Tragopan Tours Birding In India - Banni Grassland, Gujarat
Bird Tour India - Gujarat and North Western India Bird Gallery - Birds In Gujarat and North Western India

From the Arabian Sea to desolate and saline plains and arid grasslands of the Rann of Kutch – Velavadar National Park, Gir National Park, Okha Island, Little and Great Rann of Kutch.

Suitable time: Mid October to March

Gir National Park

On the south-western fringe of the Saurashtra peninsula the Gir National park is the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion. It encompasses 1412 square km. of dry deciduous and thorn forest. The assortment of birds include Red-naped Ibis, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Rock Bush Quail, Crested Treeswift and Indian Scimitar-Babbler to mention but a few.

Little Rann of Kutch

Dhrangadhra Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary in the Little Rann is one of the largest sanctuaries in the Indian subcontinent and comprises a range ofsaline desert plains, arid grasslands, rocky outcrops and shallow lakes. Both the Little and Great Rann are at sea level which get inundated during the rains and otherwise are a flat area for the rest of the year. Little Rann is the last refuge of the Khur, the Indian subspecies of Asiatic Wild Ass. Many birds like Red-naped Falcon and Syke’s Nightjar are comparatively easy to see here. In the recent years the rare Sociable Lapwing has been sighted near Dasada.

Great Rann of Kutch

Few birders make it this far. In spite of being at first sight a vast expanse of salt-flat wilderness, the Great Rann of Kutch is astonishingly rich in birds, during winter it is home to millions of waterfowl alongside desert birds like Great Indian and MacQueen’s Bustards and ten species of larks. The resident Marshall’s Ioraand White-naped Tit are found in scrub forest while Grey Hypocolius is a winter visitor.

Marine National Park and Okha Island, Gulf of Kutch

At the western end of Saurashtra Peninsula located in the Gulf of Kutch, Marine National Park and Okha Island offers exciting shorebirds including peculiar Crab Plover. Large number of gulls and terns are also common.

Velavadar National Park

The main attraction of the coastal grassland of Velavadar near the Gulf of Cambay is the elegant Blackbuck which is impossible to miss ! Indian Wolfis the main predator in the park. Velavadar is known for one of the largest harrier roosts in the world. These include mainly Montagu’s, Pallid and a few Marsh Harriers.

Day 1: Flight from Mumbai to Bhavnagar and visit Velavadar National Park

The tour starts at Mumbai and we take a short one hour flight to Bhavnagar situated in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat. Bhavnagar is one of the textile centres of western India and a busy town. After breakfast we will head towards our first birding location, Velavadar National Park. Velavadar is a grassland habitat of 34 square km and is famous for the roosting site of harriers. Impressive concentrations of Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier are seen in winter months. The reserve has impressive population of Blackbuck, one of the world’s most handsome antelope. Velavadar is home to the highly threatened Indian Wolf and one of the best places to look for Striped Hyena. In addition to large number of Common Cranes we can expect Bimaculated, Rufous-tailed, Crested and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Desert and Variable Wheatears, Paddyfield and Sykes’ Warblers.

Night stay ata comfortable city hotel at Bhavnagar

Day 2-3: Gir National Park

We will drive to Gir National Park in the morning after breakfast. The journey takes 4-5 hours. On the way to Gir from Bhavnagar there are opportunities to watch birds.There are lots of opportunities to check up the local ‘Gujarati’ culture as we pass through many villages. As we approach Gir, we  pass through tribal villages of ‘Maldharis’, a community sharing the forests of Saurashtra with the Asiatic Lions. On arrival and after lunch, we will take a drive in the reserve and two more drives on day three.

We will explore Gir National Park, the last home of the Asiatic Lion with an area of 1412 square km of deciduous and thorn forest. Once abundant in western and central India and hunted down to ridiculously low numbers, it was due to the efforts of the Nawab of Junagadh, the Asiatic Lion still survives. It is estimated that more than 300 lions survive in the wild. Gir has a high density of Leopards though they are far more elusive. Big predators need large prey base and Gir has healthy populations of Spotted and Sambar Deer and Nilgai. In addition to the big mammals the park is home to interesting birds and we will look for Red-naped Ibis, Changeable Hawk and Bonelli’s Eagle, Sirkeer Malkoha, Crested Treeswift, Mottled Wood Owl, Indian Scimitar-Babbler and White-bellied Minivet.

Night stay at a wildlife lodge at Sasan Gir.

Day 4: Drive to Jamnagar and Khejadiya Wildlife Sanctuary

After an early breakfast we will drive to coastal city of Jamnagar on the Gulf of Kutch. It takes five to six hours and we arrive at lunch time. Jamnagar is an old town and offers a cultural peep into ancient Gujarati culture. The city is decorated with old buildings and bazaars (old market place). In the afternoon we will visit Khejadiya Wildlife Sanctuary just 6 km to the east of the city. Khejadiya is a unique wetland with half of the waterbody having fresh water and the rest having saline water. This strange combination supports diverse wildlife. We shall come across thousands of wintering Common and Demoiselle Cranes. Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, Black-necked Stork, Baillon’s Crake, Small Pratincole, Indian Reed Warbler and various waders inhabit this sanctuary.

Night stay at a comfortable hotel at Jamnagar

Day 5: Marine National Park and Okha Island, Gulf of Kutch

We shall venture out to check Marine National Park this morning. Okha Island on the western tip of the Marine National Park at the mouth of the Gulf of Kutch is great place for waders, gulls and terns. The Crab Plover which forms large concentrations on the island should not be difficult to find. We shall also have close encounters with two species of flamingoes – Greater and Lesser Flamingo and Western Reef Heron. It is a good place for testing your skills in identifying Heuglin’s, Yellow-legged, Brown-headed, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls and Gull-billed, Caspian, Lesser Crested, Sandwich, River, Black-bellied and Whiskered Terns.

Night stay at a comfortable hotel at Jamnagar

Day 6: Surroundings of Jamnagar and drive to Bhuj

Today morning we spend some time birding around Jamnagar before embarking upon a seven hour journey to Bhuj, situated in the heart of Kutch. Part of the fun of traveling in this remote part is fascinating scenery ofseveral thousand kilometres of flat desert almost at sea level. On the permanent waterbodies falling on the route numerous waterbirds including Dalmatian and White Pelicans can be expected.

Night stay at a comfortable hotel at Bhuj.

Day 7-9: Great Rann of Kutch

We have three full days to search for the special birds of the Great Rann – Grey Hypocolius, White-naped Tit, Marshall’s Iora and Syke’s Lark. While White-naped Tit, an endemic species is confined to vanishing scrub forest, the Grey Hypocolius is a winter migrant in small numbers and reaches India only in the Great Rann of Kutch. We will explore the scrub area around Fulay for Grey Hypocolius. This species is partial to the berries of ‘Peelu’ (Salvadora persica) also known as Toothbrush Tree. Incredible number of Common Cranes and raptors mainly Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagles will be at Chhari Dhand ( a dhand is a depression and when this fills with water the area is crawling with birds)in Banni Grasslands. Scrub forest on rocky outcrops on the way to Chhari Dhand is good habitat for buntings including Grey-necked and House Bunting. Rock Eagle Owl, Rufous-tailed Wheatear and Desert Warbler are also found in this area and should not be difficult to find.

We will visit suitable grassland areas to look for the Great Indian Bustard, Black Francolin and Stoliczka’s Bushchat. This will include visit to Lala Bustard Sanctuary, a good place to look for Stoliczka Bushchat and there are good chances of coming across Great Indian Bustard as well. On visit to Jakhau salt pans, mud flats and mangrove patches and sea coast at Pingleshwar we can expect Broad-billed Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Huglin’s and Slender-billed Gulls, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns. The rare White-naped Tit and Marshall’s Iora are found in scrub forests and we will visit suitable habitat to check up these species. In the evening drive on remote desert roads, close to our lodge Syke’s Nightjar can be encountered.

Night stay in lodges at Tera and Nakhtrana.

Day 10-11: Little Rann of Kutch

After spending three days in Great Rann of Kutch, we head towards Dasada on the edge of Little Rann of Kutch for two nights stay. Although austere and barren looking land like the Great Rann with almost no landmarks, Little Rann is rich in birds and other wildlife. During winters wetlands are teeming with waterfowl. The area is also rich in larks and wheatears. The Little Rann is well known for Indian Wild Ass and we will surely encounter these attractive mammals which once freely roamed on the plains of north-west India but are now confined to the Little Rann. We will look for the wintering MacQueen’s Bustard, Wooly-necked Stork, Sarus and Common Crane, endangered Dalmatian Pelican, the little known and rare Syke’s Nightjar, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Indian Courser and Yellow-wattled Lapwing.

Night stay at a wildlife camp at Dasada or Zainabad

Day 12: Drive to Ahmadabad and flight to Mumbai

Today morning we leave Dasada/ Zainabad and drive to Ahmadabad, the old capital of Gujarat and one of the biggest textile centres of India and take a short flight to Mumbai to connect to our international flight.


We will be using mix of comfortable city hotels, luxury camps, jungle lodges and wherever unavoidable, basic but neat and clean lodges.


Domestic flights from Mumbai to Bhavnagar and from Ahmadabad to Mumbai and road transport is by small coach or car but in some areas jeep is also used. Easy walks in the field.


Typically the winter is dry and sunny in this part of India and it is cool to warm although early mornings can be cold. Rain is uncommon.


Photographic opportunities are good overall. On this tour confiding birds, good lighting and preponderance of open spaces makes photography easy.


The tour can be extended for three or four nights beyond Ahmadabad to Melaghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra to see the rare Forest Owlet or to the Desert National Park in the state of Rajasthan to see species like Cream-coloured Courser, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Desert Warbler and Trumpeter Finch.

Demoiselle Crane
Eurasian Roller
Greater Flamingo
Indian Courser
Isabelline Wheatear
Marshal's Iora
Ruddy Turnstone
Rufous-tailed Lark
Syke's Nightjar
Baya Weaver
Trumpeter Finch
Great Indian Bustard
Laggar Falcon
Grey Hypocolius
Desert Fox
Asiatic Wild Ass

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