Visiting the Kutch area had been in our agenda for a while. So when January, the best season to get there rolled along, we decided to make the most of it. Thus began the research.
Kutch is a large area and the first choice is between visiting the Great Rann of Kutch (of the white soil fame you see in the Amitabh Bachhan promos airing on TV) and the Little Rann of Kutch. We decided to go to the later since bird watching is supposed to be great in Jan and also because we had no specific preferences.
There were four resorts which seemed popular –
And the offbeat Devibhai Dhamecha’s Eco tour camp in Dhrangadhara
It was equally painful eliciting an immediate email response from all four. In the end, based on availability we chose Royal Safari Camp. Set in a plain, arid land with a horizon that stretches uninterrupted for miles around, it was not a bad choice. Our only company was a railway line and a highway through which goods vehicles passed through various times of the day. The nearest rail station for the first three camps is Viramgam, though with Ahmedabad being a two hour drive away, most people just come in a car.
Infact, all these camps tend to be favourite hotspots for the Ahmedabad crowd. We shared the camp with a group of people on a company offsite (and hence prone to organising games late into the night).
The main attraction was a safari to the Wild Ass Sanctuary. There are 4000 specimens still roaming around and unlike your regular donkeys, they look beautiful with white coats and brown spots. They ran away shyly everytime we tried to get even slightly closer to take a snap. It did not help that a boorish tourist crowd nearby kept making these funny noises asking where the wild animals were and one of them volunteered to mime a tiger so others could laugh and get snaps (Did they really come all this way without knowing what to expect..?
The sanctuary also had its fair share of birds, with flamingos standing out in the crowd. A pink line stretched from one end of a lake to the other. We cursed ourselves for not having gotten a pair of binoculars or the good camera instead of the point and click one. Atleast we had got our bird book along and got excited when the jeep driver pointed out Shirkes, pelicans, barbetts and so on.
The safari also took us to salt pans where a family lived in isolation watching the salt evaporate. Through summer, they would live like this till the salt is all packed off. Before the rains turn the place into a marsh, they pack up and leave. Salt pans and a small hut next to each one, dotted the landscape. As we drove back, the sun began to set and we could watch it go all the way down the empty horizon.
After a one night stay, we were ready to move on to our next destination. It would have been good to have stayed one more night to visit the nearby Nal Sarovar bird sanctuary but otherwise there was not anything else to do. Besides I had foolishly carried along only one book and finished it, hence general lolling around was out. Still it was a cheerful little stop.