A guide to the Little Rann of Kutch Safari in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

They might seem ordinary and plain
But don’t look at them with pure disdain.
This herd of Indian wild ass is the only one in Asia that survive
You will find them on the Little Rann of Kutch drive.

Embark on the Little Rann of Kutch Safari to find the endangered Indian wild ass and other unique animals and birds. Get tips on how to book a jeep safari in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, its prices and timings. 

It is not uncommon to plan a trip to the remote Komodo islands – just to see the only surviving set of Komodo dragons. Not is it unusual to head to Australia just to cuddle a Koala. Then, why should it be different when it comes to the endangered Indian wild ass found only in the Little Rann of Kutch! Just because they resemble the common donkey, they are not to be dismissed. Besides being the only remaining herd found in the whole of Asia, they are quite a remarkable clan that deserves a visit. And this is just one of the many reasons why you should plan the Little Rann of Kutch Safari through the Indian wild ass sanctuary in Gujarat.

Locally known as Khur, the Indian Wild Ass are only seen during the Little Rann of Kutch safari
Locally known as Khur, the Indian Wild Ass are only seen during the Little Rann of Kutch safari

Besides the endangered Asian Wild Ass animal, there is plenty more that enamored me about the Indian wild ass sanctuary. For one, it is a paradise for birding with tons of native and migratory birds including various species of flamingoes. The unique desert-salt marsh habitat gave me a very different safari experience from the others like Pench, Kanha and Kabini. It is this that I will be sharing in this guide to the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary along with lots of insider tips.

I will begin this blog post with an introduction to this Kutch wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat and then follow it up with information that you will need to plan a jeep safari here. This includes the various entry points for the Indian Wildlife Sanctuary, best time to visit, what you can expect to see there, the Little Rann of Kutch safari timings and prices and how to get there. I have also, shared various options for accommodation in the Little Rann of Kutch as well as nearby places to visit.

Quick links for the Rann of Kutch trip

In case you are looking for some quick links to the stays and tours of the various places in Kutch, you can consider using these online options.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

What is the Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat?

The Little Rann of Kutch Map
The Little Rann of Kutch Map

Rann essentially refers to a desert and in this case, it is the large expanse of salt desert in the Kutch region of Gujarat. The 26,000 sq km of land is further divided into the Great Rann of Kutch and the Little Rann of Kutch. The Great Rann of Kutch as the name suggests is the larger part of this Rann and in fact, the biggest salt desert in the world. It primarily consists of salt marshes and wetlands.

One of the smaller bets of the Little Rann of Kutch
One of the smaller bets of the Little Rann of Kutch

The Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) occupies 5000 sq km north east of the Great Rann and is spread over five major districts of Gujarat – Morbi, Surendranagar, Patan, Banaskantha and Kutch. It consists of 74 small islands or plateaus called bets and the Banni grassland region. During monsoons, most of this area gets submerged in water and the bets which are essentially highlands become a sanctuary for the diverse wildlife. Post monsoons, the water evaporates and the rest of the soil cracks to form the dry barren landscape that you will see when you embark on your Little Rann of Kutch safari.

The White Rann of Kutch - one of the best places to see in Kutch Gujarat
The White Rann of Kutch – one of the best places to see in Kutch Gujarat

Curious about the Great Rann of Kutch and the other places to see around that? Check this mega travel guide out

About the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

The Flamingos at the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Gujarat
The Flamingos at the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Gujarat

The Little Rann of Kutch is famous for the Indian wild ass sanctuary. In fact, it is almost synonymous with the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary. – which incidentally is the 15th biosphere in India. This Kutch desert wildlife sanctuary was established in 1972 primarily to protect the endangered Indian Wild Ass. Besides – in addition to being a haven for several other interesting critters. One estimate submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage organization states that there are at least 70,000 – 75,000 birds spotted here. No wonder this Kutch wildlife sanctuary is a paradise for birders!

Which is the best gate for the Little Rann of Kutch Safari?

Bajana Wildlife Sanctuary gate
Bajana Wildlife Sanctuary gate

There are two main entrances for the Little Rann of Kutch safari – Bajana and Dhrangadhra. The distance between these two gates is approximately 50 km. Both the gates offer an equal opportunity of sighting the Indian Wild Ass animal.

The Bajana Wildlife Sanctuary gate is ideal for birders as you encounter the marshy wetlands and the lakes which host a variety of birds. The Bajana entrance is also, close to Dasada – one of the key towns for the Little Rann of Kutch resorts. It is also close to the town of Zainabad – another hub for your stay in LRK. The Bajana gate was the one that I used for my LRK safari.

On the other hand, if you enter through the Dhrangadhra gate, you will be able to experience the local tribe Agariyas working on the salt fields – all of which are the world’s third largest producer of salt.

How to book the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary Safari?

The Little Rann of Kutch jeep safari can be arrange by the resort that you stay in
The Little Rann of Kutch jeep safari can be arrange by the resort that you stay in

Quite unlike the other safaris that I have done in Pench, Kabini, or Tadoba, there is no online option for the Little Rann of Kutch safari booking. You have to get your permits at either Bajana or Dhrangadhra gates of the Kutch wild ass sanctuary.  Most travelers opt for booking these jeep safaris through the various resorts that they stay in. These resorts often give you a combination package of stay and a safari in the Little Rann of Kutch. They even have their own jeeps and knowledgeable guides.

You can even hire private jeeps in the nearby towns like Dasada, Bajana, Zainabad and Dhrangadhra. These jeeps generally cost you INR 2000 – 3000 per safari. Alternatively, you can even drive your vehicle with the same permit that you get at the gates. Remember though that you will still need to hire an official guide at the gate.

I highly advise taking an SUV or jeep rather than the normal sedan. The reason is that the terrain includes dry and wet areas where your vehicles could get stuck. I did see some sedans making their way through the gates but I am not sure how far they reached!

How are the Little Rann of Kutch permits priced?

The Little Rann of Kutch Safari prices
The Little Rann of Kutch Safari prices

The Little Rann of Kutch safari permits are charged per vehicle of 6 people. The Little Rann of Kutch entry fees in 2023- 24 are INR 400 for Indians and USD 40 for foreigners on weekdays. On weekends, the same increases to INR 500 for Indians and USD 50 for foreigners. Cameras are charged INR 200 per device for Indians and USD 20 for foreigners.

The pricing is discounted for groups of 15 and 50 – that is rows two and three in the picture above. Apologies for a sloppy capture but it was a tussle between time and motion in the jeep when I took this shot. In case you are taking your vehicle, then you will have to shell out INR 300 for a guide who is available at the gate. He will accompany you through your Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary safari.

What are the Little Rann of Kutch safari timings?

Cranes that you can see when you are on an Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary Safari
Cranes that you can see when you are on an Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary Safari

The Indian wild ass sanctuary is open from morning 6 am to evening 6 pm. However, note that this is only from 15th October to 15th June. The rest of the year, the sanctuary is closed.

You can enter the LRK sanctuary any time that you wish though as is the case with most wildlife safaris, it is best to get there in the wee hours of the morning. This is when you can get the best of the Little Rann of Kutch birding. It is also, the best time to capture other mammals and reptiles in the reserve.

What can you see during the Kutch Wild Ass Sanctuary safari?

So far my wildlife safaris have taken me into the thick of green forests, where spotting animals is definitely a challenge. This Kutch desert safari was my first wildlife experience where finding the bigger mammals and birds was relatively easy. The wide open spaces with scanty bushes and thorny trees made it difficult for these animals to hide.

That said, there were plenty of interesting smaller animals that evaded my sight – largely because they were camouflaged by the large boulders. Though a typical safari through the Dasada Wildlife Sanctuary is around 3- 4 hours, I had to cut it down to two hours owing to my travel schedule. Thankfully I did see the elusive hero herd of the Indian Wild Ass. Let me start this section with some interesting facts about them and then share the other common animals and birds that you can see.

Animals found in the Wild ass wildlife sanctuary, Gujarat

Indian wild ass

The Indian Wild Ass is also called Ghudkhur or Onager
The Indian Wild Ass is also called Ghudkhur or Onager

The scientific name for the Indian wild ass animal is Equus Hemionus Khur and locally they are referred to as Khur or Ghudkhur. The soft brown sandy animal looks more like a horse than a donkey. Scientifically they are believed to be a cross between the two. The Little Rann of Kutch is the only home of the last of these species of Asian wild ass which have some remarkable attributes.

The Indian Wild Ass animals that I saw during my safari through the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary in Kutch
The Indian Wild Ass animals that I saw during my safari through the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary in Kutch

It wasn’t too difficult to locate the herd of Indian Wild Ass. We went past the various water bodies like Nava Talav and the Bajana creek, straight to an expanse of desert and there they were – around 20 of them in two groups – standing around looking at us with equal curiosity. They were kind of ready to charge – which honestly was a bit scary given the story that our guide shared. Check it out along with the other amazing facts about the Indian Wild Ass  –

  • The Indian wild ass can gallop at a speed of 30 kmph. In fact, for short distances, they run at a speed of 70 kmph. While explaining this, our Kutch safari guide cum driver shared an interesting tidbit – “Sometimes when these animals run, they rake up a storm of dust. This is because the dry mud on this surface loosens up and flies out as hard-caked pellets. And if our jeep is caught in such a storm, those things can crack the entire windshield of this vehicle.” The guide smiled and informed us that it has happened once. Gulp!
The dry pellets from these fly when the Indian Wild Ass decide to kick up a storm
The dry pellets from these fly when the Indian Wild Ass decide to kick up a storm
  • The herd used to once be found across South Pakistan, Iran and parts of Rajasthan. It was a disease called Surra that caused their near extinction. This was in 1962 and the only living herd in the Rann of Kutch shrunk to 860 animals.
  • The attempts at preservation of these rare animals have been fruitful in the Indian Wild Ass sanctuary. The count in 2020 was a whopping 6082 animals making this Indian Wild Ass wildlife reserve one of the most successful preservation efforts.
  • The Indian wild ass usually lives around the various bets or islands in the Little Rann of Kutch – especially during monsoons. Post the seasons when the landscape starts drying, they venture around. Finally, in summer, they identify a new Bet and shelter there till the monsoons are over.
  • The Indian wild ass mate in monsoons when the female separates from the herd and the males fight among themselves to establish their strength. The strongest one then retires with the female and after mating, the pair return to the herd.
  • These creatures are quite resilient – especially to the weather changes. They can endure low temperatures of 1 degree Celsius as well as heat of 50 degrees Celsius
  • The Indian wild ass is partial to the flat grass found in the Little Rann of Kutch. The grass is called morad in Gujarati.

One would assume that since they have the built of a donkey or a horse, why haven’t they been domesticated. In the words of our guide – “These animals are really wild and have resisted domestication for centuries. They are known to kick up a storm and cause destruction if they sense harm.”  Well, that definitely explains it.

Deer and Antelopes

Sambar Deer that I spotted during my Kutch desert safari through LRK
Sambar Deer that I spotted during my Kutch desert safari through LRK

The Little Rann of Kutch is home to a variety of deer and antelope species. In my short safari, I came across the spotted deer and sambar deer. In addition, there are chinkaras and nilgai that roam around the sanctuary. I wouldn’t have minded a glimpse of the chinkaras – who I believe are quite swift and have antlers that they do not shed. Apparently, that is what makes them different from the deer who shed their antlers every now and then.

Other mammals in the Little Rann of Kutch Sanctuary

The one animal that I was hoping to catch sight of while on the Little Rann of Kutch safari is the Desert Fox. I had seen a documentary on them earlier and they are like those cute cartoon foxes that you see on the kid’s channels. What I found the most interesting is that these creatures can live underground and often have tunnels and escape paths for security. Of course, they are quite elusive and it is a chance that you might see them during your Rann safari.

Besides these foxes, you should keep an eye out for hyenas and porcupines – the latter are often seen scurrying across the path.

Birds found in the Indian wild ass sanctuary in Kutch

Flamingoes

The flock of flamingos over the Kutch wildlife sanctuary
The flock of flamingos over the Kutch wildlife sanctuary

If I had to highlight one bird as the hero of the birdlife in the Little Rann of Kutch, it would be the flamingo. The tall graceful beauty had me mesmerized with its lithe movements – in water and air. And when the whole flock took off, the sight it created over the water body was just dreamy.

Greater Flamingo as seen in the Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat
Greater Flamingo as seen in the Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat

To be honest, the first sighting of these birds was along the Road to Heaven enroute to Dholavira in the Great Rann of Kutch. There were a whole lot of the Greater flamingo species nesting in the brackish water. In the Little Rann of Kutch, I got to see them much closer at the Nava Talav. This is one time in your jeep safari through the Indian wild ass sanctuary that you can get off the vehicle and walk to the edge of the water body.

A caveat – the muddy surface is quite deceptive. It is hard in some parts while in the other areas, you will find your feet sinking into the soil. You can avoid these soggy parts by distinguishing them by color (they are usually darker than the hardened surface).

At the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary, you will see two varieties of flamingoes – the Greater flamingoes which are huge and have pink beaks and the lesser flamingoes which are smaller and have brown beaks.

Cranes

The White crane in flight at the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat
The White crane in flight at the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat

Easily distinguished by their long necks, there are two varieties that I could see during my Indian wildass sanctuary safari. The first were the white common cranes and the 2nd were the blackish Demoiselle cranes that fly all the way from Tibet, Siberia and Ladakh during the season.

Bar-headed geese

Bar headed geese can be spotted in the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary
Bar headed geese can be spotted in the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary

Having seen these Bar-headed geese first during my Kabini birding session, I had no problem in recognizing them. These are the other migratory birds that come from Siberia and gosh! They can really create a racket with their calls.

White Pelican

The Great white pelicans are these stately-looking birds with super long beaks. They are found along with the flamingoes in the various waterbodies inside the Little Rann of Kutch.

Painted storks

Painted stork that can be seen during a Little Rann of Kutch birding session
Painted stork that can be seen during a Little Rann of Kutch birding session

These guys are really a piece of art. I have seen them in practically all my safaris and even in my backyard in Bangalore and yet, I find myself awed by their beauty. Again, easy to spot among the whites and pinks of the Little Rann of Kutch.

Peregrine Falcons

The Peregrine falcon - a resident of the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch
The Peregrine falcon – a resident of the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch

These falcons are found sitting on the high boulders across the Little Rann of Kutch. They are quite fast and swoop down to catch their prey.

Other birds of LRK

Black cormorant in one of the many lakes in the Little Rann of Kutch
Black cormorant in one of the many lakes in the Little Rann of Kutch

Little Rann of Kutch is well equipped for birders. Not only can you walk close to the water bodies but every now and then, you will come across watch towers and machaans for that peaceful viewing. I for one, eyed them wistfully and had I some more time, I would have returned back with better lens to capture the winged wonders.

The other interesting birds that I only got a sight of during my jeep safari in the Little Rann of Kutch included the smaller ones like babblers, bushchats, tits and shrikes. The sanctuary is also, known for its Bustard species as well as Egrets, Black cormorants and vultures. Hopefully, you will have more time and luck at your hand to spot these plus more!

One of the highlights of my birding in Kabini - the Blue eared Kingfisher
One of the highlights of my birding in Kabini – the Blue eared Kingfisher

One amazing and under-rated place for birding in India is Kabini. You find such a variety – in fact, name a color and you will find a bird here. Check out the variety in this article

What is the best way to visit the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary?

 To enter the Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary, you need to either get to Bajana gate or Dhrangadhra gate. Bajana gate is just 30 km from Dasada town and Zainabad – which have some good LRK hotels and resorts. Here is how you can get to either of these towns – Bajana, Dasada, Zainabad and Dhrangadhra for your Wild Ass wildlife sanctuary visit.

By Air:

The closest airport is in Ahmedabad which is 110 km from Little Rann of Kutch. The distance takes around 2 – 3 hours by road to either of the two gates of Little Rann of Kutch. You also, have the option of traveling by train. (as explained below)

By Train:

The closest railway station to Bajana and Dasada is Viramgam. It is at a distance of 30 km from both these places. Most Bajana, Zainabad and Dasada resorts offer a pick-up facility from the railway station – which is a junction with good connectivity to the key metro cities of India. Viramgam is also, connected to Bhuj in the Great Rann of Kutch. So, if you are already on a Kutch trip, this railway station will be a good way to get to the Little Rann of Kutch quickly.

Dhrangandhra on the other hand, has its own railway station that is well connected to Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai.

By Road

There are regular buses from Ahmedabad to Dasada, Bajana, Zainabad and Dhrangadhra. You will reach either of these places within 3 hours by this mode of transport. Dhrangadhra by virtue of its location on the Ahmedabad-Kutch highway has a better frequency as all the buses on this highway stop at this town.

Alternatively, you can just hire one of the outstation cabs from Ahmedabad and drive down to either of the three towns. The road conditions are excellent.

Where can you stay in the Little Rann of Kutch Gujarat?

Dasada, Bajana and Dhrangadhra are your base towns for a safari in the Indian Wild Ass wildlife sanctuary. Among the various places to stay in these towns, here are the ones that are highly recommended by me and the travel community-

  • Royal Safari Camp near Bajana Wildlife Sanctuary. This is where I stayed. The resort offers a stay in traditional home settings of a kooba or a bhunga.
  • Dasada Rann Riders – a luxury stay in Dasada village. The team is renowned for their knowledgeable guides and naturalists.
  • Desert Den resort in Zainabad (Dasada Taluk) – This is run by a local family and offers activities like a Village walk in addition to the safari packages.
  • Eco Tour Camp in Dhrangadhra run by a wildlife photographer. The stay is in traditional huts called Kooba and you get a good taste of homemade food

What are the other places to visit in the Little Rann of Kutch?

There are several interesting places to visit as day trips from the Little Rann of Kutch -including a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Patan  – The town is around 75 km from the Little Rann of Kutch and has a UNESCO World Heritage site – Rani ki Vav. In addition to that, you can also, stop by the famous Patan Patola Heritage Museum to see one of the most expensive heritage fabrics being woven and hear the story behind it.
  • Modhera Sun Temple – This is an engineering marvel belonging to the Solanki era. The gorgeous temple is just 45 km from the Little Rann of Kutch.
  • Nal Sarovar – another birding paradise that is 70 km from the Bajana sanctuary.
  • Piplidham in Bajana – a beautiful temple located in Bajana village
  • Zinzuwada fort ­– Located 32 km away, these are ruins of a sandstone fort belonging to the Solanki dynasty. Closer to Dasada.
  • Ajit Niwas palace in Dhrangadhra –  The residential palace of the royal family of Dhrangadhra and still maintained by them.

Additional tips for the jeep safari in the Little Rann of Kutch

While the Little Rann of Kutch safari might not seem like your traditional jungle safaris, it is still a reserve and there are certain norms that you need to follow when you visit. It was a little appalling to see some travelers being unmindful about them. Just as a reminder, sharing some travel tips and norms that you need to follow when on a Jeep safari in the Wild Ass Wildlife sanctuary –

  • Keep the noise levels down. Observe the animals quietly without disturbing them.
  • Do not get down from the jeep unless you are allowed to by the guide. The wetland areas are the ones that are safe for you to explore by foot.
  • Switch off your mobile ringer
  • Carry enough water and light snacks when on the safari.
  • Do not wear loud colors. Stick to the muted greens, blues, greys, whites and blacks.
  • Wear proper shoes or sandals that can handle the wet soil near the lakes.
  • Carry a cap or a hat to shield yourself from the harsh sun

Other Common FAQs on the Little Rann of Kutch

What is the best time to visit LRK?

The best season to visit LRK is in winters between October to February. This is when the migratory birds arrive in the region and stay on till it starts getting hot in March. The summers are really harsh here but that also, means that you might get better sightings of the mammals during your morning safari.

How many days are enough for the Little Rann of Kutch?

While Little Rann of Kutch can be done as a day trip from Ahmedabad, I would recommend you stay here at least for one night and do two safaris to spot the best of nature that this sanctuary has to offer. Ideally 2 nights is good as you can then explore the other nearby places.

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