Gujarat is blessed with an incredible diversity of wildlife, arguably the richest of any state of India. Gir Forest is the last habitat of the Asiatic Lion and home to one of the greatest concentrations of birdlife in Asia. On the vast salt marshes of the Rann of Kutch huge herds of wild ass and many other unusual desert species can be seen. Velavader National Park is home to Blackbuck, desert wolf and massive flocks of migratory waterbirds. This comprehensive tour covers all of these areas, but if your time is limited, it can be condensed to take in those places which most interest you.
Day 1: Ahmedabad Arrive Ahmedabad either by international flight or from Mumbai. You will be met on arrival and introduced to your driver. Transfer into the city of Ahmedabad (the capital of Gujarat) and check into your hotel. There is no set programme for today, but if you have free time in the afternoon and evening you might like to take a walking tour of the old city and explore the famous night markets of Ahmedabad. Overnight in Ahmedabad
Day 2: Ahmedabad A full day sightseeing tour of the city including the fabulous textile museum, Mahatma Gandhi’s home and ashram, intricately carved Hateesingh Jain Temple and the royal complex outside the city at Sarkhej. Return to Ahmedabad for overnight stay.
Day 3: Ahmedabad-Dasada After breakfast drive 90km to Dasada and check into Rann Riders Eco Resort. After lunch and time to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere at this special resort, take an afternoon safari in the Little Rann of Kutch, a sanctuary for the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass. Other mammals which you may be lucky enough to see include nilgai (blue bull), gazelle, desert fox and wolf. There is also a huge variety of birdlife in this area including many species of larks, shrikes, warblers, robins and thrushes. There are also impressive birds of prey and occasional sightings of the great Indian bustard are possible. Return to Rann Riders for overnight stay.
Day 4: DasadaTwo more safaris today- in the morning to the ‘bets’- those few elevated patches in vast salt plains of the Rann which are covered with scrub and grass. In winter, this is a good place to spot bustards, buzzards and eagles. In the evening visit a lake where demoiselle and common cranes gather in large flocks during the winter months. Also seen in this area are large flocks of flamingos, along with pelicans, storks, ibises, geese and a plethora of wading birds.Overnight at Rann Riders, Dasada.
Day 5: Dasada-BhujDrive from Dasada to Bhuj (270km) through this most remarkable landscape- shimmering salt flats and a seemingly inhospitable landscape incapable of supporting any life but dotted with villages and camel-trains of the semi-nomadic Rabari people who have lived in this part of India for centuries. The old town of Bhuj was tragically destroyed in the massive earthquake of 2001 leaving few parts of this historic trading post untouched but the resilience of people who live in such a forbidding part of the world is remarkable and the city as a whole has bounced back remarkably well.Overnight stay at Hotel Ilark.
Day 6: Bhuj-Moti Virani Drive from Bhuj to Moti Virani (50km) and stay at CEDO (Centre for Desert and Ocean) Camp, a basic facility run by this conservation organization. In the evening visit the nearby roost of the Grey Hypocolius, one of the few sites where this passerine bird is seen in India. Return to CEDO Camp for overnight stay.
Day 7: Banni Grassland Day tour to the Banni region, India’s largest grassland area and home to a great concentration of Aquila and other eagles- the water bodies here are known for their large flocks of waterfowl. Return to CEDO Camp for overnight stay.
Day 8: Lala Bustard SanctuaryA full day trip to the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary near Naliya, one of the prime habitats of the endangered Indian bustard, and home to a variety of other birds. Chinkara gazelles are likely to be seen and there is also the chance to spot the elusive Indian wolf. Return to CEDO camp for overnight stay.
Day 9: Moti Varani- MandviDrive back to Bhuj and on to Mandvi, visiting coastal areas en route- more excellent birding opportunities await here. Arrive at Mandvi in the afternoon and enjoy a swim in the Arabian Sea on India’s longest private beach. Enjoy your evening meal on the beach and a night at the luxury tented camp at Mandvi beach.
Day 10: Mandvi to JamnagarFull day drive (350km/6 hours) to Jamnagar and late afternoon visit Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary is a breeding area for many species of birds that do not nest elsewhere in peninsular India including grebes, storks and terns. Overnight at Hotel President in Jamnagar.
Day 11: JamnagarVisit coastal areas along the Gulf of Kutch, one of the finest birding stretches along the Indian coastline. Among the birds frequently sighted here are several species of plovers, oystercatchers, sandpipers and a multitude of terns. Also nearby is Marine National Park- a habitat for nesting turtles in season, as well as porpoises and dolphins. Return to Jamhnagar for overnight stay. Stay at Hotel President.
Day 12: Jamnagar- Gondal Morning drive to Gondal (130km) and check-in at the Orchard Palace- a wonderful heritage hotel owned by the family of the last maharaja of the small princely state of Gondal. From here you have the option of enjoying the tranquility and luxury of the Palace and spotting some of the variety of species of birds which come to the grounds to forage, or venture into Gondal itself. This is a fascinating town which owes much of its modern success to the all round philanthropy of Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji who pioneered electricity, rail and road networks and education in his preserve in the early 20th century. His legacy is celebrated at the wonderful museum in the Naulakha Palace. The town is also home to an Ayurvedic University and some delightful temples. In the evening, drive to nearby grasslands where yet more birds can be sighted including owls, quails and shrikes, among others. The lakes around Gondal attract large flocks of demoiselle cranes, white pelicans, ducks, and other birds. Overnight Orchard Palace Hotel, Gondal.
Day 13: Gondal Gir After breakfast, drive to Gir (total 140km) stopping en route to tour the historic town of Junagadh, home to some truly spectacular Indo-Islamic architecture, a fascinating ‘old town’ market area and an imposing hill top fort. On arrival at Gir, check in to your accommodation at Gir Birding Lodge and relax. Overnight Gir Birding Lodge.
Day 14 & 15: Gir - Gir is the last remaining habitat of the Asiatic Lion and during your two Days here, with a total of 4 jeep safaris, you will have a very high probability of spotting several of these majestic animals, and possibly some of the many leopards which inhabit the Park as well. Gir Birding Lodge is directly outside one of the Park’s entrance gates, meaning all your time ‘on safari’ is spent exploring the forests and grasslands of Gir. Prey species in Gir include sambar and spotted deer, nilgai (blue bull) and wild boar. Gir is also one of the major habitats of chousingha- the world’s only four-horned antelope. The variety of bird species is staggering. There is also a crocodile breeding centre nearby, and fruit bats roost in huge numbers in banyan trees around the fringes of the Park, so there are many opportunities to expand your wildlife experience.
Day 16: Gir-Velavader Early morning depart for Velavader National Park. Known for its large blackbuck antelope population, Velavader is also one of the few places where the wolf is proliferating in India, although rather difficult to spot. Other more easily spotted animals in this semi-arid environment include jackals, jungle cats and Indian foxes. Overnight at Blackbuck Lodge, Velavader.
Day 17: Morning drive to Ahmedabad for connecting internal or domestic flight.