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 northern part of Gujarat state, in the area known as the Little Rann of Kutch. It's located 130 kilometers from Ahmedabad, 45 kilometers from Viramgam, 175 kilometers from Rajkot, and 265 kilometers from Bhuj. There are two main entrances to the sanctuary -- Dhrangadhra and Bajana.
How to Get There:
The closest railway station to the Wild Ass Sanctuary is at Dhrangadhra, 16 kilometers away. Many trains stop there, and it's connected to both Mumbai and Delhi. 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 into the sanctuary is charged per vehicle of up to six people. During the week, from Monday to Friday, the rate is 250 rupees for Indians and $20 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 50-100 rupees for that.
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 safari packages (2,000 rupees for one safari, or 3,000 rupees for two). 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 is very popular. It's an ethnically designed eco-resort, set amongst wetlands and agricultural fields. All kinds of safaris and activities, including camel and jeep safaris, are offered. Desert Coursers resort at Zainabad also accommodates guests in eco friendly cottages. The hospitality is warm. Prices are reasonable, and include room, jeep safari and meals. Luxury camping trips are also organized upon request, and you can go into the Little Rann on 1-3 day excursions. If you want to stay close to the Bajana entrance, The Royal Safari Camp is the place!
It's possible to go on organized jeep and minibus safaris, which are available 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. Custom-made trips are possible.