The West Indian state of Gujarat may seem dry and uninviting at first glance. But a deeper look will prove you wrong, from some amazing birdwatching and wildlife destinations, each with something unique to offer, to the warmth, affection, and hospitality of the people of the region.
Velavadar National Park was created for the conservation of the Blackbuck and is a small but stunning grassland ecosystem. The Indian Grey Wolf and the Golden Jackal are the main predators in the park. Other mammals likely to be seen are Bengal Fox, Indian Hare, Indian Desert Gerbil, Jungle Cat, and Nilgai.
Velavadar is also of particular interest to birdwatchers. One can spot many species of raptors, like Black-winged Kite, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, Shikra, and Short-toed Snake Eagle, as well as other birds like White-browed Bush Chat, Siberian Stonechat, Ashy- crowned Sparrow-Lark, Rufous-tailed and Crested Larks, Variable Wheatears, and Great Grey and Rufous-tailed Shrikes. Common Crane and waders can be spotted on the Alag River.
Gir National Park is famous as the home of the Asiatic Lion. Apart from being the only home to this regal predator, it is also a great destination for birdwatchers. The area is home to a wide variety of bird species, including Indian Pitta, Oriental Darter, Western Osprey, and many others. Sarus Cranes visit the reserve for breeding during monsoon and may be seen up to November.
Jamnagar is blessed with a mix of saltwater and freshwater habitats, providing rich grounds for the resident and migratory bird species to flourish. The nearby Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is a popular birdwatching area due to its unique ecology. Birds of both the seashore and freshwater habitats are found here and include Great Crested Grebe, Red-naped Ibis, Black-necked Stork, Black-winged Stilt, Brahminy Kite, Common Crane, Grey-headed Swamphen, Greylag Goose, Greater, and Lesser Flamingos, Dalmatian Pelican, and many duck species. Other wildlife in the sanctuary included the Golden Jackal, Indian Hare, Jungle cat, and Nilgai.
The Great Rann of Kutch, near Bhuj, is home to more than 200 bird species, such as the Grey Hypocolius, Marshall’s Iora, and White-naped Tit, as well as other grassland and wetland birds.
The South East portion of the Rann called the Little Rann, has been declared as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, and is home to the rare Indian Wild Ass, which only occurs here.
The Little Rann of Kutch is also a birding paradise. During the safaris, one can expect numerous dryland bird species like sandgrouse, larks, coursers, plovers, chats, warblers, babblers, and shrikes. Among the many winter visitors is the highly endangered Macqueen’s Bustard. The saline desert is also a perfect hunting ground for many species of raptors, like eagles, falcons, buzzards, and harriers.
Apart from the open desert and its surrounding ‘bets’, there is also an opportunity for wetland birding at the lakes and marshes around the Rann. Winter is the time when Common Cranes, Greylag Geese, and many other waterfowl species are seen in abundance.