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Explore the best birding and wildlife destinations in the Indian state of Gujarat on the Gujarat Birding and Wildlife Tour. Created for the conservation of the Blackbuck, the Velavadar National Park also houses the Indian Grey Wolf and the Golden Jackal that are the main predators. Apart from these, Bengal Fox, Indian Hare and Nilgai along with many species of birds like Black-winged Kite, Shikra, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Rufous-tailed Larks, Desert and Variable Wheatears, and Rufous-tailed Shrikes can also be seen. Common Crano and waders can be spotted on the Alag River.
The Gir National Park, famous for it’s Asiatic Lion is also a delight for birdwatchers. It is home to around 350 bird species that includes both resident and migratory birds along with birds of prey, vultures, owls, nightjars, ducks, kingfishers, herons, egrets, flycatchers, and many others.
Situated on the outskirts of Jamnagar, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is an excellent bird watching area due to the presence of both seashore and freshwater birds such as Indian Hare, Jungle cat, and Nilgai.
The Rann of Kutch, a seasonally marshy region located in the Thar Desert geographic region dries up in the winter sun and is interspersed by lagoons and small islands of vegetation called ‘bets’. The southeast portion of the Rann is home to the rare and endangered Indian Wild Ass or “Khur”. Also known as a birding paradise, the Rann houses numerous dryland bird species like Grey Hypocolius, sandgrouse, larks, plovers, warblers, and shrikes along with the highly endangered Macqueen’s Bustard, a winter visitor. The saline desert also serves as a perfect hunting ground for many species of raptors, like eagles, falcons, and Long-legged buzzard. One can also spot Common Cranes, Greylag Geese, and many other waterfowl species in winters and can enjoy wetland birding at the lakes and marshes around the Rann.
Asiatic lion, Indian leopard, jungle cat, Blackbuck, Indian Wolf, Wild Ass, Indian Wolf, Striped Hyena, Desert Fox, Indian Fox, Asiatic Wild Cat
Lesser Flamingo, McQueen’s Bustard, Short Eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Pallid Scops Owl, Common and Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Pallid Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Cream-colored Courser, Sociable Lapwing, Common Crane, Spotted Sandgrouse, Red-necked Phalarope, crested serpent eagle, black-headed oriole, Desert Warbler, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Flamingos, Collared Pratincole, Crab Plovers, Bluethroat, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Grey-necked, Red-headed and Black-headed Buntings, Chestnut-bellied and Spotted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Grey Hypocolius, Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, White-naped Tit, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Montagu’s & Hen Harriers, Hoopoe Lark, Eurasian Eagle Owl, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, Indian eagle-owl, Bonelli’s eagle, changeable hawk-eagle, brown fish owl, rock bush-quail, crested treeswift and Indian pitta, Imperial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Long-legged Buzzard
Arrival in Ahmedabad
The tour will begin with the arrival in India’s one of the most vibrant state capitals, Ahmedabad. On arrival, one will be transferred to a nearby hotel to rest for the night.
Get acquainted with the wildlife at Velavadar
The visitors will leave for Bhavnagar, a bustling textile and cotton trading city in southeastern Gujarat which is a 2-hour drive from Ahmedabad. Continue for an hour and a half north of Bhavnagar to visit the beautiful savanna grassland reserve at Velavadar, popularly known as Blackbuck National Park. The small sanctuary of Velavadar that covers 13 square miles provides a worthy introduction to Gujarat’s abundant wildlife. The sanctuary holds about 4,400 Blackbuck, the severely threatened Indian Wolf, and is also one of the best places on the subcontinent to see Striped Hyena. With an estimated 3,000 bird species found here, the three famous bird species namely Montagu’s Harriers dominate, ghostly Pallid, and Western Marsh Harriers can be seen in abundance. Ashy-crowned, Rufous-tailed, and Bimaculated Larks; Isabelline Shrike; and both Sykes’s and Paddyfield Warblers are among the many other birds that can be easily spotted at Velavadar. Relax at the extremely comfortable lodge located right beside the entrance of the reserve.
Velavadar to Gir National Park
Return to Velavadar for a morning game drive heading northwest and pausing at several bird-thronged pools and wetlands on the way. One might get a chance to spot the Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Greater Flamingos, a wealth of waterfowl and shorebirds, or Sarus Crane. Greater Spotted Eagles can also be seen that are common winter visitors here. The next morning, one can drive to the famous Gir Lion Sanctuary and National Park, which covers around 540 square miles of the wonderfully unspoiled rugged hill country. A lodge just outside the sanctuary will be perfect for a comfortable stay.
|Days 4 - 5||
Exploring Gir National Park
The guests can spend two complete days at Gir, starting with a game safari on the first day in the morning followed by another in the afternoon to explore the rich forests of this attractive reserve. Today, Gir is the last refuge of Asiatic Lions that were once widespread across northern India with their numbers reduced to just 12 individuals decimated by chronic overhunting. With the establishment of the sanctuary, the number of lions is now increasing, and it is believed by many authorities that the reserve might be small for the 420 lions residing in it. Going for a total of five game drives inside the sanctuary, the sight of this magnificent predator will be a sure thing. Apart from the Asiatic Lion, the park is a home to even more elusive Leopard along with a large population of Spotted Deer, Sambar, and Nilgai from the lions’ prey base. The bird enthusiasts are sure to spot an array of new birds such as Indian Black Ibis, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Crested Hawk-eagle, Rock Bush-quail, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Spotted Sandgrouse, and possibly even White-bellied Minivet. After an adventurous day, call it a night in your lodge just outside the Sanctuary.
Jamnagar: Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary
Get done with a final morning game drive at Gir and head west to another of Gujarat’s major cities, Jamnagar that is rarely visited by tourists but has innumerable old buildings and colorful bazaars. With enough time on hand, one can stop at the impressive Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary which is less than an hour’s drive from the city. The unique feature of this wetland reserve is that about half of water is fresh while the other half is saline, consequently, it harbors an incredible variety of wildlife. In winters, this reserve is home to a huge number of flamingos, cranes, often including Demoiselle, pelicans, and shorebirds. Indian Nightjars can be easily spotted including Baillon’s Crake, Small Pratincole, Black-necked Stork, and Indian Reed-Warbler. Plan a stay in Jamnagar for the night.
Jamnagar: Marine National Park
Explore around Jamnagar for the day and visit the Marine National Park at Narara. With enough time, one can visit to coincide with a high tide and might be treated to a real feast of gulls, shorebirds, and terns. Also enjoy some great views by Crab Plover, Greater Sand Plovers, and Tarek, and if lucky witness the Broad-billed Sandpipers mingling with Great Black-headed and Heuglin’s Gulls, Lesser Crested Terns, and Western Reef-Herons. If the guests have enough time, they can possibly make a second visit to Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary. Rest for the night in Jamnagar.
Jamnagar to Bhuj
The guests will leave Jamnagar and while heading towards west, they will pause to look for Demoiselle Cranes and the Laggar Falcon which is quite rare nowadays. While leaving the Kathiawar Peninsula, they will drive towards Bhuj, the capital of Kutch, that is transformed into an island during the summer monsoon. They can stay for the night near Moti Virani, south of Bhuj.
|Days 9 - 11||
Exploring Birds in South of Bhuj
The visitors need to have three days to explore the south of Bhuj to quest for the region’s specialties, like the enigmatic Gray Hypocolius being the chief among many others. Hypocolius is particularly partial to berries of the “toothbrush tree,” due to which these desert birds are wintering south of Bhuj and can be spotted easily. Apart from that, White-naped Tit is also here which is a not-too-difficult-to-see attractive Indian endemic. The other days can be planned to travel south to another grassland reserve, where one can find the little-known White-browed (or Stoliczka’s) Bushchat in small numbers in winter along with the White-bellied Minivet, large numbers of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, and a few rare Macqueen’s Bustards. The Eastern Imperial and often Steppe Eagles can also be seen spending the winter in this area, and if one gets lucky, Sykes’s Nightjar might be seen roosting near their guest house. Spend the rest of the nights near Moti Virani.
Rann of Kutch
After a final morning south of Bhuj, retrace the route north and then east, re-crossing the mighty Gulf of Kutch while on the way to the Little Rann of Kutch. The destination will be Rann Riders, a comfortable lodge at Dasada, right on the edge of the Little Rann of Kutch.
Exploring the Little Rann
The visitors can only explore a small fraction of the vast Little Rann in one day which actually has much to offer to the keen naturalist who wants to pause and enjoy its serenity. India's last remaining Indian Wild Ass is a sure sighting with an abundance of birdlife. A huge amount of saltwater brought by the tidal surges in advance of the summer monsoon floods the Rann which becomes the impenetrable mud bath and swamp area for the entire summer. Both Greater and Lesser Flamingos are easy to spot, as well as the flotillas of pelicans and millions of wintering waterfowl.
The salt water makes the land xerophytic and largely barren, but there are some scattered islands of coarse grass in the area where Macqueen’s Bustard, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Hoopoe Lark, and Asian Desert Warbler can be sighted. A few critically endangered Sociable Plovers can occasionally be found around the edge of Little Rann in the company of the gorgeous Indian Courser. Also, a large number of Common Cranes and larks are frequently found in these same areas. The guests can use open-topped jeeps to explore the Little Rann to have the best experience and then can spend the night back at the Rann Riders near Dasada.
Going back home
After a final morning in the Little Rann, the guests can have a leisurely, and relatively short, drive back to Ahmedabad. One can expect to reach the hotel around 4 pm and grab a chance to freshen up and have dinner before heading to the airport where the tour ends with some beautiful memories.