Located only two hours from Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, the Little Rann of Kutch is an often forgotten getaway, overshadowed by it’s big brother, the Greater Rann of Kutch. The white sands of Kutch may ring a bell. Yes, that’s in the Greater Rann. But this doesn’t mean that the Little Rann has nothing to offer. In fact, it is quite the contrary. It is the perfect weekend getaway for those living nearby, as well as those backpacking their way through western India.
How to get there
There are plenty of buses running from Ahmedabad, Baroda, and any other city in Gujarat, every few hours, to Malvan, which is the destination. Bookings can be made at the Gujarat State Transport Website. Be warned, Malvan is one of the smallest stops, and you’re likely to be the only one getting off there. But don’t be fooled. If you have reservations made at any resort, chances are, you will have someone sent to pick you.
Where you can stay
Well, the options are plenty. Some of the most famous ones are the Royal Safari Camp, Rann Riders, and Desert Coursers. Most of these have packages, which include a pick up and drop from the bus stand, three meals (lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day), a safari, and other resort activities such as bonfires and cultural shows. The people at these resorts are extremely helpful and welcoming.
What you can do
The most important part of any trip: the things to do. The safari, is definitely the most amazing. Large, open air jeeps take you right from the resort, into the sanctuary.
There is plenty of wildlife to look out for, on this safari. The Little Rann is most well known for the Wild Ass of Kutch, which is native to this area. The Wild Ass sanctuary here, is almost 5000 square kilometres in area. It is a vast expanse of flat land. Being a desert, one would think there would not be any wildlife, or any change in the geography and topography of the place. Nature has its own ways of surprising us, and this was one of them! From plain, vast tracks of land, within minutes there is a change, and you will find yourself standing on ‘cracked land’, a beautiful sight in itself. Even more surprising, is the presence of large water bodies here.
True to its name, the wild ass is the most frequently spotted animal on the safari. They stay in large groups, and are very shy. The sound of the jeep itself, is enough to scare them away. They are found in large numbers, all over the sanctuary, often feeding on the scarce grass and leaves found in patches, on the land.
There are a large number of birds, of several varieties, also found here. There are enough water bodies here, to take anyone by surprise. These clean, blue expanses are a tempting attraction to the animals and birds alike. They are surrounded by hundreds of birds. The sanctuary is too large for one to see all the different species. The most commonly spotted is the spoonbill. Some varieties of spoonbills have bright pink wings can be spotted from a distance. The stark contrast of this, against the pale, bland sand is a fantastic sight, especially when these birds take flight.
Apart from these, there are the Siberian Cranes. These are migratory birds, and are found in Gujarat only in the winter months. They make this long journey to Gujarat before the cold sets in, in Siberia and leave before the blazing Indian summer.
The Little Rann has some sparse vegetation, which can be seen during this safari. Between the trees, if lucky, one can spot animals such as the neelgai, and black buck. These are busy animals, and one has to keep a watch out for them, as they are easy to miss, between the trees.
This desert, is famous for its salt cultivation. The safari includes seeing the vast salt pans. The local people are very friendly and help in explaining how exactly the salt is refined, and the sheer effort that goes into its production. They are also very happy to show salt crystals in its raw form; something which never ceases to amaze.
The safari usually ends with sunset. The sun setting over this vast expanse of flat land is a sight not to be missed. The stark contrast of the bright sun, over the plain and dull land, is most definitely postcard material. With the lowering of the sun, there is a corresponding decrease in the temperature. After this, there is a slight chill in the air, while making way back to the resort.
Most resorts in the area organise for some sort of cultural activities at dinner. Soaking oneself in the local ‘Kutchi’ culture for a bit, is definitely recommended. From music, to dances, to simple bonfires, and local shopping, there’s plenty to do. Small artisans may be found in the resorts, selling their handicrafts.
When you should go
Being a desert, it is highly recommended to visit the Little Rann in the winter months, i.e. between November and February. Temperatures can be too high for one’s comfort in the summer months. The salty nature of the land would not make it advisable to visit in the monsoons.
Why you should go
The Little Rann is the perfect weekend getaway. It has the perfect blend of activities and natural wonders and caters to everyone’s needs. It isn’t difficult to get to, being only a couple of hours from Ahmedabad. Most things to do here, come as a deal with the resort bookings, and is taken care of, soon after the booking is done. The local people are more than happy to help, and are eager to show you the place they call home, and this is sure to make the trip a memorable one for you.
With so much else to see in the surrounding areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Little Rann is something that should not be missed. With the vast expanses of cracked land, the majestic sun glistening overhead, the ever-surprising topography, and the varied wildlife, the Little Rann of Kutch is truly Gujarat’s lesser known paradise.