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Old 8th December 2015, 15:44   #1
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Default Gujarat birding hotspots: Mumbai to GRK, LRK & Jamnagar

Me and my wife being keen birders and wild life enthusiasts, wanted to do an extensive trip to Gujarat birding hotspots like Greater Rann, Lesser Rann and Jamnagar. The planning started a few months earlier and after collecting all the info available, target species, their locations and all the logistics were planned. Initially we planned to do this trip by train and I actually went ahead and did all the train bookings and the car bookings for all the road travel between these locations.

But as the date of our journey was approaching, we had a second thoughts about the train journey and since there were many intermediate stops we decided to ditch the train and drive down or rather should I say up to Gujarat from Navi Mumbai. I had never undertaken such a long journey by road before, so the obvious apprehensions were there.

I decided to take the Figo diesel as it was the only car that I owned with ABS and airbags and I love the way it rides on the highway. Just a day before I took it to Bhavna Ford to rectify the noise near the left bonnet and after that things looked ready for the longest single drive of my life.

I had 2 camera bags and 1 general stuff bag, 2 tripods, including one big hefty one for my telephoto and all these things were packed in the boot and back seats. We decided to start early from Navi Mumbai and stop over at Ahmedabad for the night.

The plan was Navi Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Bhuj-Moti Virani for GRK. Then Moti Virani-Bajana for LRK followed by Bajana-Jamnagar and then finally back via Jamnagar-Rajkot-NE1-Surat

Leg 1: Mumbai-Ahmedabad

We were off at 5:20 AM on 28th Nov 2015 and we crossed Ghodbunder road to NH-8 in 45 minutes flat. Used to the Mumbai Pune expressway, I was surprised at the utter lack of discipline and rules on NH-8 with truckers driving in all lanes trying to over take each other and in the process delaying faster cars by blocking all overtaking lanes on the road. Any way after Charoti toll, the traffic opened up and we took our first stop at Ahura. Had a sumptuous Parsi breakfast of Salli pe edu and Kheema pau. We had over ordered and the Kheema pau was then packed for lunch later.

It was smooth going after that and we somehow missed the Vapi McDonalds for a loo break and directly stopped at the Surat McDonalds after that. After a freshen up and coffee we continued our journey. I missed the NH-8 golden bridge exit into Bharuch and was delayed by half an hour due to slow moving truck traffic on the Narmada bridge.

After that it was all clear and we soon touched NE-1 and reached Ahmedabad in about 7.5 hours. We had booked Oyorooms in Avadh palace hotel near Vishala and after a quick lunch of the leftover kheema pau had a well deserved afternoon nap at the hotel.

The evening was reserved for a dinner in a village themed restaurant called Vishala, which is a pretty good place to have pure veg Gujrati food in a rustic village environment. For about Rs. 633 per head it includes some Gujarati folk entertainment, food in a patravals including loads of fresh white butter in small kullads. The food is delicious and not really heavy for a multi item Gujarati thali. They also have a lovely utensils museum that is worth a visit. It was just an amazing experience and I highly recommend a visit here to anyone visiting Ahmedabad. I refueled at the Shell bunk adjacent to the hotel.

Leg 2: Ahmedabad-Moti Virani via Bachau-Bhuj

Next morning we were off at 6:30 AM and our first stop was at Honest restaurant near Surendranagar for some Handvo breakfast. Honest has many restaurants all over Gujarat serving veg food and is a safe bet on the highways of Gujarat. The road was first class and devoid of any traffic and 120 KMPH was the cruising speed with occasional bursts to 140. Next stop was Maliya for a loo break. Passed a huge area of salt pans with huge wind mills everywhere and this was the first sign of the great Rann for me. After some confusion around the Kandla exit flyover for Bacahu, Bhuj was reached sometime around 12:30 PM. Only the road after Bachau is bad for a few kms in this other wise lovely stretch to Bhuj. At Bhuj took a break for some fresh juices at Budhiya, who is local celebrity for serving fresh fruit juices including some unusual flavors like Ber, Jamun etc. Next stop was Moti Virani after traversing through Bhuj city which was our final destination for GRK. we stayed with Mr. Jugal Tiwari who runs a nice little homestay called Centre for Desert and Ocean (CEDO). This place is highly recommended for birding around the Great Rann. The stay at CEDO was very comfortable with Mr Tiwari and his crew taking great care of us. Food is contracted out to a local guy who serves simple home cooked food so all concerns of oily, spicy food are taken care of. They pack a lovely little hamper for breakfast which is had around 8 AM in the open grassland area called Banni. This place is also famous as a good site for finding fossils especially oceanic fossils. Mr Tiwai also has a neat collection of fossils that is worth seeing at his homestay.

The next 3 days were spent birding in the Greater Rann and on the last afternoon of our stay we even went to the White Rann which is definitely a place to visit if you are in this area. The Rann here is actually white for as long as your eyes can see due to the salt deposited on the surface.


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We got to see a number of lifers here including Stolickzas Bushchat, Red tailed wheatear, Indian Courser, Sykes Nightjar, Marshall's Iora, White Naped Tit among the star species. We missed the Grey Hypocolius which was a must see for us, but then we are already planning for another trip here in Feb 2016.

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Leg 3: Moti Virani-Bajana (LRK)

Next stop was Royal Safari camp at Bajana for LRK. The journey from Moti Virani to LRK was uneventful except for breakfast at ILark hotel at Bhuj which is one of the 2 good hotels at Bhuj. Price being the other one.
After a smooth check in at Royal Safari, lunch was served (typical restaurant food). This place costs around 6.5k for a couple for AC rooms, all meals and a 4X4 safari to the Rann. The evening safari on a Mahindra Thar Di was at the Bajana grassland for some excellent sightings of the Short Eared Owl, Wild Ass, Hyenas along with countless Common Cranes.
Next day early morning safari was at Udho area for McQueens Bustard. The Mcqueens Bustard like all Bustards are quite rare and very shy and hardly come near the safari vehicle. Anyway was able to get a few shots albeit at a distance.

Evening was for water birds and Harriers. I enjoyed photographing all of these and a Wild Ass fight between males for dominance.

The next morning safari was for raptor watching and I was obliged with excellent sightings of the Greater spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagle.

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Leg 4: Bajana-Jamnagar
Lovely LRK and GRK, was followed by Jamnagar. The drive to Jamnagar was smooth except for a few patches around rural areas. We checked in at the President hotel and after a quick lunch were on our way by foot to Lakhota lake. Its really amazing to see such a lot birds in the center of the city amid all the noise and pollution. We were here specifically for the Pelicans and the murmurations of the Rosy starlings who assemble here by the thousands. Evening was spent at the Chaandi bazar area for shopping and then a Gujarati Thali at Brhamaniya.

The next day was reserved for a drive to Balachadi to see Crab Plovers and we were not disappointed. They gladly posed for some shots and we moved on to Narara beach for the afternoon session. Now this an interesting and a unique place in India and is known for its marine sanctuary. In the low tide and after a trek of over 6-7 kms among the corals we sighted a puffer fish, octopus, sea anemones, many types corals, crabs, sea weeds and birds. This a must visit for any nature lover and no amount of words can do justice to this place.


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On our return from Narara, we stopped over at Jain Vijay Farsan shop. They make you try so many things here that one can easily skip dinner on all the mouth watering farsan that you try here. So khaman, khakra, kachori and all were not only tried but also purchased for consumption later.

Leg 5: Jamnagar to Navi Mumbai via Rajkot-NE1-Surat

After some intensive birding we were to start our journey back to Navi Mumbai the next day, so after a peaceful sleep at night we started at 9:40 AM in the morning. Road to Rajkot was good and after a McDonalds stop we were on NE1 on our way to Baroda. Decided to take the golden bridge at Bharuch and joined NH-8 without any problems this time. Stopped at Sugar and Spice after Surat for a late lunch and reached Charoti toll by late evening when a drunk in a Wagon R decided to overtake our parked car through a little space that was just not enough for a car to pass through and damaged my right wheel arch. I got down and confronted the guy but unfortunately no Police or help line number could be reached and the guy got away scot free. I still feel bad about the incident and really am ashamed at the entire system that we have that can make one fell so helpless when needed. Anyway got stuck in a dreaded traffic jam before the creek bridge before entry into Ghodbunder and finally reached home by 10:45 PM. So a lovely journey spanning over 2500 kms on my trusty Ford Figo TDCi, marred by just a small incident which will always remain etched in my mind.
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Old 8th December 2015, 16:43   #2
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Default re: Gujarat birding hotspots: Mumbai to GRK, LRK & Jamnagar

Some more photos from the trip

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Last edited by SPARKled : 17th December 2015 at 11:14.
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Old 19th December 2015, 13:34   #3
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Default Re: Gujarat birding hotspots: Mumbai to GRK, LRK & Jamnagar

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 6th January 2016, 18:49   #4
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Default Re: Gujarat birding hotspots: Mumbai to GRK, LRK & Jamnagar

Quote:
Originally Posted by SPARKled View Post
Leg 3: Moti Virani-Bajana (LRK)

Next stop was Royal Safari camp at Bajana for LRK. The journey from Moti Virani to LRK was uneventful except for breakfast at ILark hotel at Bhuj which is one of the 2 good hotels at Bhuj. Price being the other one.
After a smooth check in at Royal Safari, lunch was served (typical restaurant food). This place costs around 6.5k for a couple for AC rooms, all meals and a 4X4 safari to the Rann. The evening safari on a Mahindra Thar Di was at the Bajana grassland for some excellent sightings of the Short Eared Owl, Wild Ass, Hyenas along with countless Common Cranes.
Next day early morning safari was at Udho area for McQueens Bustard. The Mcqueens Bustard like all Bustards are quite rare and very shy and hardly come near the safari vehicle. Anyway was able to get a few shots albeit at a distance.

Evening was for water birds and Harriers. I enjoyed photographing all of these and a Wild Ass fight between males for dominance.

The next morning safari was for raptor watching and I was obliged with excellent sightings of the Greater spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagle.
Brings back memories of our visit to LRK.

So you did not visit the Nava Talav, I guess? That is a swampy lake where you can see a very large concentration of water birds and waders (including flamingoes, cranes, storks, herons, ibises, ducks, etc.) at very close quarters. It is outside the wild ass sanctuary, but hardly 10 min drive from Royal Safari camp (after the Bajana entrance to the sanctuary). We spent about 3 hours there early in the morning and we were the only people around for the entire time.

Good photos! Post some more pics, if possible.
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