Birding & Mammal Watching Tour - Gujarat

Day 01. Arrive in Ahmedabad, Assistance on arrival, and drive to Velavadar National Park - (4hrs). Rest of the day at leisure – Stay at a Wildlife Lodge at Velavadar.

Day 02. Morning and Afternoon Safaris by open jeeps /Gypsys in Velavadar National Park known for its large blackbuck antelope population, Velavadar is also one of the few places where the wolf is proliferating in India though they are rarely seen in the daylight. Jackal, jungle cat and hare are more easily seen and Indian foxes are on the periphery. Sirkeer malkoha, painted francolin, chestnut-bellied and spotted sandgrouse, rufous-tailed, crested and Sykes’ larks, red-rumped swallows, desert and variable wheatears and other birds are seen and many raptors visit especially short-toed snake eagle, imperial, steppe, tawny, greater and lesser spotted eagles, laggard falcon, hobby, common kestrel, red-necked falcon, peregrine falcon, white-eyed and long-legged buzzard, black-shouldered kite, shikra, Eurasian sparrow-hawk and occasionally northern goshawk. Rarities include Stoilczka’s bush chat. In the evening, witness a massive roost of Montagu, pallid and marsh harrier. Stay at a Wildlife Lodge at Velavadar.

Day 03. Post breakfast departs by road for Sasan Gir (4hrs), scrub gradually developing into one of the world's largest tracts of dry deciduous woodland as the terrain becomes more undulating to the south and west. Within this landscape is Gir National Park, the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion, a highly endangered species whose range once extended as far as Greece. Today the population of this species stands at around 400 ++ individuals which, together with the 300 or so Leopards within the sanctuary, bestows Gir with one of the most significant concentrations of big cats in India. Day at Leisure.

Day 04-05. Am / Pm Safaris {04 Safaris in Gir National Park} by open Gypsy. Gir is the last abode of the Asiatic lion and has a thriving population of the panther (leopard), sambar, chital (spotted deer), nilgai (blue bull antelope) and wild boar. Other key mammals include Chinkara, or Indian Gazelle, and Chousingha, the world's only four-horned antelope. The forests, interspersed with grasslands and dissected by rivers, also support a diverse avifauna, with key species here including Brown Fish and Mottled Wood Owls, Laggar Falcon, White-bellied Minivet, Rufous Treepie, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Marshall's Iora, Tawny-bellied and Yellow-eyed Babblers, Rufous-fronted Prinia, and Black-headed Cuckooshrike. Spend day 4 exploring the forests of Gir from the open jeep. Nights in a comfortable wildlife lodge on the edge of the sanctuary.

Day 06. Drive to Jamnagar. Afternoon visit to Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, a possible site for the Indian skimmer. This sanctuary is a breeding area for many species of birds that do not nest elsewhere in peninsular India. Great-crested grebe, black-necked stork, Caspian tern, and many other birds can be seen. Stay at a Decent Hotel.

Day 07. Visit coastal areas along the Gulf of Kutch, one of the finest birding stretches along the Indian coastline. You are likely to see crab-plover, Kentish plover, oystercatcher, ruddy turnstone, broad-billed sandpiper, sanderling, dunlin, curlew sandpiper, black-headed gull, Pallas’ gull, Temminck's stint, lesser-crested tern, gull-billed tern, common tern, little tern, black-bellied tern, whiskered tern, whiskered tern, darters, western reef egret, and other birds could be seen on this route. Stay at a Decent Hotel.

Day 08. Drive from Jamnagar to the Gulf of Kutch into the Kutch peninsula passing good wetlands and dry land bird habitats.to Moti Virani near the town of Bhuj (6hrs). Stay at Cedo Camp. {A basic facility run by a conservation organization.}

Day 09. After breakfast visits the roost of the Grey Hypocolius at Fulay, one of the few sites where this bird is seen in India. Afternoon tour the Banni region, India’s largest grassland area. This is one of the important bird areas with a great concentration of Aquila and other eagles. The water bodies here are known for their large flocks of waterfowl. Stay at Cedo Camp.

Day 10. Morning & Afternoon Jeep Safari with a local expert naturalist to Lala Bustard Sanctuary. This is also a breeding area of Lesser Florican, although this secretive bird is rarely seen outside of the monsoon when it displays conspicuously. Other key species here include White-browed (Stoliczka's) Bushchat, White-naped Tit and Rufous-fronted Prinia in the thorn forests of Phot Mahadev, Marshall's Iora, Grey-necked Bunting, Indian and Cream-colored Coursers, Red-tailed Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, various waterfowl in Banni's Chhari Dhand, and a host of gulls and waders in the Jakhau mangrove swamps and Pingleshwar sea coast. Some of the more distinctive mammals of the region include Desert Cat, Chinkara or Indian Gazelle, Long-eared and Pallas's Hedgehogs, and Indian Desert Jird. Stay at Cedo Camp.

Day 11. Depart Moti Virani in the morning of day 11 to spend the day driving east to the Little Rann of Kutch (7hrs), birding en-route, in particular for the numerous raptors of the region which include Bonelli's, Short-toed and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Red-headed Falcon, and six species of vulture. Spend the evening, and following three days exploring a part of what is perhaps the bleakest, dustiest, most desolate region of India. At its furthest extension the Gulf of Kutch, along with much of northern Kutch touching the border of Pakistan has been transformed by geological uplift and the resultant marine transgression into an immense region of salt flats, inundated to a depth of 0.5m during the monsoon when it becomes one of the world's largest saline wetlands. This unique environment is preserved as India's largest protected area, a part of which is the Wild Ass Sanctuary whose principal role is the strict protection of the last remaining population of Khur, or Asiatic Wild Ass. Stay at an Eco-Friendly Wildlife Resort.

Day 12. Morning & afternoon safari in the Little Rann of Kutch, a sanctuary for the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass. The mammals of the Rann other than the wild ass, there are chances of seeing nilgai, chinkara gazelle, white-footed desert and Indian foxes, the wolf, jungle cat (occasionally also a desert cat), pale and long-eared hedgehogs and hare.

Crested and Sykes larks, Oriental skylark, bimaculated lark, greater short-toed lark, singing and Indian bush larks, ashy-crowned and black-crowned sparrow-larks, are likely sightings and greater hoopoe lark is possible. Desert and variable wheatears, southern grey, long-tailed, rufous-tailed and bay-back shrike, common wood shrike are also likely sightings and the desert warbler is among the many winter visiting warblers. We will also look for Chestnut-bellied and spotted sandgrouse, Indian courser (cream-coloured visits occasionally), quails, yellow-legged and barred buttonquails, grey francolin, wryneck, brown-rock chat, pied bush chat, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, blue-headed rock thrush, black redstart and buntings in the scrubby areas. At sunset, it is possible to watch marsh, Montagu and pallid harriers, Aquila eagles, falcons and buzzards heading for their roosting sites. Stay at an Eco-Friendly Wildlife Resort.

Day 13. Morning drive to the bets, elevated patches in the Rann covered with scrub and grass. In winter, this is a likely area for Macqueen’s bustard. Long-legged, common and white-eyed buzzard, booted eagle, Bonneli’s eagle. Short-toed snake eagles are often seen during the drive.

Evening visit to Nawa Talao, a lake where demoiselle and common cranes gather in large flocks during the winter months. Greater and lesser flamingos are seen in large numbers as are great white pelicans with spot billed and Dalmatian recorded. Painted, open bill, woolly-necked, white, black and black-necked stork could be seen as also black, glossy and black-headed ibis. Northern pintail, common teal, spot-billed duck, mallard, gadwall, wigeon, garganey, shoveler, cotton pygmy goose, pochards, tufted duck, lesser whistling duck, brahminy and comb duck are among the many visitors to the lake. Waders include pratincoles, lapwings, sandpipers, ruff and other birds in good numbers. Stay at an Eco-Friendly Wildlife Resort.

 

Day 14. Today with an early packed breakfast drive to Nalsarovar – Reach Nalsarovar before sunrise. Nalsarovar is a shallow lake that occurs over a flat, extensive low-lying stretch of land in Gujarat. The lake covers an area of about 115 sq. km. on land, which is mainly marshy. The lake is situated at the junction of the Saurashtra plateau with the Gujarat mainland. It is rain-fed and serves as a water catchment area in the monsoons. Local made Boat Safari in the wetlands of Nalsarovar attract a wide variety of birds. About 250 species of birds may be seen here, including large species of waterfowl. These include residents and winter migrants. Various water birds, such as flamingos, pelicans, storks, ducks, egrets, and herons flock at the lake in winter. Kingfishers and darters also make themselves at home here. You may come across cormorants fishing in the lake with their dagger-like beaks or snipes and godwits probing in the mud for food. Jacanas, Moore hens, grebes, coots, and ducks have an interesting straining mechanism where they lift plant food submerged in water in their bills and then consume only the plant matter, straining out the water. Later proceed to Ahmedabad. Lunch and stay at a hotel in Ahmedabad.

Day 15. Proceed to the Domestic / International Airport for onward flight.