The Wild Ass Sanctuary, home to the last of the Indian wild ass, is the largest wildlife sanctuary in India. It's spread over almost 5,000 square kilometers. The sanctuary was set up in 1973 to protect the endangered wild ass. These creatures look like a cross between a donkey and a horse. They're slightly bigger than a donkey and are fast and strong like a horse. How fast? They can run an average of 50 kilometers an hour over long distances!
You'll find many other kinds of wildlife at the sanctuary, such as wolves, desert foxes, jackals, antelopes, and snakes. It's close to wetlands, so there are plenty of birds as well.
In the Kutch region of Gujarat state, in the area known as the Little Rann of Kutch. It's located 130 kilometers northwest of Ahmedabad, 45 kilometers northwest of Viramgam, 175 kilometers north of Rajkot, and 265 kilometers east of Bhuj. There are two main entrances to the sanctuary -- Dhrangadhra and Bajana.
How to Get There
If you wish to enter from the Bajana range, the railway station at Viramgam is more convenient albeit still a distance away. The same trains stop there.
Alternatively, the sanctuary is easily accessible by bus from all over the state.
Travel time to Dhrandgadhra by road from Ahmedabad is around two hours. If you're heading to Bajana and surroundings, it's about the same. However, Dhrandgadhra is more readily accessible by public transport, as it's situated on the Ahmedabad-Kutch National Highway.
When to Visit
One of the best times to visit the sanctuary is just after the monsoon, in October to November.
The grasslands are fresh and tender for grazing, and foals can often be seen out playing.
Temperature-wise, the weather is coolest from December to March, which is the peak winter season. From April onwards, the summer heat starts building and gets quite unbearable, so visiting isn't advisable then. For the best chances of seeing wildlife, go on an early morning safari. Afternoon safaris are also possible.
Sanctuary Opening Hours
From dawn until dusk, except for the monsoon season (June to October).
Entry Fees and Charges
Entry into the sanctuary is charged per vehicle of up to five people. During the week, from Monday to Friday, the rate is 600 rupees for Indians and 2,600 rupees for foreigners. It increases by 25% on Saturdays and Sundays. It's necessary for a sanctuary guide to accompany visitors on safaris. Expect to pay around 200 rupees for that. There's also a camera charge of 200 rupees for Indians and 1,200 rupees for foreigners.
The cost of the jeep safari is additional and is often included as part of the packages offered by accommodations. Otherwise, you can expect to pay 2,000-3,000 rupees per vehicle.
Visiting the Sanctuary
It's possible to go on organized jeep and minibus safaris from Dhrangadhra, Patadi or Zainabad.
There are also private jeeps for hire at these places. Dhrandgadhra has the most options for transport and accommodations. The Bajana range is close to the wetlands where migratory birds settle in winter. Many people who enter the sanctuary at Bajana stay in the towns of Zainabad or Dasada, 20-30 kilometers away. Accommodations in the vicinity all offer safaris. To really soak up the atmosphere, camp out for a night on the Little Rann of Kutch. Bespoke trips are possible.
Where to Stay
At Dhrangadhra, if you want inexpensive but comfortable accommodations, don't pass up the opportunity to stay at the home of wildlife photographer and guide, Devjibhai Dhamecha, and go on one of his exclusive safaris. He also offers stays in traditional kooba huts, as well as camping, on the edge of the Little Rann at Eco Tour Camp.
Near Dasada, Rann Riders (read reviews) is very popular. It's an ethnically designed eco-resort, set amidst wetlands and agricultural fields. All kinds of safaris are offered including horse, camel and jeep safaris. The resort also has a focus on sustainable tourism. It provides a place for local artisans, such as weavers, to sell their handicrafts and operates excursions to nearby villages.
Desert Coursers resort at Zainabad also accommodates guests in eco-friendly cottages by a lake. The hospitality is warm. Prices are reasonable and include room, jeep safari, and meals. Luxury camping trips are organized upon request, and you can go into the Little Rann on excursions lasting up to three days. The property also attracts birders.
If you want to stay close to the Bajana entrance, The Royal Safari Camp is the place!