The Great Rann of Kutch as well as the Little Rann of Kutch, coupled with the Banni grasslands (located toward the southern part) graces Gujarat’s Kutch district. Spanning a massive stretch of around 30,000 square kilometers, the Rann of Kutch is situated between the Gulf of Kutch and the Indus River. You can access these marshlands via the Kharaghoda village in Surendranagar district.
One of the largest salt deserts, Kutch in Gujarat consists of salty clay and mudflats, located at a height of around 15 meters above sea level However, during the rainy season, the area fills up with stagnant water and extends from the Gulf of Kutch (in the west) to the Gulf of Cambay (in the east).
Rann of Kutch: Its history
As far as the geographical history goes, Kutch Rann was previously a vast and shallow part of the Arabian Sea. However, following a geological shift, Rann of Kutch lost its connection to the sea. What remained was a huge lake that was used by Alexander the Great to navigate his journey. Formerly, the Ghaggar River, flowed into the Rann of Kutch. But when it dried up, its upper tributaries merged with the Indus and Ganges rivers. Currently, the Luni River, which starts from Rajasthan, graces the northeastern segment of the Rann. Other rivers linked to Kutch in Gujarat include Rupen, West Banas River, Nara Canal, and Puran River.
Among the wildlife found in the Rann, there are plenty of flamingos that take shelter on the higher parts of the region. Also, known as one of the hottest parts of India, it records high temperatures that reach up to 50-degree celsius. During winters, the temperatures are extremely low, falling even below zero degrees.
Almost all the sections of the Rann of Kutch fall under government protection. Still, the area is prone to cattle grazing, firewood collection and salt extraction.Several of these activities do end up disrupting the flora and fauna in Gujarat’s Kutch. Some of the well-known sanctuaries in the vicinity include the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve and Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve.
Tourism in the Rann of Kutch
The Rann of Kutch experiences a dry season during the month of October. Hence, the landscape looks desolate and extremely drab. Usually, the best time to visit the Kutch Rann is from December to March. Most of the traveler accommodations close by March end and do not open until November. But if you are more of a solitary traveler and love peace and quiet, you can go during the end of the tourist season, i.e by the end of March.
You can visit the desert during the morning and evening hours, because in the afternoon, the temperatures are unbearably high. After the sun sets, you can also take a moonlight camel safari into the desert.
You can get to Kutch Rann from Bhuj. Usually, this journey is arranged by the resorts. As for reaching Bhuj, you can travel to the city via train or flight from Mumbai. You may even take a bus from several places in and around Gujarat. Some people also do a day trip to the Rann on cabs and bikes.
Since the Rann is close to the Pakistani border, most travelers will require a permit to visit the area. You can get it from Bhirandiyara village and taste its famed local mawa. The costs differ according to your vehicle. In order to get the permit, you have to share a copy of your ID and present it in the original. Once you receive this permit, you have to show it to the officers posted at the army checkpoints at points of entry to the salt desert.
Once you arrive in the Rann of Kutch, you can stay in Dhordo or Hodka. Some of the popular tourist accommodations in the vicinity are the Gateway to Rann Resort at Dhordo, Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border) Village Resort in Hodka, Toran Rann Resort, Bhunga accommodations, and other government resorts.
The Rann Utsav
The Rann Utsav, held by Gujarat Tourism, is the most-awaited festival of Kutch. It starts from the beginning of November and continues till February end. holds a Rann Ustav festival, which begins at the start of November and extends until the end of February. There is a tent city, which showcases many tents, set up at the Gateway to Rann Resort at Dhordo. Visitors can stay in these makeshift camps and have a first-hand glimpse of the rows and rows of handicraft stalls and food kiosks.
The Kutch Rann festival offers a package, in which the inclusive price includes sightseeing trips to nearby locations. Some of the activities covered in this package comprise of camel cart rides, paramotoring, ATV rides, rifle shooting, kids entertainment zone, spa treatments, and a myriad of colorful cultural shows. The only sad part of the festival is that due to the gathering of so many tourists every year, there is increased pollution and accumulation of garbage in the area.
Winding it up
In the above sections, we have outlined the most common and commercial ways of visiting the Rann of Kutch. But for those travelers who wish to witness a different side of the Rann, you can go on a trip to Kala Dungar, also called the Black Hill, which lends a spectacular panoramic view of the whole region from a height of around 458 meters above sea level. In fact, this is the highest point in Gujarat’s Kutch and the point even allows you to have a glance at the border between India and Pakistan.
You can travel to Kala Dungar from the Khavda village that is located at a distance of around 70 kilometers from Bhuj. While in this village, you can check out the work of its native artisans who are known for their unique talent in creating traditional block prints such as ajrakh block prints from Pakistan. The best bet is to take your own vehicle when planning a visit to any of these locations. For a more immersive experience, you can also visit the Lakhpat Fort, which also lends a beautiful, comprehensive view of the Rann.