Wild Gujarat : a glimpse

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#1 Jan 16th, 2017, 17:51
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#1
Just returned from a long trip from Gujarat. It’s a vast vast state , offering many archaeological , historical and natural wonders , but due to paucity of time we decided to concentrate upon the natural wonders and wildlife of the state.
Even after ruthlessly curtailing all the other attractions of the state which were within our grasp , we didn’t even go for the White Runn or Kalo Dhungar , we could explore only a very small part of it and yet, it has enthralled us. The basic itinerary was like below :
  • To Land at Ahmedabad .Catch overnight train to Bhuj from Ahmedabad Junction.
  • Next 3 and half days to spend Greater Rann of Kutch. We stayed at CEDO , a spartan yet extremely caring “ home stay” run by the knowledgable Mr.Jugal Tiwari . I cannot recommend him enough, http://cedobirding.com and phone number 09825248135. Our stay did cost us around Rs.5000/= per day for 4 of us , this included all meals and mineral waters. Meals ,which included “on the field packed breakfasts”, were vegetarian, delicious , varied and the stay was perfectly clean. The pick up from and drop to Bhuj station was charged for Rs.1000 each way.
    We used to have two safaris each day that did cost us Rs.7000 ( 3500 X 2) in a Bolero with a guide. We were fortunate to have Sri Tiwari himself as our guide and he was simply outstanding.
  • On the 4 th evening we started for Little Rann of Kutch, by a train which travels from Bhuj and we got down at Dhrangadhra station at midnight. We stayed with Sri Devji Bhai Dhamecha, who is a very senior naturalist ,http://www.littlerann.com/index.html, phone : 098255 48090. His camp , where we stayed at a Kuba ( round shaped earthen hut of traditional style but with modern amenities like running hot water and attached western loo ), is nicely managed. He also offers standard rooms but the Kuba offered better novelty at lower price . Somehow we found his sons , who act as driver cum guide to be a bit taciturn and lacking enthusiasm, specially after the great time we had with Sri Tiwari at GRK. They were not unwilling to drive you around, but the bubbling enthusiasm which makes good guides great ,was sadly absent.
    We can’t complain about food and stay though ,apart from one fact that unfortunately at the time of our stay , the regular cooks were absent for some reason ,and the kitchen was managed by Mrs. Devji bhai , who showed great willingness but was obviously not habituated to the challenge of serving so many guests day in and day out, and minor issues kept creeping up.
    We stayed 2 nights , did 3 safaris and paid around Rs.22000 including the pick-up from Dhrangadhra station. We were charged Rs.3500 extra for a drop to Ahmedabad station.
  • For our next destination GIR , we caught the overnight “Somnath Express” . We dropped at Veraval and a pre booked Tavera took us to our hotel at Talala , which is some 15 kms away from Sasan-gir. The car did cost us Rs.1800 and we visited Somnath temple on the way.

    We booked the Gir safaris online through this website http://girlion.in. Over and above the online booking cost , you will be charged Rs.200 for camera , Rs.1500 for Gypsy and Rs. 300 for the guide , totalling in Rs.2000. You can also take your car for the safari, saving the Rs.1500/= , but we opted for the charm of Gypsy. The safari is very very dusty , so a hat, a pair of goggles and handkerchief to cover your nose is a must.

    The best place to stay is at Singh Sadan , the Government forest department lodge , where all safari participants have to report for the safari car and route allotment. Else you can have all types of accommodation just outside the Singh Sadan itself, suitable for all budgets. In fact my decision to stay at Talala was quite wrong because I had to pay for car drops to and from the hotel. We could have easily stayed at Sasan and simply walked upto Singh Sadan.

    Now , when it comes to the routes, they have 6 routes. All of them are good , but we stuck to route 2 for both our safaris. The route no. 6 is the same as route 2 in reverse. You can ask for a specific route at the time of allotment.
  • There onward we spent a couple of days at a kin’s place at Bhavnagar , a long and arduous 7 hours drive away. From Bhavnagar we spent a beautiful night at “Blackbuck National Park” at Velavader.
    We booked two rooms at the Forest Rest House there , one AC for Rs.3000 and another non-ac for a steal at Rs.1000, basically they were mirror copies of each other except the installed air conditioner in one of them. The safari permit charges were Rs.600 per safari, the guide charges a paltry Rs.100 , we in fact paid them Rs.400 for each trip as both our guides were loveable and eager chaps and did their best to please us. You have to use your own car for the safaris. We had the Innova which picked us up from Bhavnagar , did two safaris and stayed overnight at Velavader , dropped us at Ahmedabad airport the next afternoon after having a short detour to Lothal all for Rs.5700. At Velavader they treated us all , including the driver to tea and coffee a number of times, one sumptuous vegetarian dinner and one filling breakfast ,for around Rs.1200.
    One has to call 0278-242-6425, one month in advance for booking the FRH. They will instruct you to make a Demand draft and would guide you about the next steps of sending the draft to their office, thus sealing the booking

Now I will attach some photographs of the trip , which , hopefully will demonstrate the varied and rich flora & fauna of the state. My understanding of wildlife is very basic so if there is any mistake in the description of the birds & animals , please feel free to correct me.
I have 100s of photographs of the trip , but I will share only the ones that are memorable to me, for one reason or other.
Last edited by iamsomnath; Jan 16th, 2017 at 19:52..
#2 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:14
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Indian Wild Ass, called "Ghudkhur", has it's last refuge in "Wild Ass Sanctuary" at LRK. This single and solitary individual , probably separated from a herd after a fight , was running around . Watch the Car tyre marks , the habitat is being threatened all the time





This one is close to heart , the industrial setup is evident , on the horizon , changing the landscape forever , leaving increasingly smaller space for the ass to roam free



Small Minivet, got them at a thorn jungle . The female is yellow bellied, saw her in the afternoon, the next morning I revisited and could photograph the red & gorgeous male





A true prize for me , the elusive and endemic "White Naped Tit", got the shot due to terrain knowledge of Sri Tiwari

Last edited by iamsomnath; Jan 16th, 2017 at 20:03..
#3 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:30
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A small hike over a dried riverbed brought us to a place where the dried river had cut deep ravines. We climbed up one side and had to wait patiently for a couple of hours to have this prized peep at a newly born baby porcupine. It was a great thrill to watch this elusive nocturnal creature , after the brief glimpse , we moved away silently to let it enjoy the sunshine along with it's protective mom.

Last edited by iamsomnath; Jan 16th, 2017 at 20:54..
#4 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:34
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A "rufous tailed lark " was foraging hesitantly in the "Banni grassland " are of GRK. The light and shadow looked appealing

#5 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:36
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Early morning in the thorn jungle , a bunch of Green Bee-eaters , cuddling together for warmth

#6 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:38
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A great sunset at Chhari-Dhand , GRK

#7 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:42
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As usual wonderful photographs...

have taken special note of #5.
#8 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:42
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We had to scurry the grasslands of GRK for an entire morning for this "Globally Threatened" species called "Sociable Lapwing/Plover".Sri Tiwari performed magically to find them , a great feat when you consider the fact that this year so far only two have come in this 5000 square kilometre area. The future seems bleak for them

#9 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:46
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The "Rufous fronted Prinia" , fidgety and very small , could get one of them

#10 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:48
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A "Grey Francoline " , loved the afternoon light



It was a golden morning and we were extremely lucky to have a rare sight of "Striped Heyna" with a kill, at Velavadar



A beautiful turtle at velavadar , a flap-shell ? Waking up with a start !!



A male "Ashy crowned sparrow lark" , was enjoying the sun

#11 Jan 16th, 2017, 18:56
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#11
superlative

adjective

1.

of the highest quality or degree.
MEDIOCRITY IS WITHIN MY REACH
#12 Jan 16th, 2017, 19:08
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A female Marsh Harrier , bigger than the male is seen perching atop a tree



Female Kestrel



Male Kestrel ,smaller but more gorgeous



A fortunate catch , elusive "Merlin" female



A Common stonechat



A sleepy "Spotted Owlet"



The obligatory Blackbuck



A favorite and rare sighting , an Indian Wolf , loved the animal, being constantly persecuted as they often kill goats/cattle

#13 Jan 16th, 2017, 19:21
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#13
Breathtakingly superb pics! You've surpassed yourself!
#14 Jan 16th, 2017, 19:22
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A beautiful sunset at Mandvi



A rare "Painted Sand Grouse" male , we watched a full family



One "lesser Flamingo" wading



Common Crane , extremely shy as they are hunted for meat



Great White Pelicans roosting

#15 Jan 16th, 2017, 19:31
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Thanks everyone for kind words. I am a very slow shooter , usually do confine myself to landscapes , feel comfortable shooting hills and seas , they are not going to fly away , are they ? :-p . But loved shooting the birds and light was quite good. Missed a lot of shots , some I have botched. Hopefully the diversity of the wildlife could be partially showcased, even if by a very small percentage. And yes , we saw lions , in fact a full pride of them in one safari and one full tail in the next, in wild and fascinating Gir not in the enclosure of Devalia. But they are quite distant images in very dull light, so decided against posting them here , don't like the Lions too much as well, pampered sumabiches :-D, a Heyna for me , anyday.
The necessary information regarding logistics is in the first post itself.
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