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India: Gujarat: Adalaj, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Little Rann of Kutch, Mandvi, Modhera, Nal Sarovar, Patan, Rann of Kutch
Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India: Home of the Wild Ass
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Little Rann of Kutch occupies 4,953 sq. kms. of land and is spread out in the districts of Surendranagar, Banaskantha, Patan, Kutch and Rajkot in the State of Gujarat. The Little Rann of Kutch has a convoluted topography that varies from large marshlands sporadically cut by brown-grey patches of soil with a few small thorny shrubs. The Little Rann has to its credits one of the largest wildlife reserves in the country, the Wild Ass (locally known as Khur) Sanctuary.
The location is an ideal place for bird watching and viewing the Wild Ass. This species is now only left in this desert. Since I had enough of bird watching at Nal Sarovar, the objective was to view the Wild Ass.
We were booked for the night at Rann Riders an excellent eco-friendly place. The resort (if I may call it) offers great meals and most importantly organizes safaris in open vehicles. The place is about 30-minute drive from the edge of the desert.
We reached Rann Riders at about 3PM. We checked in and immediately got ready to board the 3:30PM safari. We drove through the parched land and muddy terrain for a couple of hours. We were rewarded with good sightings of the Wild Ass and occasional Nilgai. I am told that drivers (though not legal) speed past Wild Asses that frighten them that encourages them to gallop away at high speeds. As much as I wish to see that, I was happy that I couldn’t. It’s good to view the wild from a distance without disturbing their natural movements.
Enroute we found a few white patches resembling snow - salt crystals which will soon be collected by the salt pan workers known locally as Agarias. It is a symphony of salt and stones cuddled on one side by the sea and the other by desert. Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh, bedecks the western tip of Gujarat with its surreal charm. This seasonally marshy land covers a region of more than 10,000 square kilometers and is divided into Little Rann of Kutch and Great Rann of Kutch. Between the two, they produce country’s 60% of salt.
The bleak appearance of the land seems to be a camouflage when we realize that it shelters some unique species of animals. Little Rann also gives refuge to several migratory water birds like pelicans, flamingoes, cranes, ducks and land birds like Indian bustards, sand grouse and francolins. Apart from the wild ass the Little Rann is also home to some rare mammals like Indian Wolf and Desert Fox, which we could not sight despite the best efforts put in by our guide cum driver.
After a sumptuous dinner at Rann Riders, we were ready to call it a day… a long one indeed. We would leave for Ahmedabad early next morning.
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