The state of Gujarat is located in western India is renowned for its topographical and cultural diversities. Being the cradle of the Indus Valley Civilization, Gujarat has always remained a prominent cultural and trade centre throughout the history of India. There are many attractions that dot this state and travellers come here from far and wide to explore the beauty of this region.
One such attraction here are the many wildlife sanctuaries that Gujarat has. It is believed that these sanctuaries hold over 40 species of animals, of which some are rare and endangered. It is a hub for wildlife addicts and photographers who come here to be up close with these magnificent beasts and learn more about them. Here is a guide to five thrilling wildlife sanctuaries in the state of Gujarat.
1) Vansda National Park, Vansda
PC: Saswat Mishra
You shall enjoy this lovely place situated in the Navsari district of the state of Gujarat. Why the name Vansda? This is because it was the private property of the Maharaja of Vansda. The park is now looked after with great care by the government of Gujarat and is proclaimed as one of the most uniquely protected areas of the state.
Your eyes shall meet a splendid array of flora and fauna while it is coloured with moist deciduous and dry deciduous trees as well. Be it tall teak trees, orchids, gigantic creepers or mango groves: these are the most significant trees of the forest. What all does it comprise of? 110 species of trees, 43 species of shrubs, 63 species of climbers, 25 species of grass as well as 199 species of herbs as well.
The credit for the dense plant growth which takes place here goes to the heavy rainfall of over 2000 mm. The landscape sparkles like a precious gem with small streams, trees, valleys as well as mesmerizing groups of hills. If you notice the northeastern boundary of the park, Ambika river gushes through it. The park is home to mammals like Giant squirrel, wild boar, Hanuman Langur, Common palm civet, Small Indian Civet, Indian Porcupine, Four-horned antelope, Barking deer, Hyena, Jungle Cat, Flying squirrel etc.
You shall also come across reptiles like Python, Russel's Viper, cobras, Kraits as well as venomous snakes. Do not miss out on birds like the Yellow-backed Sunbird, Grey Hornbill, Forest Wagtail, Paradise Flycatcher, Leaf Birds, Thrushes, Malabar trogon, Peafowls, Forest spotted owlet, Pompadour pigeon as well as Indian great black woodpecker.
2) Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar
Let us tell you about this private grassland of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar where he would follow his passion of hunting cheetas and blackbucks. The blackbuck is quite an endangered species as of now so the sanctuary serves as its safety net!
But it is only a slight patch of safe ground which is now double the size of what it was back in 1976, it covers some 34 sq km and is only one-sixth of the size of the city of Ahmedabad. The breeding months for blackbucks are October and February.
Other animals who have made their way into the sanctuary include the Nilgai (Indian antelope), wolf, jungle cat, jackal as well as the fiery fox.
Nevertheless, the bird life is yet another marvellous arena to admire. You shall be simply delighted to spot the zesty Pelicans, flamingoes, three kinds of cranes, painted storks, a lot of birds of prey as well as the rare Stolizca's Bushcat. All of these are present in the southern part of the park where all the wetlands lie.
The cold winter months will bring you face-to-face with thousands of harriers from Central Europe who spend the evenings feeding on the nearby cotton fields.
Have you heard about a rare species of bird called the Lesser Florican? It is one of 50 rarest birds in the world while a special mention can also be given to the Montagu's Harrier which is a major predator of the locust! The park plays a significant role in local agriculture.
3) Narara Marine National Park, Jamnagar
Well, the most interesting facts about this park is that it has coral reefs, seagrass beds, mudflats, mangroves, other ecosystems as well as a vast network of creeks with plenty of variety of marine and bird life.
We bet you shall be amazed by the colourful palette of pufferfish, Olive Ridley as well as Leatherback sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, dolphins, rays, jellyfish, starfish, sea anemones, corals, molluscs, prawns, sponges, octopuses as well as the exotic marine flowering plants.
It shall be an enriching experience to see the coastal birds enjoying the marine life to the fullest. The mangroves here become breeding grounds for bird species such as Darter, Painted Stork and also keep your eyes wide open for the Black-necked Ibis.
Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is a stone's throw away from Jamnagar. You shall merrily spot thousands of migratory birds here. The place becomes a beautiful surprise for all the avid bird fanatics and photography enthusiasts.
Another interesting factor about this place is the presence of tides: two low ones and two high ones. Every 12 hours, you shall feel the occurrence of the high tides and the Coral walk is also squeezed in between these two high tides. If you are eager about when does the tide reach its highest point at Narara? Then it definitely is the 3.5 hours which it takes but it is advisable to visit the place only during the safe low tides!
4) Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, Little Rann of Kutch
PC: Ranjan Ghosal
This shall come as a surprise to you, sprawling across 5000 sq km of the Little Rann, you shall find that the Wild Ass Sanctuary is the only place where the Equus hemionus khur, also known as ghudhkar, is still present.
If you snoop around the high arid plateaus of Tibet, you can again spot the other two subspecies of wild asses in their local environments. Two metres in length and just more than a metre tall at the shoulder, these wild asses are more replicative of the wild horses which run at a speed of 50 km/h: making them all the more captivating.
Roaming around in herds, you shall find at least 3000 of them living in the sanctuary! Starting from the salty desert area, dating from the monsoons to the wetlands where freshwater rivers which drain through the Rann and mix with the seawater of the Gulf of Kutch, scrub forests are also found and so is a variety of vegetation types as well as a similar lot of animals inhabiting the area. You shall find two types of desert fox along with other animals like jackals, caracals, nilgais, Indian wolves, blackbucks as well as striped hyenas.
5) Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Nalsarovar
PC: Vaibhav Sheth
Just imagine a black-tailed godwit which gracefully flutters its wings and sits quietly in a serene mood after having travelled from its nesting ground in Central Europe, which is 3500 km away, to the winter months in Nalsarovar.
More than 200 birds adapt to this long journey only to keep away from the harsh conditions prevailing in their nesting area. Here, they are nicely welcomed with food and warmth as well as the migrants which visit during the months of November and February, do not find a deficit of water and fish as well as insects and aquatic plants.
An ideal environment is created for the birds and Nalsarovar is a spectacular sight to the eyes and a true delight for the bird-watchers. Whenever the birds face a scarcity of water here, they temporarily migrate to nearby areas until it is replenished with fishes and insects and they rush back to Nalsarovar. They are deemed as happy resident birds.
The Nalsarovar is bordered by wetlands which was declared a bird sanctuary in 1969 while the habitat comprising of the lake, extensive reed beds and marshes made it completely ideal for the marine plants and animals. You shall also find birds like sandpipers, plovers and stints here.
6) Porbandar Bird Sanctuary, Porbandar
PC: Shailesh Raval
It was given the prestigious position of a wildlife sanctuary back in 1988. This sanctuary in the western part of the state is a lovely example of how man and nature present a perfect example of co-existence.
The sanctuary follows the migratory pattern of the birds and the area faithfully supports quite a lovely population of flamingos as well as other resident and migratory waterfowls. As it has been noted during the coming favourable years, flamingos prefer this area for nesting purposes.
7) Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Great Rann of Kutch
PC: Suneel kapur
This proves to be one of the largest seasonal saline wetland areas having water depth between 0.5 to 1.5 m. But unfortunately, during October-November, you shall find that all the water has dried up and the entire place transforms into a saline desert. Yet, it is home to a splendid array of water birds plus a marvellous spread of mammalian wildlife.
How about a few more attractions to pique your interest? Planted below the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks on Khadir, Kuvar and Pachcham islands, you will have a lot of fossils of vertebrates, invertebrates as well as plant species.
Records have been preserved of fossils of dinosaurs, crocodiles of the Dinosaurian period and whales of the tertiary period. Fossilised forests have also made way into the rocks belonging to Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. You shall be relieved to meet amonites, sea urchins and many others too. You shall come across a lot of timid, spiny-tailed lizards scampering around in abundance in the sanctuary and giving you happy smiles.
And the list continues to include Chinkara, fox, hyena and nilgai and sometimes you can spot the caracal also. When it comes to migratory and resident birds, one can spot raptors, Houbara bustard and many others.
8) Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Kutch District
Do you love the rains? Then you shall love this sanctuary. You can take a wondrous walk in this lovely park while you make friends with various species belonging to the Bustard family.
You shall gasp at the marvellous black and grey francolin, the Spotted and Indian sandgrouse, quails, shrikes, larks, coursers and plovers. Consider yourself really lucky if you manage to grasp flitting glimpses of rare species of stolicska's bushchat and white-naped tit.
Keep to the northern side of the coastal area and you shall be surrounded by flocks of flamingos, herons, egrets, sandpipers as well as other birds staying in the salt-reservoirs and the creek too.
A tour up the watch-tower will make you come face to face with flocks and flocks of Indian gazelle as well as wolfs dotting the entire landscape while scampering around the sanctuary will make you best of friends with the friendly nilgais.
9) Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch District
PC: Ivy Dey
How do you think the Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary must have got its name? From the village and lake with the exact same names situated in Lakhpat in Kutchh in the northwest of Gujarat in western India.
This place shall leave you mesmerized with an age-old Shiva temple called Koteshwar, a jyotirlinga site and most people want to visit Narayan Sarovar usually because it is the abode of a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
It is believed that Lord Vishnu came to this place, formed the lake and made it his residing place. The lake is a pious one like Mansarovar and it is proudly deemed as one of the Panch Sarovar for pilgrimages in India. The Koteshwar Temple, you shall find is located next to a marsh and the legends shall always be there to surprise us with facts like according to the mythology, Ravana was granted a boon by Shiva and embraced a magical lingam that granted the gift of immortality provided it was not lost on the way to Lanka. However, he was baffled when he was tricked into leaving the Lingam at Koteshwar and it just diminished into tiny pieces.
10) Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Banaskantha district
Situated in the foothills of Aravalli Hills, Jessore Hill is said to be the second highest peak in Gujarat. The sanctuary is quite well-known for the endangered sloth bear. Keep a count of other faunal species like leopards, Rhesus macaque, Indian civet cat, porcupine, fox, striped hyena as well as wild boar.
Be it land birds or water birds, forests provides a suitable habitat for all of them. Plenty of rare and endangered species of birds as per the UCN classification will be found in the sanctuary as well. Reptiles found here include snakes, tortoises and many types of lizards. Catch a glimpse of the rarest Indian python and add it to your memories.
11) Gir National Park, Gir
PC: Asim Patel
The Gir Forest National Park is also known as Sasan-Gir and is a forest as well as a wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat. It is the sole home of the Asiatic Lions that is among the most endangered species. The forest area of Gir and its lions were declared as 'protected' in the early 1900s by the Nawab of Junagadh in order to ensure the conservation of the lions whose population had plummeted to only 15 at the time due to hunting.
The sanctuary is home to many more animals namely Leopards, Hyenas, Chital, Nilgai, Wild Boar, etc. Tourists coming here can go on a safari into the forest to see these amazing creatures and know more about them. It is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers who can closely watch these animals and appreciate their beauty.
12) Barda Wildlife Sanctuary, Porbandar
The Barda Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Gujarat and has several forest sub-types, such as southern tropical forest, southern dry mixed deciduous forest, and northern tropical thorn forest.
The most notable wildlife here includes Nilgai, Chinkara and wolf. Barda was also known to have had a permanent population of lions but they are believed to have deserted the area towards the end of the 19th century. Wildlife enthusiasts coming here can head out on a safari and see these amazing beasts.