Little Rann of Kutch: Chasing Wild Ass and birds on safari!

Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by asoulwindow

Table of Contents

About LROK or Little Rann of Kutch or Wild Ass Sanctuary

Little Rann of Kutch, which is also known as Indian Wild ass sanctuary is one of the top places to visit near Ahmedabad. It is also one of the least known and least visited wildlife sanctuaries of India and Gujarat in West of India. It is an offbeat place to visit for wildlife enthusiasts like me.

The unique landscape of LROK also makes it special. The unusual terrain of Little Rann of Kutch is barren and dry for kilometres. That said, the landscape here is still different from what we see in Greater Rann of Kutch which is located far away near the international border of India and Pakistan.

Where is Little Rann of Kutch or Wild Ass Sanctuary located?

Little Rann of Kutch istucked away in a nondescript dusty village near Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat in West India. The nearest big village is situated in Dhrangadhra which is located very close to LROK. What many don’t know is that Little Rann of Kutch is just a very small part of the bigger Rann of Kutch. Little Rann is stretched as far as places in Gujarat such as Kutch, Patan, Rajkot, Banaskantha and Surendranagar. These five districts of Gujarat are home to LRK.

Nomenclature of Little Rann of Kutch

Rann is a Sanskrit word which means desert. Little Rann of Kutch is also known as Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary or Small Rann of Kutch. The abbreviated form of Little Rann of Kutch is LROK or LRK. Greater Rann of Kutch is popularly known as GROK. Little Rann of Kutch and Greater Rann of Kutch are not to be confused with. Both are as different as cheese and chalk. However, both are located in Gujarat in West India. GROK is known for the famous Rann Utsav.

Kutch is also sometimes spelt as Kuchchh by some people.

The Wild Ass is also known as

  • Khur
  • Indian Wild Ass
  • Asiatic Wild Ass.
  • Asian Wild Donkey
  • Indian Wild donkey
  • Equus hemionus khur

The scientific name of the Indian Wild Ass is Equus hemionus khur.  Locally it is called as ‘khur’.

Soul Window Observations

Persian Onegar and Kiang are the other wild equids many people confuse Indian Wild Ass with. I saw many Kiangsin the Chumthang area of Ladakh and Tibet, while traveling from Saga to Kyirong during the epic Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. You canread my detailed blog on these places.

Why is Little Rann of Kutch world famous?

Much like the Asiatic lions of Gir National Park, Indian wild asses are also exclusively found only in Gujarat in India. The only claim to fame of this inconsequential village is that it has emerged as the last refuge of the much-endangered Indian wild ass. Interestingly these asses were once found in Asian regions such as Sindh, Baluchistan in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Little Rann of Kutch is also famous due to its rich avian life.

Habitat of Indian Wild Ass

Much like the Asiatic lions, which are found only in Gir National Park, also in Gujarat, Indian Wild Asses are also found only in one location of India, that is, Little Rann of Kutch. The good news is that Indian Wild Asses is spread across 15,000 square meters expanse of Little Rann of Kutch.

In fact, Indian Wild Asses have been spotted as far as Viramgam and Nalsarovar in Ahmedabad district.

Area of Little Rann of Kutch

Do you know that Little Rann of Kutch is the largest sanctuary in India in terms of area? Little Rann of Kutch is spread across an area of 4,954 square kilo meters. Needless to say, Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary is one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries which are located within India. Lying within the unique Little Rann of Kutch, it is a special place.

By comparison, the greater Rann of Kutch is spread across an area of a whooping 7,850 square kilometres or 2,900 square meters. Greater Rann of Kutch is after all, one of the largest salt deserts in the whole world.

Conservation of wild ass in Little Rann of Kutch

Indian Government has taken commendable efforts to bring back the Indian Wild Ass from the brink of extinction. It has taken years of hard work and sincere conservation efforts to arrive here. International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is also abbreviated as IUCN, had listed Indian Wild Ass as a threatened species long ago.

Luckily, the Government took notice and brought back the Indian Wild Ass from the brink of extinction. It would have been a disaster if the right action was not taken at the right time.

When was little Rann of Kutch established?

Little Rann of Kutch was established as a wildlife sanctuary on 12th January 1973. Did you know that LROK is the 15th Biosphere Reserve of India?

In which year the Rann of Kutch of Gujarat was declared as a bio reserve zone? Further, in the year 2008, LROK was established as a Kutch Biosphere Reserve. It was done in order to protect the unique wildlife here and promote Kutch as an international nature destination.

Population of Indian Wild Ass in India

1969 was the year when the Government seriously started counting the population of Indian Wild Ass. 

The successful wildlife conservation work in Gujarat has shown positive results. The promotional brochure I collected from the wildlife sanctuary boasts that

  • 1962: There were only 870 Indian Wild Asses in 1962
  • 1963: The population of Indian Wild Ass of an alarming 362 wild asses in 1963 was worrying.
  • 1946: The count of Wild Ass stood at 3500 in 1946.
  • 1990: There were only 2075 Indian Wild Asses in 1990
  • 1999: 2839 Indian Wild Asses roamed LROK in 1999
  • 2010: The population of Wild Ass rose to an all-time high at 4085, as per the 2010 census.
  • 2014: As per the census of 2014; the population of Wild Ass now stands at 4,451.
  • 2020: As per the census of 2020, the Wild Ass population has increased to a whooping 6,082. This is a 37 % surge in the population, making it one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs of the world.

Threat to Indian Wild Ass

Diseases can be a real threat to the very small population of Indian Wild Ass.

Not many know that in the year 1958 and 1960, a disease known as surra had spread across the population of Indian Wild Asses. Due to this, the conservation effort had hit a rock bottom as many wild asses died due to the same.

What followed next year was equally lethal. In the winter of 1961, November and December, to be precise, an unexpected outbreak of South African Horse Sickness had further killed many more Indian Wild Asses.

No wonder, only 870 Indian Wild Asses existed in India in 1962.

Unseco World Heritage Site to LROK

Since the year 2006, the Wild Ass sanctuary has been listed in the tentative list of Natural World Heritage Site of Unesco.

My Experience in Little Rann of Kutch

First things first. Answer this:

  1. Have you ever explored a wildlife sanctuary on a tractor? My guess is I am the only wildlife enthusiast on Earth who has done that!
  2. Better still, have you ever chased exotic donkeys on a tractor?
  3. Have you ever sat in a bike and trolley hybrid aka Chakkdi? (See Picture!)
  4. Have you ever stayed with the staff of a wildlife sanctuary?
  5. Have you ever travelled clinging precariously to a jeep’s rear?
  6. Have you ever been stranded in the middle of nowhere in pitch dark with just 3 more people, fighting dogs, and no civilisation in sight? You don’t know how to go to the nearest city. And you are getting the feeling that your throat will be slit for mere Rs. 100/-
  7. Have you ever felt this: You are walking alone in the sanctuary on foot, you have come far from the sanctuary office area, and then you realise you forgot the way back! Worse, you suddenly remember those lines from your guide book “hyenas and foxes are also often sighted here.”
  8. Have you ever been alone with a money-hungry boat-wallah 7 kms. away from land, in a lake inside a bird sanctuary during sun-set. The sanctuary is getting closed, it is getting darker, you can see no other human in the middle of the lake and the boatwallah is constantly discussing money and eyeing your expensive camera. All you can do is trust the stranger and your instincts.

I experienced all this and much more in my one of the quirkiest, whackiest and instinct based trip. Here are the places I visited in my Gujarat trip:

“Gadha, gadhe dekhne jaa raha hai.”

Translation: The donkey is going to see more donkeys, eh!

My room-mates taunted me when I told them my long pending desire (Since the age of 12) to see these exotic asses (which sadly most Indians don’t even know about…I think they are beautiful and unique creatures) …India’s answer to Zebra).

It was my first visit to a wildlife sanctuary ever. People take pride in sighting tigers and lions and here I was determined to chase wild asses!

Entry Fees to Little Rann Of Kutch

After struggling to arrive at LROK, I ran towards the Little Rann of Kutch office and hesitantly opened the metallic main gate.

I entered the single storey office building. It rather looked haunted what with dusty tables, no electricity and most importantly not a single soul in sight.

What made it spookier was that all the doors and windows were open and the sofas in one of the inside rooms was well maintained.

The building stood incongruously as the only modern building in a village where most of the houses were huts.

Confused, I stepped out and inquired with a few people I could find in that area. One of them guided me to an adjacent worn-down, peeling-plaster kind of building. That turned out to be the real office from where one could obtain the licence to enter the LROK.

It was important to visit the office as they provide the licence to enter the LROK. I was finally relieved to see a man who was talking wild asses and pink flamingos and cranes.

“Whoa”, I said in my head. But my whoa soon turned into my woes. It was not the end of my misery on this Gujarat solo trip.

The temporary staff (He is hired only in the tourist season, i.e., winters) after impressing me with his wildlife knowledge and offering me a free glass of water started to play some games when he realised, I am an independent solo traveler on a budget.

He was expecting to make some extra money from me. How I landed up doing wildlife safari on a rickety tractor? It is a long story.

If you are a not a whacko like me, you can request your hotel manager to arrange the jeep safari and entrance fee payment. You can also just go to office and pay the entry fee.

How I ended up doing safari on tractor?

Here’s is how I landed up seeing Little Rann of Kutch on a tractor. I had travelled to Little Rann of Kutch as a solo male budget traveller.

Everyone else goes to LROK on a package. I didn’t know that and landed straight at the office where they issue permit to get in. Now, the in charge started wheeling dealing with me. To make some quick money, he suggested that he’ll ‘ADJUST’ me in any of the safari jeep that comes to his office, and I can pay him Rs.300, or else it would cost me Rs.5000/-.

little rann of kutch safari
Me doing the odd tractor Safari in Wild Ass Sanctuary of Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

I saw logic and convenience here and agreed. The jeep came and refused to take me. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. It got late in night and I shouted on him, “Where should I go now?” I asked him to take me to his home for stay.

He refrained saying his family would be uncomfortable in my presence. He instead ‘ADJUSTED’ me to another’s bachelor employee’s quarter next to the office! 

Waking up late in the morning (Thanks to the comforting winter night I missed so much in tropical Mumbai), I did not even care for the breakfast but insisted on the ride. As mentioned in the text above, after the tractor revved up, I merrily zoomed away on my ‘shahi-gaddi’ (The driver found some battered flat pillow to comfort my bum while I took the royal seat by his side.

It was the first time I sat in a tractor and needless to say, I enjoyed every bit of it. Not even in the wildest of my dream had I thought that I would end up chasing wild asses on a rickety tractor which might stop working any moment in the middle of the stark desert.

Next day, again all the jeeps refused. Then another opportunist local asked me “Will you be OK with a ride on a tractor?” I gave him a surprised/nervous/unsure smile and said hesitantly, “Are you sure, Chalo yeh bhi kar lete hain. (Let’s do it) ”

But it wasn’t smooth riding here as well. The tractor refused to start. Seemed, it had not been used for months. All the 10-11 people in and around the office had gathered with the sole mission of putting to life the reluctant engine of the tractor.

After a collective huff huff pant pant for 20 minutes, we were excited to hear the vroom sound of a revving engine. I loved every moment of the ride. Even drove the tractor inside the sanctuary and in the process paid a mere Rs.700/- (Rs.400 for guide cum Driver and Rs. 300 for the temporary staff, who obviously refused to get himself clicked.) for a Rs.5000/- package. JUGAAD INDIA!!!

I was morally ambiguous if it is right to take a ride in a sanctuary on a tractor, but then the driver convinced me that he anyhow takes several rounds in the sanctuary daily to provide supplies etc. Now I guess, I am the only person on Earth to visit a sanctuary on a tractor. And that too legally!

Tractor Safari in LRK

At times the tractor got almost stuck in the puddle of water but it was fun! We stopped in the middle of Rann for sometimes as I wanted to see the landscape on foot.

While returning back to the tractor, I insisted that I will drive the tractor. Luckily the driver agreed instantly but warned me that if the engine stops, there will be NO ONE to help in revving it up.

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Me with the tractor after safari in Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

Worse, given the nature of the landscape (Plain character deficient land in all the directions), it will also be difficult to guide someone over phone for directions. I checked right, I checked left, I checked cellular network availability and trusted my instincts and took the risk. And I did a good job of it.

After goofing around with the poor tractor and shooting up my adrenaline level for 5 minutes, I was one happy man! I was so excited that while exchanging seats, I had dropped my camera off the tractor and it almost came under the wheels but I jumped off the tractor in a jiffy and it was salvaged in time.

Landscape of Little Rann of Kutch

Once inside the sanctuary area I was spell bound by the landscape there. There was nothing but miles and miles of sun-baked cracked land with sparse vegetation and no immediate sign of life. The geometric designs that the crack forms are a sight to behold! I wondered how could any animal, let alone wild asses survive and thrive in such adverse conditions.

After admiring the beauty of desert to our heart’s content, we moved on to find more hidden beauty such as birds, animals, landscapes, water bodies etc. We were again back in the cracked barren land with zero vegetation.

There was just cracked land in any direction that my eyes scanned. For a moment, in that arid region I thought I had spotted water bodies in all directions. Turned out they were all mirages, illusion caused by the play of light. The unique landscape of Little Rann of Kutch includes features such as desert grasslands, wide lakes, salt flats and marshes etc. This place is one of its kind in the world!

Wildlife in LROK

Just when I was wondering how life forms survive in LROK, the tractor driver veered his steering to the part where there was abundant vegetation. We were busy searching for wild asses when he pointed out to a weird looking eagle and other exotic avian species. Then we spotted a pair of male and female blue-ox or Neelgai.

I was not too excited to see them as I have grown up occasionally seeing these beautiful animals in agricultural fields of Uttar Pradesh (Neelgais are infamous though, for ruining crops and thus often being shot illegally by farmers).

Must say, the local rural man had pretty good knowledge about the local flora and fauna along-with their English names.

As I started the safari on tractor again, few more sightings of Nilgais and wild asses later, my heart stopped when the tractor came across a sounder of wild boars. I just got a glimpse of them as they disappeared into the foliage.

The wild boars looked menacing. There was no point chasing them on an embarrassing tractor safari as the terrain was now not that tractor friendly.

It reminded me of sighting a huge sounder of wild boars in Tal Chappar Blackbuck sanctuary in Rajasthan.

I spotted many warthogs, who look similar to wild boar during my trip to Uganda in Africa.

Spotting Wild Ass in Little Rann of Kutch

After few minutes of searching, we finally saw a nonchalant looking Wild Ass moving lazily around his personal garden. He looked elegant in his brown patchy skin. I was excited to see the wild ass in his natural habitat as until now I had seen them in pictures only.

The Wild Ass we spotted was wary of us and I asked the driver not to chase them with tractor and let them live in peace.

Instead, I got down from the tractor and took some pictures hiding behind a shrub.

About Wild Ass

Luckily, you cannot find Wild Ass in any zoo, thanks to their endangered (Schedule-I) status. They are the size of donkey; but far more beautiful to look at. The shiny and smooth coat of white and chestnut of Indian Wild Ass makes them stand apart.

The upper part of their body is brown and the lower part white, giving them a unique look. What struck me the most was the brown mane which originated from their head. Indian wild asses are usually fast moving and agile when required. The ones I saw were mostly lazily moving around.

Indian Wild Ass in Wild Ass Sanctuary of Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Indian Wild Ass in Wild Ass Sanctuary of Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

I think they are India’s answer to Zebra of Africa. After all what are zebras but a beautifully painted donkey? The inimitable grace and beauty of Indian wild ass, had me staring at them to my heart’s content.

Camping in Little Rann of Kutch

During the wildlife safari on a tractor in Little Rann of Kutch, I stopped at a campsite at 10: 45 a.m. The tractor driver had some work here.

He asked me to just loiter around for an hour till he finishes his work. Whoa! The side effects of a Tractor ride in a wildlife sanctuary,eh! I had all day to myself so I didn’t mind.

The campsite, where the tractor halted, was getting readied for a school camp where in the students will be sensitised about the unique ecosystem and biodiversity of Rann right in the middle of it.

I so wanted to be a part of it. Imagine being in the wild, hearing the night sounds in pitch black darkness and gazing at the stars in the dark wide-open sky of Rann.

The tents looked very appealing and so did the whole idea of staying in those. But then I can’t be everywhere all the time. There was a tower in the camp area. The campsites here have ample space for car parking and 100% power backup.

Stargazing in Little Rann of Kutch – Astronomy

Not many know that you can also do stargazing in Little Rann of Kutch. It is the best offbeat thing to do in Little Rann of Kutch. Many people and even students visit Little Rann of Kutch for only observing the night sky with a telescope. The spectacle of the greenish Geminid Meteor Shower in LROK is not to be missed.

LROK is some of the best places around India to stargaze throughout the year. I had enjoyed stargazing in Greater Rann of Kutch. Amavasya or the new moon night is the best time to do stargazing in Little Rann of Kutch.

Clear and dark skies are best for stargazing in LROK. Thanks to the lack of air or light pollution, stargazing here is very rewarding. It is an unusual thing to do in Little Rann of Kutch.

There are several astronomy clubs which arrange these. Local hotels can also arrange for an astronomy session on prior request. Stargazing field trip to Kutch can last for 2-3 days. It is a very exciting thing to do in Kutch for those inclined towards studying the night sky, astronomy and space science.

Some of the exciting and unique astronomical activities you can do in Little Rann of Kutch are as below:

  • Meteorite Hunting
  • Meteorite Classification
  • Astronomy Photography
  • Observation of Milky Way
  • Observations of the Night Sky
  • Spotting planets and other deep sky objects
  • Watch the greenish Geminid Meteor Shower

Winter months such as November, December, January and February are when the temperatures are cooler and skies are clear. It is the best season for stargazing in Little Rann of Kutch.

Bonfire in Little Rann of Kutch

Individual Camp Fire can also be organised upon request. It can get slightly cold in the Rann in night, especially during the winter months. Isn’t it fun to sit around the bonfire and chat the night away in the middle of nowhere?

Viewing Tower or Machan inside Little Rann of Kutch

I climbed atop a viewing tower in the camp area to get a bird’s eye view of the sanctuary and survey the area. I saw a salt factory in the distance, and a water body nearby. I couldn’t spot a single human or animal from the tower though.

Soul Window Reflections

The other protected wildlife sanctuary I had visited on foot apart from Little Rann Of Kutch was Tal Chappar Blackbuck Sanctuary in Rajasthan and Manas National Park in Bodoland in Assam.

Visitors are allowed to explore these wildlife destinations on foot as there are no major predators such as tiger or lion here. Even other dangerous animals such as Rhinoceros and wild elephants are not present here.

Little Rann of Kutch on foot

After a break at the campsite area, I ventured to the forest area on foot, remembering the route, lest I get lost in the jungle. The tractor driver had instructed casually, “You may venture to the forest area but you should be sure about the route you take lest you get lost in the jungle which all looked the same.”

As my eyes scanned LROK, from the safety of machan at the campsite, I zeroed in on the water body in far distance. A walk till there seemed doable.

Hesitantly, I entered the jungle alone on foot. To remember my way back, I had taken a mental note of the tower in my mind.

A faded board with pictures of Wild asses on it was also mentally taken note of.

I was trying to find some more wild asses but failed. Then suddenly some creature ran past me and hid in a shrub nearby. Was it a wild hare? Yes, it was a wild hare.

As I walked, another wild hare ran past me and hid in a shrub nearby. So I stopped being inquisitive and moved ahead. I came across a fresh poop which seemed to belong to the wild ass.

Within minutes I saw a pair of wild asses standing near a small water body doing nothing.

For a moment, I wondered if it was some statue installation by sanctuary management. The wild asses just stood aimless, much like donkeys.

Thankfully, they started moving at a relaxed pace as I neared them. I started following them with baby steps. After some time, I came closer to them. There were just 3 of us in the stark-naked landscape, the wild ass couple and me and some cranes!

As I drew more closer to them, I realised that I should not disturb them. I anyways dared not walk closer to them as I had read earlier on that day in the brochure that “they can gallop at a pace of 30 kms per hour for 2 hours and at a top speed of 70 kms per hour for short distances”.

Soul Window Thoughts

A childhood event, which remains vivid in my memory helped me stay away from wild asses. My elder brother had once just tried to get funny with a donkey and got an aggressive ‘dulatti’(back-kick) within the blink of an eye!

He still remembers that and therefore has stayed away from the whole donkey dynasty. Recognising that the wild asses too belonged to the same clan notorious for their “kick boxing”, I consciously stayed away from wild ass.

Birdwatching in Little Rann of Kutch: Migratory birds and more!

I spotted some exotic species of migratory birds in Little Rann of Kutchbut what took my breath away was the huge flock of cranes feeding on a piece of land.

We were very far from them. I instructed the driver to draw closer to them very slowly without disturbing them. With an agape mouth, I looked at this sight in awe!

Perhaps the flock got a whiff of our presence, despite the distance and they started flying in batches, making sounds. Their collective flight made a captivating scene. Soon most of the flock had taken flight.

Disappointed and sorry for disturbing their peace, I again got off the tractor for some pictures.

I noticed a huge part of dug up land. Anticipating my question, the tractor guy explained without asking that cranes dig up the land for worms and other food.

I admired the many birds in the lake nearby, common Pochard and different varieties of cranes merrily lounging around. Most of these birds can be spotted roosting at a lake called as Nava Talav, which literally means ‘new lake’. The biodiversity hotspot that Little Rann Of Kutch is, I am not surprised.

While stepping back on the tractor, I had a long thorn lodged in the sole of my leg. I took this parting gift by LROK in my stride and admired the many birds on the lakeside, the names of which I don’t know. There are many thorny shrubs and bushes here, so be careful while walking.

I wish I stayed for evening when the lake would be inundated with more birds. What I didn’t know was that my evening was going to turn exactly like what I had just conjured. In the beautiful Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary! Do carry binoculars if you love birding.

Drongo Drama

Throughout our journey a group of black drongos were chasing our tractor curiously as if they were plain jealous of all the exotic looking birds grabbing all the limelight.

My doubt is that they were less curious and more attention hungry. As soon as I switched on my camera and started clicking their pictures, they all settled on some photographable props, such as dry tree branches etc. and literally started posing.

The fearless drongos had so much audacity that they didn’t flinch or fly away even as I went near them. Once their ‘portfolio’ was done, they stopped stalking us. Told you, they were some glamour struck wannabes.

Weaver Birds

En route, I asked him to stop the tractor as my eyes caught hold of an exquisite architecture marvel right in the middle of the jungle. No, I didn’t come across the huts of the famed local tribes of Rann.

I jumped out of my royal seat to get a closer look. What caught my attention was a group of nests of the weaver birds, so perfectly interwoven just with the help of a beak, that it had me in splits.

I stopped to admire the empty nests of weaver birds. I was awestruck by the sheer craft and architectural perfection.

Even though I had seen such nests in my childhood in Panki, Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh but still I was awestruck by the sheer craft and its perfection. Sad, some people even pluck these nests to decorate their homes.

Salt pans of Little Rann of Kutch

I had traversed a bit too far while chasing the wild asses on foot. I was now very close to the lake where migratory birds are supposed to flock. But I didn’t see that many cranes.

In far distance I could see a rural family doing “God alone knows what” at the shores of the lake. Even the zooming of camera didn’t help in figuring out what they were doing. Then I saw a sole village man inching menacingly (just my perception!) towards me.

Since I was a solo traveler in the middle of an unfamiliar terrain, I was naturally overthinking! In case of a robbery, I was ill equipped with any defence mechanism. I had made up my mind that taking advantage of solitude, in case he attacked me, I will give him all my belongings without a modicum of argument or resistance.

He turned out to be harmless and passed by me nonchalantly, giving a curious harmless look. The main economy of the local villagers is Salt panning or Salt farming. Throughout the year, the local source of livelihood of local people is salt panning. Salt is harvested here in water bodies. You can also visit the home of local people and who knows they might even share tea and a slice of their life with you!

The Agariya community, are the local salt farmers who are engaged in the production of salt in LROK. A major part of the salt which is available in the markets of India are produced here.

Stuck in the Salt marsh

I moved closer and closer towards the lake without realising that from hard and dry, the land beneath my feet had turned gooey and marshy. Its only when my feet got immersed till my ankles that I realised the gravity of the situation.

While pulling my feet out, my chappal aka slippers or flip flops got stuck in the mud and I had to pull it with hands. I was performing this Oscar winning buffoonery for a ‘wild’ audience. Be careful here as it is easy to sink in the marshy mud of Little Rann Of Kutch, especially near water bodies.

Lost in the wild

After my legs got stuck in marshy lands of the salt pans, I had had enough. After braving one risk after another, I decided to return back to the Camp site. But what the hell?

Where is the tower, I had pinned all my hopes on? It was not long enough to be seen from the distance I had walked to. I applied all my grey cells and followed the trail using which I had ended up at this lake.

Thankfully the tower was visible after some more walking. But the danger still lurked. I was in the deserted, uninhabited jungle and the words from the guidebook kept coming back to my mind: “Jackals, Desert Foxes, jungle cat, wild boars and hyenas are also often sighted in LROK.” 

Training my mind not to think of these but keeping ready a defence plan in my head (which was sure to fail, anyhow), I finally arrived at the camp site safely. Boring much?

Drinking water from drum

Tired of all the walk under the harsh sun in the naked shade less terrains, I asked for some water. The attendant pointed me to a huge drum. My soul shuddered when I peeped inside the drum. It had all kinds of dirt, dust, twigs floating merrily in it. Though my throat was turning as dry and broken as the mud of LROK but I decided to stay thirsty. I have already taken so many risks! And anyhow, my journey was to end soon.

This time surprisingly, the tractors started pretty quickly, thanks to the help available. We left the campsite and did the safari for some more time. We moved towards our exit from a different track.

Entry Points in LROK

There are two entry points viz. Bajana and Dasada. I chose Bajana as I had read in my guide book that sighting migratory birds would be much easier at this point. Other entry points of Little ran of Kutch include the Bajana creek and Jogad. Dasada remains the most popular of these. Bajana Creek is located close to the wetlands which attract the migratory birds.

Village Walk around Little Rann of Kutch

On the first day while waiting for the jeep, I got impatient and started walking around the village to pass time. I came across few interesting people such as the village kids who loved posing for me or the 4-5 shepherds who were fighting with each other suddenly started posing for me when they saw camera in my hand.

They were herding a huge group of cows and buffaloes. They didn’t know any language apart from Kutchi/Gujrati. Turns out the cows of village unlike their urban counterparts, are rather well built and have these huge menacing looking horns. I also noticed some older men wearing pagdi or turbans. I saw camels in many homes too.

Soul Window Observations

I noticed that the cows and bull in this part of Gujarat have huge build and very long horns. I saw similar huge cows during my visit to Uganda in Africa and even places like Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami in Karnataka.

Indian Wildass at the Interpretation Center of Little Rann of Kutch
Me with Indian Wild Ass at the interpretation center

Interpretation centre

There were huge wall size posters on wild life and sanctuaries of Gujarat. I spent hours here reading about the various bird, reptiles and mammal species found in Little Rann of Kutch. This interpretation center can be visited in 30-40 minutes. You can visit while waiting for the safari jeep. In case, it is locked, ask the local staff for the keys. Kids and adults, both will enjoy their time here.

Jeep safari Booking in Little Rann of Kutch

Once you book the thrilling jeep safari in Little Rann of Kutch, the jeep will manoeuvre its way like an invincible juggernaut, blowing dust in the air. I had whizzed past fields of crops, few migratory cranes feeding in the fields, farmers and salt pan workers starting their day, cattle grazing in the fields, camel carts transporting people and goods on the muddy lanes, the works!

The jeep safaris can last anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. The safaris also take tourists to the wetlands, grasslands and the salt pans. If you are into birding you can exclusively book a jeep safari to the marshland. If your focus is Indian wild ass, then head to the dry deserts. I did both on the same safari however. Doing a keep safari at LROK with experienced and knowledgeable naturists and wildlife guides makes all the difference.

Festival of Little Rann of Kutch

During my village walk around the wildlife sanctuary, I came across a huge congregation of people gathered in a field performing some dramatic rituals with chest beating, drums beating and loud singing.

They all wore identical dress and only men and male children were to be seen. Turned out it was men mourning on the occasion of Muslim festival Muharram. Excited and my eyes widened to see such a rare spectacle, I had rushed for my camera when the permanent staff (he accompanied me) stopped me from doing it, saying it might land me in trouble. Having already gone through so much on this solo budget trip, I didn’t take any chances and saw it from a distance.

While exiting LROK after safari, I had come across a Hindu crematorium on the outskirts of the city. I also a saw an Islamic Mosque which looked quite old or was it just bad painting and maintenance?

Is Little Rann Of Kutch safe to visit?

It was then when the permanent staff called me up to ask where I was. It was dark and he asked me to come to office immediately. When we reached, he advised me not to wander around in the village alone as I looked urbanite and locals can target me for looting. He especially asked me to hide my camera.

Having said that in the pitch dark he was insistent that I sell my cellphone (I was carrying a cheap Nokia 5500) to him for Rs. 2000/-. He chickened me out with the way he was scanning my belongings. Bored, I munched on the chips I had bought from the village shop.

Here is an important safety tip for Little Rann of Kutch. This blog is based upon my personal experience. I do not want my readers to repeat the same mistakes. It was my foolishness and a lack of research which led to this situation. You might not get as lucky as I did. And I am not sure if you have the ‘superstar’ looks and 6 feet plus height, lol.

Where to stay in Little Rann of Kutch

There are many stay options near Little Rann of Kutch for all budget types. From low budget hotel to luxury properties with modern frills, expect a wide range of accommodation here.

Luxury hotels

There are many luxury resorts and hotels in the Little Rann of Kutch area. Most of the luxury resorts are located near the main entrance of Little Rann of Kutch. These luxury hotels also offer to arrange wildlife safari in Little Rann of Kutch.

Stay in a Bhunga

Some resorts here are fashioned like a mud bhunga, which is the traditional mud house of Kutch.  I stayed in similar Bhunga in GROK or Greater Rann of Kutch. Expect huge lawn area, lip smacking local cuisine and local music in these 5-star resorts. It is not every day that one gets to stay in such unique hotels. Also known as kooba, it is a round shaped thatched roof hut.

Stay with a local

I moved into to rest in the quirkiest staying options I had considered. It was a newly plastered, unpainted spartan room with limited amenities built to accommodate the permanent staff. Luckily another member who shared the room was on leave, so I had a folding charpuoy and a quilt to myself.

Not knowing what to talk to this immature stranger in his early 20s, I broke the ice finally. Initially monosyllabic, he later on ended up telling me passionately numerous stories about his outrageous marriage plans, his people, his culture, food, his job (how he hates the loneliness here), his not getting along with his dad, and most important, his temper. OhK…So I better watch my words and actions for this night at least.

It was after long (And that means very looooong) that I had slept at 9:00 p.m. Otherwise in my Mumbai days, I had mastered the art of sleeping at 2:30 a.m. and waking up at 8:30a.m. Blame it on my writing ambitions and mindless surfing on internet!

Vegan and Vegetarian food in Little Rann of Kutch

The temporary staff had arranged a tiffin for Rs.30 for me along-with that of the permanent staff. Real smiles are those which you cannot hold back. Naturally I had a wide foolish smile when the tiffin arrived and its contents revealed.

It had a village style rotli or rotla, a very spicy curry and a flavoursome rice preparation. Rotla is Gujarati style roti/bread made with mixed grains. It was so delicious but limited, I was tempted to snatch his portion as well, but thankfully he mentioned about his ill temper few minutes back.

Things to do in Little Rann of Kutch

What is there to do in Little Rann of Kutch with friends and family or even solo? There are a lot of interesting activities which tourists can do at Little Rann of Kutch.

Below are the top things to do in Little Rann of Kutch

  • Camping
  • Stargazing
  • Birdwatching
  • Visit salt pans
  • Do jeep safari
  • Do village walk
  • Hop on a tractor
  • Sample local cuisine
  • Visit home of a local
  • Spot Asiatic Wild Ass
  • Stay at a cute mud bhunga

Excursions from Little Rann of Kutch

There are many nearby places which tourists can visit.

  • Rani ki Vav
  • Ahmedabad
  • Modhera Sun Temple
  • Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

Souvenirs Shopping Guide to Little Rann of Kutch

Though unlike GROK, there are not many souvenirs shops in LROK but you can still find few shops which sell local handicrafts and the unique textiles of Kutch. Do pick local blankets, artefacts and even food with long shelf life.

ATM in Little Rann of Kutch

There are not many ATMs in Little Rann of Kutch. I had carried cash from Ahmedabad aka Karnavati. I recommend you to carry some cash from your place of origin so that you do not waste time locating a functional ATM here. Digital payment is also not accepted at many places here because it is located in a village.

Photography Tips for Little Rann of Kutch

You must try to recreate the iconic pictures of Wild Ass entering a setting sun. I know it has been done umpteen times before. But you never know you might end up with unique shots such as a wild ass running in to the sun or an amorous wild ass couple with a deep orange sun as the backdrop. Possibilities are many.

Also carry suitable camera equipment and tripod if you want to try your hand at astronomy photography here.

The places around the lake are great to take pictures of migratory and endemic birds, especially in the winter months.

The Salt pan area is also good for some photography sessions. You can take pictures of salt pan employees at work.

Hire local wildlife guide in Little Rann of Kutch

In my case, the tractor driver doubled up as a wildlife guide. However, you can request for a trained wildlife guide who can help you identify all the unique bird species and take you to places where you would have not managed to go without a guide. It is needless to say that in wildlife trips, a guide is what makes all the difference!

Languages spoken in Little Rann of Kutch

Kutchi and Gujarati are the most commonly spoken languages here. Hindi is also spoken and understood by everyone here. English is understood by every one who works in tourism here, especially the employees of hotels and other tour agencies.

Toilet facility in Little Rann of Kutch

Clean toilets are located near the interpretation center and hotels. Once inside LROK, you can find toilets near the camp sites, machan and tent area.

Backpacking Budget Travel Tips for LROK

For me Little Rann of Kutch turned out to be an inexpensive and pocket friendly place. However, expect to pay a handsome amount of money, because not everyone is doing a safari in LROK on a tractor like me.

The hotel costs are generally high here. But even if you stay in a low-budget hotel, you will still have to spend on jeep safari and wildlife guide. Therefore, do expect to spend a moderate amount on these.

Solo Trip Tips for LROK

I had travelled solo on a shoestring budget to Little Rann of Kutch. I just took landed up in Ahmedabad from Mumbai via a sleeper class train. From Ahmedabad I took connecting buses to Little Rann of Kutch. It was that easy.

Luxury travel Tips for LROK

Despite being located in a remote place; Little Rann of Kutch has great luxury facilities. From luxury hotels to fine dining to private wildlife guides to private jeep safaris, every thing is available for a price in Little Rann of Kutch.

Timings of Little Rann of Kutch

Little Rann of Kutch is open from dawn to dusk or sun rise to sun set.

The timings of Little Rann of Kutch are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Duration of Visit in Little Rann of Kutch

How many days to spend in Little Rann of Kutch? What can I do in 1 day in LROK? If you have a car the you can easily make a day trip from Ahmedabad. But I feel that is tiring because driving distance from Ahmedabad to Little Rann of Kutch is 4 hours and 40 minutes and they are 194 kilometers apart.

What can I do in 2 days in Little Rann of Kutch? I had spent 2 days in Little Rann of Kutch. It was a weekend getaway from Mumbai for me. I had visited LROK on Saturday and Sunday so that I did not have to take leaves from office (I was working then). While I did safari on the first day, on second day I left early in the morning.

Also, if you are in to stargazing, bird watching and camp fires, then you must at least stay for 2 days in Little Rann of Kutch. I know many avid bird watchers who stay for even 1 week in LROK.

Itinerary for Little Rann of Kutch

Below is a 2-day itinerary of Little Rann of Kutch

  • Leave Ahmedabad early morning
  • Arrive at Little Rann of Kutch. Relax at hotel in afternoon.
  • Do evening jeep safari at Lrok
  • Retire by night
  • Do morning jeep safari at Little Rann of Kutch the next day
  • Leave LROK.
  • Club Nal Sarovar Bird sanctuary like I did, if you wish. Otherwise head back to Ahmedabad.

Distances from Little Rann of Kutch

Below are the distances from Little Rann of Kutch in ascending order

Distance from Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary to Little Rann of Kutch is 145 kilometers and it takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes via GJ SH 136

Distance from Ahmedabad to Little Rann of Kutch is 170 kilometers and it takes around 4 hours via NH947

Distance from Bhuj (near Great Rann of Kutch) to Little Rann of Kutch is 282 kilometers and it takes around 6 hours via NH27

Distance from Vadodara to Little Rann of Kutch is 277 kilometers and it takes around 6 hours via NE1

Distance from Mumbai to Little Rann of Kutch is 691 kilometers and it takes around 13 hours via NH48

What to wear in Little Rann of Kutch?

When I visited LROK in winter (December), I didn’t need to wear heavy woollen clothes during the day. The days here were warm and I was able to do wildlife safari in only a T shirt and Jeans. However, it did get cold in night. Do carry a light jacket for chilly nights during winter.

Best Time to visit Little Rann of Kutch

Winter is the best time to visit both Little Rann of Kutch (LROK) as well as Greater Rann of Kutch (GROK).

Little Rann of Kutch in winter

Along-with the tourists, some special guests also pay a visit in November onwards. They happen to be luckier than me though. No safari jeep, no permit fees, no haggling with the staff. They are the migratory birds.

Some migratory birds such as greater and lesser flamingos, pelicans, cranes, grebes and terns can be spotted here.

Though I could see only cranes, grebes and terns apart from some commonly seen birds.

I visited LROK from Mumbai in the month of December. It was oppressively hot and sweltering even in the December afternoon, 14:40 hrs to be precise. The nights were slightly cold in December, when I visited LROK.

Little Rann of Kutch in summer

It can get very hot during the summer months of May and June in LROK.

Little Rann of Kutch in monsoon

During the monsoons the land is filled up with water and hence it is the off season for tourists. Sensing my worry about what happens to the animals in the region, the guide told me that Monsoon is rather good times for animals in LROK.

My guide cum tractor driver told me that the wild asses move on to the plateaus (locally called ‘bet’) and feed on the abundant vegetation, powered by monsoon. Some party time for asses, this! There are as many as 364 bets here.

The flooding recedes by November and the area eventually dries up totally. This is when they open the gates for the tourists.

I realised that the land we were fooling around on a tractor turns into a huge lake in rainy season.

How to reach Little Rann of Kutch

How do I get to Little Rann of Kutch?Here is a detailed guide to every single way to reach Little Rann of Kutch.

Reach Little Rann of Kutch by bus

As per my plan I reached early morning in Ahmedabad via an overnight bus from Mumbai. A plate of road side kanda –poha and answering nature’s call in a ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’ later, I boarded a rickety bus to Bajana via Sanand.

No, I didn’t check in any room in Ahmedabad nor did I relax. I was short of time and could not resist the excitement of being in the ‘Wild’.  Two hours ride later, I ended up in Dhrangadhra, a little away from the Little Rann of Kutch. 

Blame it on the language (Gujrati) issue or my ignorance of the alien land, I struggled to reach Little Rann of Kutch on my own as a solo budget traveller!

The dusty Dhrangadhra is a very remote and rustic place bereft of any signs of modernity.

Everyone I asked, including the bus and auto-rickshaw drivers or hawkers, were not aware of any sanctuary in the vicinity.

My heart sank, thinking if I had landed up somewhere far far away. I found my comfort in the roadside dhokla and khandavi and fafda, which helped bigtime in soothing my nerves. With renewed energy, I started inquiring again and one local man advised me to board XYZ bus which would take me to the LROK.

Packing some street side dhokla, khandavi and fafda from the roadside carts, I boarded the bus to reach Bajana. I was still wary but anyhow I boarded the bus and within few minutes I was in Bajana.

Reach Little Rann of Kutch by air

The busy Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport of Ahmedabad city in Gujarat is the closest airport from Little Rann of Kutch. The Ahmedabad airport is well connected with all the main cities of India. You can take a bus or private cab from Ahmedabad to Little Rann of Kutch.

Reach Little Rann of Kutch by rail

The dusty Dhrangadhra in Surendranagar District has the nearest railway junction from Ahmedabad. Little Rann of Kutch. Dhrangadhra is connected with places such as Pune, Mumbai, Bhuj, Bengaluru and Howrah in West Bengal etc.

Reach Little Rann of Kutch by road trip

Self-Driving on the baby bottom smooth roads of Gujarat is a pleasure. Little Rann of Kutch is no exception. Despite being located in a remote place, the roads here are very good. You can either self-drive or book a cab with a driver before leaving Ahmedabad.

Local Transport in LROK: Chakkadi ride

While arriving from Ahmedabad, the bus driver dropped me unceremoniously in the middle of nowhere in Bajana. Again, I had a tough time locating LROK. Everyone I asked about the sanctuary shrugged their shoulders and gave the standard reply, “What sanctuary you are talking about?”

This, when the office of the LROK was just 200 meters away from where I was dropped. Then my eyes stopped at a rusted, faded metal board which had pictures of wild asses and a signboard indicating the office.

Chakkadi Ride: Local transport of rural Gujarat
I took this Chakkadi Ride: Local transport of rural Gujarat

It soothed my worried nerves. Thank heavens for the little mercies! But I was still not sure where the exact location was.

Chakkadi is a strange mode of public transport, a unique hybrid between a motorbike and a cart. It’s colourfully painted and embellished with kitschy plastic flowers and other such unnecessary frills.

Then I chanced upon a Chakkadi driver who had stopped to drop some passengers. The Chakkadi driver who had stopped to drop some local passengers offered to drop me at the office for free.

This quirky vehicle must have been the brain child of some eccentric ‘jugaadu’ Indian who came up with this unique hybrid.

Between a motorbike and a cart/trolley. It is a 3-wheeler where the 1st wheel is that of a bike and the rear 2 wheels are thicker supporting the passengers. It is colourfully painted and embellished with kitschy plastic flowers and other such unnecessary frills.

A family of four had squatted on it with their bicycle and other belongings while I hung on the seat next to the driver. The older woman looked annoyed when I went trigger happy. Click click click…dhishum dhishum dhishum. Luckily

I escaped the dhishums and when I asked the driver about the sanctuary, he offered me a free ride to the LROK office 100 meters away. I could have walked but I didn’t want to miss the chance to sit in this wonder vehicle.

I got the V-I-P seat, right next to the driver’s seat. After much insisting, the driver didn’t charge me a single rupee.

Conclusion: Why Visit Little Rann Of Kutch?

Since this trip had many ‘FIRSTS’ for me, that’s why it will always be special! Thanks to the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, we are still able to see Indian Wildass in Little Rann of Kutch. Many tourists visit the much-advertised Greater Rann of Kutch but miss the Little Rann.

You should visit the Rann of Kutch sanctuary to see some of the last remaining endangered Indian wild ass. This is one of the most offbeat Indian wildlife sanctuaries in India.

“I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.” Steve McQueen

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