Great and Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
15 - 23 December 2012
AWild Ass stands silhouetted against a shimmering orange hemisphere while the piercing gaze of a Short-eared Owl melts you to pulp. In its deserts, marshes and meadows, Gujarat blooms in a myriad hues, so you widen your avenues and lose the boundaries in your mind in a land of endless possibilities.
How is it?
A seasonal salt marsh in the Thar Desert, the Rann, derived from the Hindi word meaning desert, lies sprawled across a massive area on the snout of the Gujarat state lining the Arabian Sea and extends to the neighbouring Sindh province of Pakistan in a glorious sweep.
Originally an overflow lake into which water poured from surrounding rivers in Rajasthan, the enormous pan formed when the lower reaches of the river dried, leaving an endless plain of amazing spectacle and a throbbing wealth of specialized wildlife.
Comprising scrub islets and short grasslands, the Rann, a part of which is even a World Heritage Site, supports a mind-boggling variety of bird life, especially prominent amongst which are the gargantuan flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingoes that flock its open lap in the winter.
Offering excellent visibility, the light of dreams and room to approach birds on foot, the Greater and the Lesser Rann of Kutch together are a photographer's paradise and represent one of the hottest areas in the amazing Indian subcontinent to add an impressive list of non-forest species to an image library.
What you will see and photograph:
Great Rann of Kutch (GRK)
In GRK, what looks like a bleak desert is actually a wildlife oasis, and with resident and visiting water-birds like Cranes, Ducks and Pelicans and land birds that include Sandgrouses, Francolins and one of the most critically endangered birds of the country, the Great Indian Bustard.
Common Cranes are very common and so are White-naped Tits and many species of Wheatear, while the chances of a memorable encounter with a Desert Cat always lurking underneath the surface, in an underground burrow.
Little Rann of Kutch (LRK)
For donkey's years, the enduring image of the mammal life of LRK has been an animal that may have less grace than a horse but possesses twice its kick – the Indian Wild Ass, also called the Khur.
Classified by the IUCN as 'endangered', it has a sanctuary named after it, and is the most ubiquitous and recognizable big mammal of the Little Rann. Sporting chestnut and white livery and a neat black mane outlining its silhouette, it feeds between dawn and dusk. Certainly no slouch like its domestic cousin is often depicted, it can sprint at a breezy 80 kilometres an hour such as when chasing rivals out of mating contention on the plains, kicking up golden dust in its wake and sending you on a direct flight to photographic heaven.
Apart from all this 'wild assault', LRK, being a birder's salvation centre, will offer excellent chances of picturing the Hoopoe Lark, Cream-coloured Courser, Indian Courser, Short-eared Owl, McQueen's Bustard, Desert Warbler, Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, Stolickza's Bushchat, Sykes's Nightjar, Common Crane, Long-legged Buzzard, Sandgrouse, Pelicans, Greater Short-toed Lark and the highly threatened Sociable Lapwing, to photograph which this is one of the best places in the country.
The list of raptors is rich and may include Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle and several species of Harriers.
And a dose of fortune can yield the most coveted sight of an Indian Wolf, while an extra dose of it can produce an elusive encounter with a Desert Fox.
What you will take back:
This excursion, like all of Toehold's Photography Tours, is led by professional photographers with immense experience, and is clinically planned and executed, so you can expect –
- A nine-day photographic fest to two of Gujarat's best birding destinations
- A chance to strike many a rare and endangered bird and mammal off your species wish-list
- Extensive photography assistance on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers
- Enriching interactive sessions on photography, natural history and a range of interesting topics
PHOTOGRAPHY SKIPPERSGiri Cavale
The phrase 'Born in Bangalore but reborn in the wild' captures the essence of Giri's obsessive passion for nature and its pictorial documenting. His camera and his artistic eye are always in pursuit of for a momentous picture and, of course, the perfect shot. He has explored some of India's most enthralling ecosystems across various seasons with the simple objective of seeing and photographing nature up close in its pristine purity. He readily admits that two precious 'colleagues' - luck and patience - have always accompanied him on his expeditions into the wild, yielding some very fine photographic moments and equally wonderful memories.
People believe where there is Giri, there is a cat in the wild. Many of our clients are specific about being guided by Giri in the wild, which they believe is a toehold for their wild hunt. Ultimately, Giri Cavale is a nature devotee whose guiding philosophy is 'too much is never enough'.
Having grown up on Jim Corbett stories, Rahul was quick to find his calling in the wild. In spite of a successful career in the software industry, he nurtured a deep-rooted passion for wildlife and photography, a journey that took him far and wide across the country and overseas, during which Rahul earned intimate knowledge of the jungle, its inhabitants, the people around it and the art of portraying them. Harbouring special love for birds and mammals, Rahul has built an illustrious profile that dazzles with aesthetic brilliance and emotional appeal, and is punctuated with moments from the wild that have been widely published on the web and in various magazines.
A consummate trainer, Rahul regularly leads photography tours and conducts workshops that help participants learn to make images rather than merely take pictures. A selection of Rahul's work may be viewed on his website tigerlandphotography.com and followed on his Facebook Page, Rahul Sachdev Photography.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard. Specifically, you will get -
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
ChaayaaChitra (Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricks) - One of your Toehold Skippers will impart key practical knowledge on photography technique, post-processing essentials and related subjects and even the skills and techniques required for a particular form of photography or at a particular locale. This offers a great chance of understanding key aspects of technique and pick up useful tips that you can easily put into practice. We call this ChaayaChitra because it's all about photography.
ChitraTantra (Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique) - Your Toehold Skippers will critique images that can be nominated by tour participants, to enable discussion on how they could be improved. These impromptu discussions benefit everybody, since they are a great way of learning to see the advanced subtleties that make a significant difference, and master the artistic aspects of photography. We call this ChitraTantra as we delve deep into the good and not-so-good aspects of your results and discuss the attributes that can turn an ordinary picture into a special image.
Charchaaloka (Presentations, Lectures, Discussions) - One of your Toehold Skippers will deliver a talk on a subject of interest related to the tour/destination or novel sub-genres of photography. Depending on the kind of tour you are on, this presentation/talk should improve your subject matter expertise and enable you with ample knowledge of your subject, destination or form of photography you are expected to practice during this trip. This is akin to a surprise treasure-chest of fascinating knowledge on intriguing topics that will make your Photo Tour experience complete. We call this Charchaaloka as we expect everyone to participate in the discussion and presentation brainstorming ideas, issues, solutions and experiences.
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
I have come back from Kutch with great set of images and experiences from the desert. The Desert Cat sighting was the icing on the cake.
- Vinay Lakshman, Bangalore
As an amateur photographer, I found the Toehold Kutch Tour just the perfect stepping board I needed to make the most of a birding expedition! Your strong network with local resources was clearly evident and the photography guidance was invaluable, leaving me a satisfied traveller. Thank you!
- Abhishek Gururaj, Bangalore
Having never been on a birding tour before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but the orientation I received on the Kutch tour from the Toehold Skippers right from the start helped me quickly get into the groove and enjoy a highly productive time.
- Ramona Sen, Mumbai
On a trip that had numerous positives, the one feature that struck me the hardest was the Toehold Skippers' encyclopedic knowledge of natural history and photography, combined with a genuine interest to help. Always putting the participants before themselves, they ensured that this was the best week I've ever had in terms of learning!
- Ruhi Malhotra, Delhi
I have travelled a bit in my time and I can honestly say that this has been the best-organized trip I've been on! The logistical arrangements were flawless and the trip was organized in a manner to ensure maximum photographic productivity. Fascinating information was shared during the evening sessions and I was greatly benefitted from the discussions on photography tips and techniques. Kudos to the Toehold team for ensuring that I keep coming back to travel with you!
- Vikram Pratap Singh, Ludhiana
I had wanted to visit Kutch for some time now but wasn't sure how to go about planning a trip. That's when I stumbled upon Toehold and after the trip I really think I couldn't have chosen anyone better! Toehold took care of everything for me so I didn't have to waste time planning. I only had to sign up and the rest was a breeze. The biggest thing I took away from the trip was how to make the most of my equipment and make great images with whatever I have. Thanks, Toehold!
- Chidanand Iyer, Hyderabad
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
Please note: The Tour will commence at Bhuj at around 5 PM on 15 December and conclude at Ahmedabad on 23 December. Group transfers from Bhuj to GRK, GRK to LRK and LRK to Ahmedabad will be arranged and are included in the Tour. However, please talk to us if your desired arrival and departure schedules differ from the standard Tour itinerary.
- Day 1, 15 December 2012, Saturday: Arrival and Transfer to GRK
Gathering at the Bhuj Airport at 5 PM, we drive to GRK and check in. At dinner, the Tour Skippers will moderate a mutual introduction session. Later, you'll be briefed and oriented to what you can expect on the Tour before you retire for the night.
- Day 2, 16 December, Sunday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris in GRK
Making an early start, we venture into GRK looking for all the usual targets and seek to make portraits and habitat images of birds in glorious early morning sunlight. After hopefully a productive session, we return to camp and breakfast.
After a brief repose, we meet for the first ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricksof the Tour before lunching and setting out on an afternoon safari. Late afternoons are great for birding and we look for avian attractions as we snake around the tracks looking for opportunities to apply some of the concepts discussed during the session in the afternoon.
Upon our return and tea, we meet for another session, ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique, before dinner.
- Day 3, 17 December, Monday and Day 4, 18 December, Tuesday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris in GRK
For the next two days, we enjoy morning and afternoon safaris in GRK, allowing us plenty of time to add beautiful images of several species.
- Day 5, 19 December, Wednesday: Transfer to LRK
Leaving at around 7 AM, we drive to LRK and reach in the afternoon and check in. Taking a short drive if time permits, we settle in, looking forward to having a productive LRK experience with plenty of time at hand.
An eco-friendly resort, which is the best that LRK has to offer, will serve as our base. Every evening we enjoy a discussion around a bonfire in our CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionssessions and every night we cherish the delectable food and the warm comfortable beds at the height of the Indian winter, while also savouring the amazing cultural experience on offer.
- Day 6, 20 December, Thursday to Day 8, 22 December, Saturday: Morning and Afternoon Safaris in LRK
For the next three full days, we enjoy morning and evening safaris on the delightful plains of LRK pursuing all the gems that we've dreamed up. The puddles of water punctuating the Rann – result of the monsoon flooding the plains – attract plenty of birds, especially waders.
The morning safaris last a good three and a half hours, after which we return to the resort for a hearty lunch. The afternoon safaris begin at 3 PM and we return to our lodges at sunset. While here, we try our best to bag evocative silhouette pictures of the flagship species of LRK, the Indian Wild Ass, apart from a variety of other subjects.
- Day 9, 23 December, Sunday: Checkout and transfer to Ahmedabad
Having enjoyed a memorable and fruitful Tour, we bid adieu to Gujarat's desert wildernesses after breakfast and depart for Ahmedabad, from where participants take their respective transport back home.
Indian Nationals: INR 41,250/- per person
Indian Couples: INR
82,500/- 81,000/- per couple
Foreign Nationals: Please write to us for a quote
Indian Couples: INR
Foreign Nationals: Please write to us for a quote
- Twin-sharing accommodation in comfortable rooms unless single occupancy purchased at extra cost
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea) for Tour duration
- Group transfers from Bhuj to GRK, GRK to LRK and LRK to Ahmedabad
- All applicable taxes
- All safaris and entry fees
- All Airfare and transfer expenses
- Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals and beverages ordered
- Insurance, laundry and phone calls
- Bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
- Camera fees if any (participants will be advised of the estimated fees in advance)
- Tips and gratuities
- Anything that is not included in the Inclusions list (see above)
Terms and Conditions
1. 15% : Between 30 and 45 days from date of departure
2. 50% : Between 7 and 30 days from date of departure
3. 90% : Between 2 and 7 days from the date of departure
4. 100% : NO Refund within 48 hours from date of departure
- 1. Participants who have a medical history of blood pressure, heart-related problems or asthma are advised to seek medical advice before enrolling for this Tour.
- 2. Fitness to complete the Tour is the only criterion for participation.
- 3. Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. shall not be responsible for injuries, damages, or losses caused to any traveller in connection with terrorist activities, social or labour unrest, mechanical or construction failures or difficulties, diseases, local laws, climatic conditions, abnormal conditions or developments, or any other actions, omissions, or conditions outside the travel partner's control.
- 4. All clients travelling with Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. must complete and sign a reservation form and the "Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk & Arbitration Agreement" form.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody interested in birds, wildlife and/or photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
How many participants will share each vehicle on safaris on this Tour?
Our Photo Tours are designed to provide you sufficient space for comfortable photography without being excessively taxing on your pocket, so you can expect a maximum of three other people (including the participants and the Skipper) apart from the driver, in your vehicle.
- How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
- How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
Considering the nature of the subjects and shooting conditions expected on this Tour, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is considered necessary, with longer focal lengths being welcome. A beanbag is strongly recommended to shoot both from inside the vehicle as well as outside. However, if you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer. What's better, you enjoy a 20% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours! If you don't have a beanbag, you should strongly consider Toehold's dimBu.
- I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away!