Gujarat Desert Mammal Tour
January 4, 2023 - January 18, 2023£725 – £3307
Gujarat Desert Mammal Tour
Indian wildlife is usually defined by tigers and elephants that prowl the jungles and lush grasslands of central and north-eastern India. However there is a very different ecosystem that lies in the north-west of India in the wonderful state of Gujarat. Gujarat is a desert state and home to some of India’s best and least known national parks. On this tour you will searching out some of India’s predators that live in the shadow of tigers elsewhere such as leopards and Indian wolves as well as some species that cling to their existence in the last few strongholds in the harsh and arid landscapes here; such as Asiatic lions, Asiatic wild ass and blackbuck. But this tour is also the only tour in the world where some of India’s least understood species can be seen regularly, such as striped hyenas, Indian gazelles, Indian foxes and four-horned antelopes. This is one of the greatest mammal watching holidays of India and one that will complement any trip or previous experience you have had on a typical tiger safari in India.
See striped hyena at their dens
Stay in great eco-lodges
Expert mammal watching guides
Up to 20 species of mammals
Jeep safaris of 4 National Parks
See lions, leopards, hyenas & wolves
Top Animals on Tour
Asiatic Wild Ass
Tour Dates: 4/1/2023 – 18/1/2023
Duration: 15 nights
Type / Focus: Desert Mammals
On your arrival at Delhi international airport you will meet your zoologist guide and be transferred to your accommodation, level – 3* hotel (Hotel Almondz) and if your flight arrived in the morning you can enjoy some sightseeing today before having a briefing on your tour at your evening meal.
Little Rahn of Kutch
This morning will be an early start, particularly as most internal flights from Delhi leave very early in the morning. So after leaving the hotel you will be taken to the airport where we will breakfast and catch your flight to the capital of Gujurat and the birthplace of Mahatma Ghandi, Ahmedebad (~1 hour). On arrival in this huge desert city you will be met by a local guide / driver and transferred to the accommodation, level eco lodge (Rann Riders Resort). This transfer takes a couple of hours so after checking into the resort and having lunch you will have time for an afternoon game drive into the neighbouring Wild Ass Sanctuary. This is just about the only place in the world where this species still exists and they have bounced back well since being protected here. This is a geographically unique landscape that used to be part of the Arabian Sea. Millennia of tectonic movements have exposed this area as a vast salt encrusted, featureless desert. We focus our wildlife watching on the small bets. These bets are little raised islands where grass and other scrub grows and creates isolated havens for wildlife. Also seen on the bets are nilgai (Indias largest species of antelope and also the largest antelope outside of Africa), Indian gazelles and blackbuck. Blackbuck are stunning antelopes that once spread across the north of India but now are isolated to a handful of places. As the sunsets you will be taken back to the resort for your well deserved evening meal and nights sleep.
Days 3 & 4
Little Rahn of Kutch
For the next 2 days you will enjoy a morning and afternoon game drive in the park, the middle of the day will be spent at the accommodation, level eco-lodge (Rann Riders) where mongooses and bats can be seen occasionally. As well as spending time looking for the ochre coloured asses and graceful antelopes and gazelle species we will also look out for smaller wildlife. Other than the mammal life found here we will try and see some of the local reptile species such as spiny-tailed lizards, red sand boas, common sand boas, saw-scaled vipers, Indian rat snakes as well as many bird species. The Little Rahn of Kutch has been declared a RAMSAR site for its wealth of birdlife and we will look out for sandgrouse, demosille cranes, common cranes and many of the deserts eagle, buzzard and flacon species. From October to March there are many species of birds here as the whole area is used as a rest point for migratory birds heading from Central Asia south to India and vice versa. Of course mammals are our priority on this mammal watching holiday and as the sun begins to fade into the horizon most of the mammal species will be about to start their days. So towards the end of the afternoon game drive we will try and spot Indian fox, desert red fox, golden jackal, Indian gerbil, field mice, pale hedgehog, long-eared hedgehog, black-naped hare and possibly the Indian wolf as they take over the antelopes and birds to begin the night shift.
Great Rahn of Kutch
On the morning of day 5 you will leave the accommodation in the Little Rahn of Kutch and be transferred to Moti Virani which is located in the Banni region just south of the Great Rahn of Kutch. The accommodation, level – eco-lodge (Centre for Desert and Ocean) is a research station that allows wildlife watchers to stay here and experience this incredible ecosystem. The Great Rahn of Kutch is an extension of the Thar Desert (which is part of the same desert system at the Little Rahn of Kutch). We are much nearer the coast here and as a result the birdlife here is extensive. Most visitors here are focused on birds and there are plenty of species here to capture anyones attention; species such as Indian bustards, white-naped tits, crab plovers, grey hypocolius, white-browed bush chat and Sykes crested lark are all some of the hardest species in all of India to see. But there are some good mammal species here too, we will be searching for desert cats, jungle cats, desert red foxes, Indian foxes, Indian wolves and there are also caracals, honey badgers, striped heyna, Indian pangolins and Indian porcupines that have been recorded here (along with a further 35 species of mammals). On the next day we will have mornings and afternoons searching for wildlife and then returning to the accommodation for meals. After a full day around the centre on day 6 you will be taken to the Lala Bustard Sanctuary for the day on day 7. This is great habitat for Indian wolf, golden jackals, Indian foxes and many small mammals as well as being a great place for Indian bustards.
Today you will start the long journey from the Great Rahn of Kutch to the world famous Sasan Gir National Park. This is a long journey so we will break this up by spending tonight at the accommodation, level – boutique hotel (Orchard Palace) here in Gondal. The hotel was built as an annex of the Huzoor Palace and the gardens and royal memorabilia is a nice break from wildlife watching and a nice place to rest. But if you wish the surrounding areas are good for nilgai and small mammals.
Sasan Gir National Park
This morning you will be transferred from Gondal and continue your journey to the last stronghold of Asiatic lions in the world. Asiatic lions were once widespread from Italy in the west to the eastern side of India in the east. Due to habitat destruction and intensive hunting they were reduced to around 20 individuals. However the forests and scrubland of Sasan Gir has been protected for nearly 100 years and their numbers are booming. There are now over 400 lions in the park and they are beginning to spread out into the neighbouring villages. This could lead to human-animal conflicts in the future so there is encouraging talk of reintroducing some of the lions into another national park nearby to start a second population. We will arrive here in plenty of time to check into the accommodation, level – 3* resort (Gir Birding Lodge) and head into the park in the afternoon. This lodge is one of the best in the area and it actually shares a boundary wall with the park, in the recent past lions have been seen in the gardens of the resort whilst people were enjoying their dinner in the main building. We will head into the park looking for lions and they are not particularly difficult to find, with over 400 lions in a small area we should see them without too much difficulty. Also whilst here in the evenings we will be on the lookout for leopards. Leopards are very hard to see in India, they are displaced by tigers throughout the majority of Indian parks but their interactions with lions is different and as a result they are seen here more regularly than any other park in India. Of course the leopards are still hard to see here but we are in the best place for them.
Days 10 & 11
Sasan Gir National Park
For the next two days you will be taken into the park during the morning and afternoon (once again returning to the accommodation, level – 3* resort (Gir Birding Lodge) for meals and rest in between). There are three main sections to this park, firstly the dense scrub and forests that make up the majority of the park and it is here that the lions, leopards, sambar, nilgai, chital and langurs are commonly seen. There are some more open areas scattered around the park, these meadows and open areas very different from the dense forests and provide a home to some of the parks rarer species such as the four-horned antelope, jungle cats and possibly the rusty-spotted cat. These animals are present throughout the park but are much harder to see in the forests. Although the rusty-spotted cat is still exceptionally hard to see anywhere in the park. Another area that is very popular is the dam, this manmade feature has proved very successful for mugger crocodiles and migratory birds and the vast water offers a great respite from the browns and yellows of the dry deciduous forest that covers most of the park. After the first full day here and depending on what we see we can tailor the last full day here to try and find a specific animal if you wish.
Velavadar National Park
This morning you can have a leisurely breakfast where you do not have to be up before dawn. After breakfast you will be taken back towards Ahmedabad but before getting back to the city you will be taken to Velavadar National Park. This is one of the best national parks in India and one of the best places in the world to see the striped hyena. This is one of the most elusive species of mammal in the world and here there are a couple of den sites that the local guides know of. Today will be your first chance to see this incredible animal after checking into the accommodation, level – eco-lodge (Blackbuck Lodge) we will enter the park. The park was initially set up for the protection of blackbuck which are now doing very well. It is also the best place to see nilgai but during the evenings we will be focused on striped hyena, Indian wolves, Indian foxes and jungle cats; before returning to the lodge for your evening meal.
Velavadar National Park
For the next couple of days you will be taken on jeep safaris into the park during the morning and afternoons as usual. All the meals will be served at the accommodation, level – eco-lodge (Blackbuck Lodge) in between safaris into Velavadar. During the mornings we will try and get some good close up encounters with the many blackbuck, Indian gazelles and nilgai that live here and then when we return in the afternoon we will switch our focus towards the rarer predators here. We will make regular stops to the striped hyena dens that have been used in recent years. Hopefully we can see this beautiful species which would make a great end to this incredible mammal watching experience. One that will hopefully showcase Asiatic lions, leopards, Indian wolves, striped hyenas, jungle cats, golden jackals, Indian foxes and desert red foxes. These species and these very special national parks and reserves surely make this one of Indias greatest mammal watching holidays around.
This morning you will be taken to the airport in Ahmedabad in time to catch the return flight to Delhi. Once in Delhi you will be taken to your accommodation, level – 3* hotel (Hotel Almondz) for your farewell evening meal and last night in India.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the international airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
During January and Febuary the weather in India is very dry with plenty of blue skies during the day. At night the temperatures are cooler than the day but are still hot. However the early mornings can be chilly. There should not be any rain at this time of year in Gujurat.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private air conditioned vehicle with an excellent local driver. We have two brilliant guides; first an professional zoologist will escort you on all your excursions and we also use a very knowledgeable English speaking local guides.
All our excursions including treks, guided walks, jeep safaris and park entrance fees are also included.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be light and airy clothes as well as comfortable walking shoes. As the nights can be chilly we recommend you bring a fleece, long trousers, scarf and a woolly hat. Insect repellent is handy as there can be mosquitoes about during the evenings and nights. Andy medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera. Also do not forget sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses as the sun can be strong here during the day.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4-6 people these do not stretch too far. We also provide a spot light for nocturnal viewing (this is subject to local condition when we arrive). Camera Traps will also be used to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souveniers and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend Finnair as a good airline for flights to Delhi. One of the best websites to search for the best fares is www.ticketstoindia.co.uk. It is an ATOL bonded company and this provides all the securities related to ATOL protection. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for India. These are only obtainable in advance from your local embassy. The easiest way to find information is by visiting http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/ (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit India, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting India as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Reviews of this Holiday
Ms. Cupitt, Australia
Gordon & Sue, Northumberland
Mr & Mrs. Green, Chester
Joe Boyer, Chelsea
Rhoda Boyer, Michigan
After a couple of years trying to find a tour that explored this park with expert guides, I was so happy to find Royle Safaris and their pioneering tour lived up to the billing.
Mr Spawls, Sun City
Jerome Stockner, Oregan