Lying in the Western part of India, in the state of Gujarat, is one of India’s best-kept secrets: The Little Rann of Kutch. A sprawling five thousand square kilometre desert with tiny surrounding villages, it’s also home to some of the rarest species of animals found in India. A salt marsh, it’s renowned all over the world due to its conservation of the Indian Wild Ass, the species’ last refuge. Though getting here is a tad difficult, once here, you’ll find it hard to leave, especially with the amount of activities on offer from the safaris to the village dinners.
Winter is the best time to visit
Little Rann of Kutch is best seen between October and March when the monsoon has subsided and the winter air is prominent. By mid-March, most resorts and places to visit will be closed and you’ll be lucky to find anything open past April as the heat will be unbearable and the monsoon rains come soon afterwards. The best way to get to the Little Rann of Kutch is by bus or train from Ahmedabad.
The city of Dhrangadhra is the most easily accessed point by both modes of transport, but if you’re feeling adventurous, taking a mini-bus from Ahmedabad to Zainabad cuts your travel time and cost by a significant amount. The only drawback is that the mini-bus can get crowded and hot if you take it in the height of the afternoon.
The safaris are otherworldly
Once in either Dhrangadhra or Zainabad, your resort or homestay will most likely pick you up. Our top-choice is the Kooba eco huts run by Devjibhai Dhamecha and family, but the ever-excellent Desert Coursers resort comes a close second.
For decades, both resorts have done tremendous work in eco-friendly and sustainable work to ensure that Little Rann stays as it is. The safaris offered by both resorts are otherworldly with an in-depth, knowledgeable guide accompanying you as you venture through an arid desert spotting lakes filled with beautiful flamingos, pelicans, cranes and ducks.
You’ll also come across nilgai and desert fox roaming the land, and of course the world-famous Indian Wild Ass who are more beautiful and regal in the flesh than their name suggests.
A sunset at the salt pans is ethereal
Ensure that you top off the safari with a visit to the salt pans that make up most of the desert. Traditional commercial salt panning still exists and it’s very easy to find yourself at a mass-produced one. Insist on seeing where the local villager lives and farms; his hut will have no electricity and he’ll subsist on next to nothing, yet his warmth and hospitality will extend to inviting you in for a cup of chai. The sun setting over the desert in the middle of the salt pans will make you feel small and give you a sense of serenity at the same time.
Hang out with the villagers at some point during your stay
Little Rann of Kutch has a number of Gujarati tribes surrounding the area. After your safari and the traditional Gujarati dinner, ask whether you can spend some time with the villagers, if you haven’t already. If it’s the weekend night, you’ll be surprised by how many of them are still up and dancing or throwing some kind of gala that goes late into the night. Don’t worry though: it’s always far away enough for the noise never to sneak into your room at the resort.
An experience you're not likely to forget soon
One of the world’s largest salt deserts, the Little Rann of Kutch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you’re coming for the first, second or seventh time, there’s always more and more to experience as the arid landscape changes depending on the season. The flora and fauna stay much the same, but the birds during the monsoon are much better spotted than during the dry season. However, seeing the Indian Wild Ass is a definite possibility all year round and a must for all visitors to one of the most unique places on Earth.
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