed safari pathway. On top of that, there are mirages everywhere around, and you feel as if you are hallucinating. Believe me when I say that if you drive there all by yourself, with no guide, you will go in circles, lose your way and go mad! You literally can have "into the wild" kind of moment here.
Something else was also running in my mindー "This place is just an open land with nothing in it! No life! What if I am fooled into it!".
After the aimless wandering for some time, we came close to a bushy place. We saw something moving in the bush. I was thrilled, not that I was expecting an Indian Wild Ass because this ‘something’ appeared to be in dark colour.
It turned out to be a cute little calf looking for her mom. This peaked my frustration a bit! I cribbed to my driver and asked the driver if there is anything at all in this barren place or are we just roam about here and there like zombies?!
Voilaー just then, out of the blue, the driver pointed to the horizon, and we saw a splendid sight of three nilgais galloping away. The giant Nilgais looked like bulls! Big bulls running into the unknown. They were quite fast and far away for my camera to capture them. Although it is a huge empty desert, the Nilgais disappeared in thin air! They vanished into oblivion in no time!
I pinched myself as if to wake me up from a dream. Meanwhile, the uncle in the back seat was also regretting not removing the camera lens to capture the Nilgais in time! Sad!
The first sight of Indian Wild Ass
"Bhaiya! Milega kya?" My cribbing self has awakened yet again.
Our poor driver realised the rising tension and drove us to another spot.
This time again, there were bushes all around. Between the thorny bushes, we could see them - The Indian Wild Asses. It looked at me as though it was terrified to the core. There were just two of them. They looked like a donkey was growing into a horse, and somewhere in between, the growth stopped! They were a handsome little creature with a lovely pale white coat and brownish tint at places. One of it did not give a damn about us on-lookers and kept grazing unperturbed. The other one just froze. He wouldn't move or nudge and just kept standing there.
Excited, I took a couple of pictures immediately. We stood there for a good ten minutes, and the asses just froze in one motion. I felt a little sorry, and we decided to move on before they get a panic attack! Oops.
The driver, too, had a sense of accomplishment and gave us a look that saidー,” I am done with my duty.” He pounced upon the opportunity and said, "shall we go to the river bank for breakfast?"
“What! Is that all!” I was baffled.
It is only a Wild Ass; how difficult is it to spot them? I started my rant again and went on about how I am a writer and that I need the stuff to write. Should I rant about these two asses? Blah blah blah blah! On I went.
Looking back, I realise that I was such a pain in the ass! However, the driver was now intrigued. He wanted to know all ーwhat do I write, where do I write, and so on. He had now put on a smile. He knew where to take us now so that we can spot the Indian Wild Ass. Well aware of the place's geography, he took a detour and brought us to a place of a possible sighting of the animal in demand!
A herd of Indian Wild Ass
God finally answered my prayers, or rather, my rants!
We came to the road with marshy land with a few bushes on either side. From a distance itself, we could spot a herd. The much-sought herd of Indian Wild Ass! Finally! Miracle!
There were about six of them, hidden behind the bushes, though. The driver told us that the jeep could not go into the marshy land, but we can certainly walk up there. So my friend and I decided to walk towards them. We gradually advanced to the bushes, watching our steps carefully on the mushy, clayey, and fudgy ground.
The asses were alert of our presence, but they continued to graze. Surprisingly or not, most of them were determined to show only their asses! We waited patiently and kept watching them from a distance.
The sun was just turning brighter as it set, and the rays fell right on the wild asses, giving them a nice golden hue. I so wish I had a better camera then. The glow was magnificent.
Slowly, even more, asses walked out of the bushes. There were now about twenty odd wild asses grazing in front of us. My joy knew no bounds. I even did a happy dance then and there. The donkeys must have been wondering who this crazy lady was!
We spent about half an hour with these endangered species. After that, we happily returned to our jeep after having posed and clicked N number of pictures with the wild asses.
Birding at Little Rann of Kutch
Spotting the Indian wild asses is not the only activity there. The little rann has a lot, A LOT, to offer.
On the way to the river bank, we saw a bunch of common cranes frolicking about. Initially, they were also showing only their ass to us. Why do I see asses everywhere? This is one crazy obsession now!
Then a larger flock flew in and made us visitors jump in happiness. Especially when they flew, their huge spread of wings was a wonder to marvel at. Oh, nature’s bounties!
When we reached the river bank, I could not believe my eyes! One simply does not expect to see them, either in Gujarat or Little Rann of Kutch. What -you ask? What did we see?
FLAMINGOES! All over the river!
The place is called Bajana creek. The flamingoes were at a distance, but the unexpected scene made me go giddy. It appeared as though the river had turned pink in the middle.
They were all busy digging in for breakfast with their heads dunked into the water. I so wanted them to lift their heads and see me, flap their wings, and perform a dance, but all they did was to hunt for their food.
As said before, I did not have a good camera back then, and my pictures were turning out blurry. I decided to simply watch them and capture the visuals in my heart. I once used to have a scrapbook with pictures of colourful exotic birds. I had been in a bubble for a long time that flamingos must be found somewhere in exotic locations and certainly not in India. But now it was there right in front of me. If this is not a "dream come true," I wonder what it is!
There are also many small salt pans in action here and there. We stopped at one such place to see how salt is made. It felt bad seeing a family staying there in this harsh weather, in the middle of a desert, all for making salt. Making salt is not as easy as one would wonder. It cuts your skin, and the salt crystals cause a blinding reflection on your eyes. For some reason, I did not feel like taking any pictures here.
LRK is known especially for birding. There was a huge variety of ducks and geese around the Nawa Talab Lake. Neither did I know their names nor the jeep driver. I wish he was more of a naturalist so that we could have been informed well. If you are lucky enough, you might even get to spot some desert fox, jackals, boar, and hyenas too.
Towards the safari's end, our jeep seemed to have lost its way; and we found the correct pathway randomly. Take my word- Don't venture on your own! The forest staff would not even gonna bother if you came out or not!
How to Reach Little Rann of Kutch
I drove down from Bhuj after a visit to the Great Rann of Kutch. From there, we went to Lakadia and Patdi and halted at Patdi.
From Patdi to Ahmedabad I took a means of public transport. The bus along the Ahmedabad Bhuj highway will stop at Dhrangadhra. You can halt here too. In Patdi, I 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. We all got down at one of the National Highways and made it to Ahmedabad.
Thus, a bus seems to be a safe option. Gujarat’s buses are dependable. Also, the roads to Bhuj and Rann are well-maintained. A win-win.
Also Read - Weavers of Bhujodi - this will make a good addition to your trip.
Where to Stay at LRK
One can easily find accommodation at Dhrangadhra or Dasada as well.
Devjibhai and his eco-camps are very popular stay options here. He is a conservationist by himself, and going on a safari with him would make for a perfect excursion. However, when I checked, his accommodation was full.
The other popular one is RannRiders, but that was not in my budget. So I stayed at Patdi. The stay was comfortable, but the safari was not that great.
So I leave it up to you to decide...
You can book your stay here - Little Rann of Kutch Stay Options