Asses on the Rann
Our first stop in Gujarat was the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), a wild life sanctuary about two and a half hours to the north east of Ahmedabad.
The resort : There are a few resorts available in LRK. We decided to opt for the Eco Tour camp run by a local conservationist – Devjibhai Dhamecha – on the edge of LRK (Dhangadhra). The accommodation on offer is ‘kooba’ (huts). These huts have circular mud walls with a thatched roof. Each hut has a veranda. Around the main door we can see beautiful patterns painted in different colours. Eco Tour camp had five huts at the time of our visit. Huts have electricity and neat, attached bathrooms. You could enjoy local delicacies prepared by the friendly team headed by Premjibhai. The resort does not serve or permit alcohol and non-vegetarian dishes.
Sanctuary : LRK is an endless wilderness of black coloured dry and cracked mud if you visit in the winter season. Its close to 5000 sq.km area is the last remaining home of Asiatic Wild Ass and host to many species of birds including the flamingos.
Our first safari was in the late afternoon in a rattling jeep owned by Devjibhai and driven by him. He is a storehouse of information about the LRK and all that is in and around it. LRK gives a deceptive impression when one enters it for the first time. It looks like a desolate, god forsaken place with no life. But as we moved forward into the ‘never ending’ landscape we could observe that after all it was not a dead piece of land – there was vibrant life everywhere. Immediately on entry we came across the first of our numerous encounters with the wild ass. It is a light coloured animal which would fit in somewhere between a horse and a donkey. These asses are close cousins of the African zebra and the Ladakhi Kiyang. A drive through LRK would bring us close to several hundreds of these animals. They have a predator-free environment with little or no threat from carnivores. Its very salty and ‘unfriendly’ meat puts the humans also at bay. According to a local legend, after eating the meat of wild ass, Emperor Akbar decided to turn vegetarian !
We encountered some fine specimen of nilgai (large antelope) during the safari. The female of the species is much smaller and has a yellowish-brown colour compared to the grey-blue coat of the male. The bull is quite tall and a very graceful animal. It colour looks fantastic in the evening sun.
A chance encounter was with a desert fox, usually an elusive animal. It is a small canine with a brownish velvet skin which is not easy to spot. When the rattle of the diesel engine was too close for comfort, it quickly disappeared into it furrow.
Soon we came across a herd of cranes which we had to see from a considerable distance so as not to send them flying into the skies with a shrill cry. We observed the herd for a while and then they took off gracefully and displayed the art of formation flying by taking a route right over our heads.
Before heading back, we had the opportunity to watch the beautiful sunset which turned the whole sky into an attractive shade of orange.
I have not touched upon the birds we observed in LRK. That is a different piece altogether and will be covered in a separate post.
The experience : LRK is very different from most other tourist places. In spite of its apparently barren territory, it can offer you a great experience if you are a lover of nature.