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Gir National Forest , Gujrat, India

I dont know why its always very difficult for me to stick to a plan. When I started this blog I made a plan that as soon as the trip is done will draft the blog and publish it. But its been over 3 months after the trip I am trying to recall my trip.. Hey its late but it is better than never..

So here goes the background story. We made our first trip to Gujrat on jan 2017. During that trip we covered Rann of Kutch and little Rann. And as I had mentioned in the blog that it was my idea to visit the white Rann.. my husband wanted to include the Gir forest in the fisrt trip.. But it is almost like a triangle from Ahmedabad. With a preschooler who refuses to stay in a car was difficult to accommodate  Gir forest in to our itenary. So my ‘always up for safari’ husband planned our second trip to Ahmedabad even before starting our first trip. The tickets were booked for March 2017. We took a early morning flight to Ahmedabad. Reached hotel before actual check in time.. the hotel was kind enough to accomodate us early and we refreshed ourselves and we had a full day stay at Ahmedabad as our trip to Gir started the next day. This time our inlaws joined us too and they were supposed to arrive at Ahemadabad only by evening. So we had good amount of time. This time we opted for self drive car(zoom car) and we booked it for the next day.

After refreshing we decided to take Ola to Adalaj step well. It is approximately 18 kms from the city  and took us 40 mins to reach . It has a very interesting architecture and has that resplendent look. It is five stories deep  and the carvings are very intricate.The place is so photogenic and it is a treat to people who loves to take pictures or like to be photographed with a alluring backdrop. This was our first time visit to  a step well and thoroughly enjoyed the place.There is a garden behind the monument where we relaxed for sometime and then we decided to head back to the city to pick up our parents from the airport.  Gandhi temple which is located in Gandhinagar and Akshardham tare two places of interest which can be covered if you have more time . Because of time constraint we decided to head back to the city.

 

On the way  we took a detour to Sabarmati Ashram. It is located on the river banks of Sabarmati. This was one of the residences of Mahatma Gandhi, who lived there for about twelve years along with his wife, Kasturba Gandhi. Nice and calm place where one can witness the true meaning of simple living. It houses many rare photographs of Gandhiji. You can also see the home where Gandhiji and his wife  spent there life. The famous Dhandi March started from this place. It was from his base here that Gandhiji  led the Dandi march also known as the Salt Satyagraha on 12 March 1930.

 

We finished of the day with shopping in the Law college road where we bought few handbags and oxidised silver jewelries.

 

Next day we started our trip to Gir National forest at 9 AM. Gir is the only place where Asiatic lions are found. It is approximately 327 KMs from Ahmedabad , for us it took 8 hrs to reach our resort.  There are many resorts around the park which can be booked via any hotel booking sites. We stayed at Mahindra Resort which is around 5 KMs from the park entrance. For safaris it is always better to plan ahead so that there is no disappointments and last minute over spending. We booked all safaris through online portal. For more details on safari booking click here. It is more like a permit that you can take a permitted vehicle inside the forest. There is three slots of safari timings one in early morning which starts at 6 AM and next is 9 AM and the last one  in the evening which starts at 3 PM. It is advisable to go the counter half an hour before. If you have your own car take the car to the park entrance where you can hire a jeep directly. It will cost you less than hiring a jeep through your resort. If not the resort will also arrange a jeep for you. At the counter you have to show your permit and they will randomly assign a route and a guide. Talk to a guide before going to the counter , they will give a rough idea where you can spot lions and leopards. If you are interested to see the African tribal communities who have settled in Gir for many decades ask for route 1 . It is one of the longest route and If  you are feeling lucky you can also spot leopards in this route. There are specific routes like route 5 , 3 where lions are seen mostly. Try different routes each time if you planning to take many safaries.

Next day morning we started from our resort at 5:30 AM . The resort arranged the jeep for us. The jeep picked us from our hotel. It was too cold in the morning , so dont forget  to take some warm clothes .. The forest was mesmerizing  in  early morning sun. This forest has varied landscapes from rugged hill, open grasslands , dense valleys, fields and water bodies. Around half of the forested area of the park is teak forest. We spotted wild boars, chitals , sambars and nilgais. Also quite few numbers of birds and owls. This time we did not encounter our hero of our trip. But was quite satisfied with the safari.  It was towards the end of second safari inside the forest we spotted our hero , the royal Asiatic  lion.  Always looking for a tiger made me little difficult to see it first which was sitting inside under the deciduous trees. But the lion decided to do a parade for us and it got up walked towards the road and crossed the road. walked along the path for sometime and then went near a water hole where it decided to chill for the evening. It was a treat to our eyes to see a majestic animal right in front of our eyes. Even though there was many jeeps and canters were around and people making noise and clicking  photos the lion was unperturbed.It walked like a mighty king, calm and composed with so much of grace. This was the only lion we could manage to spot. I have heard people spotting 10 lions in a single safari.  DSC_0140

For the next safari we wanted to take the longer route and also wanted to see the African tribe settlement inside the forest so we took route 1 . Generally many tourist avoid this route as there is next to thin chance of seeing a lion in this route but it is also known for spotting leopards in this route. Again leopards are very shy animal and very difficult to see. But we were at the right place at the right time.. The guide who was  a African tribe settled in the Gir forest sensed that there is a leopard around by following the warning calls. So there it was staring right at in to us. It didnt move for a good amount of time. Guess it never expected us there. And we were the uninvited guest. And with a slight movement of my husband who wanted a better angle to take a picture it ran in to the forest.This was my third time spotting a leopard. DSC_0177DSC_0310DSC_0360DSC_0404DSC_0422

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Spot the Owl

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That was the last safari for us. And next day we planned to visit the Devalia Safari Park which is around 20 KM from Gir National park. They have Asiatic lions in captivity so if you missed spotting a lion in the  forest here you can see them . Unfortunately we went there on the weekly off day. It too has safari timings and they are only open during mornings and evenings.

If you got couple of days more and you can visit Diu which around 65 KM from Gir. Also Somnath temple is  50 KM takes 1 hour to reach. Generally we try to cover maximum places but this time my partner decided to relax at the resort between the safaris.

The next best thing about  the visit is gujrati food. Please dont miss to eat at  local joints. Its more money saving than dining at the resort. And also you can relish nice home cooked dishes. The chaas is unbeatable compared to many drinks. They serve in a big jug like water. Thin and the soft thepla and lasun ki chutney  combo is heavenly.

 

Ganpatipule, Maharashtra, India

Ganpatipule is a seaside town located in the konkan coast of Maharshtra. The place is famous for the Ganpathi  temple which is located right on the beach.

It is approximately 320 kms from Pune. We made a road trip from Pune in our own car. We have been to Ganpatipule twice. Once during the monsoon and again in winter. Both the times we stayed at the MTDC resorts which is also located over looking the ocean opposite to Ganpathi temple. In my opinion this is the best accommodation option you can find in Ganpatipule as we can just walk to the beach. They have different types of rooms mostly all overlooking the sea.

Travel date : Sept 2- Sept 4 2016 and Dec 23 – Dec 25 2016

We started from Pune around 10 in the morning and reached  by 6 :30 in the evening. Checked in to the resort and we directly went to the beach to see the sunset but we missed it by 15 mins. Winter time is the best season to visit Ganpatipule or any beach side place. This time I could see the beach more lively than monsoon time with shops, restaurants and some water sport activities. But I would suggest visiting at both the times as the drive across the western ghats during the monsoon was so spectacular and the drive itself is amazing. We crossed so many waterfalls,blooms  and we could see so much of greenery till the eyes could reach.At few spots the fog through the roads made it little more adventurous as we could not see the road  100 mts ahead.felt like walking through the heaven.. Chillness in the air is so refreshing. We just captured few water falls but all along the way there were more than 50. It is a treat to our eyes to see so many of them and it will really make you think why people are wasting their money to go to Switzerland.

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Ganpatipule beach is one of the cleanest and less trashed compared to many other beaches in India. Very serene and beautiful the water is so clean and white surfs make it look even more beautiful. During the winter we saw lot of seagulls and sand pipers flocking around the coast.

The beach was not much crowded during the monsoon , but the water is cold and if you are lucky then you can take a dip in the water if it is not raining. But Winter is the peak season, there were many visitors and devotees visiting the Ganpathi temple. The morning walk in the beach was so energizing, the freshness in the air , seeing the seagulls flying over the ocean made the morning walk even more amazing. The water was so clear that one can see tiny fishes swimming and also the star fish.The sand is so fine and white makes it look exotic.

Apart from spending time in the beach we visited the Ganpathipule temple and there is a little market beside the temple where you can shop for trinkets and local food item. If you like Solkadhi you can buy the kokam syrup. The next day morning we took a dip in the water spent some time in the beach and after freshening up we went to Prachin Kokan museum. The place has a very good display of the history and culture of konkan. Also there is a shell museum inside where they have collections of shells of different shapes and sizes. You can also shop for shells and jewelry made out of shells. It takes about 1 hr to see the the whole place and there are free guides who will walk through the history of the konkans.

After that we went back to MTDC resort to have lunch. If you are in Konkan and love fish this is the place where you have to order fish Thali. You get both Surmai fish thali and pomfret fish thali. All the items on the plate tasted awesome. Dont forget to taste the Sol Kadhi. May be you wont like it at the first but if you are willing to taste it again then it is very addictive.

After Lunch we took a stroll around the temple and market and then went to the beach. The beach was lively with shops, restaurants, horse riding ,camel riding ,boat riding and other water activities. We went for speed boat riding and he took us half km inside the ocean stopped there for a while and returned us to the shore.img_4076

Then we settled in a place to see the sunset

While returning back during the winter the grass all dried up and felt like a african safari at some places .

 

Next day we traveled towards north along the beach and passed through some amazing sceneries. At one place we had to take the sea way. Ferries are available which will take you to the other side of the land along with your car. We were headed towards Guhagar. On the way we took little diversion to have lunch at another MTDC resort at Valenshwar. It is also a seaside resort. After that we checked in to Mango Village resort in Guhagar around 4pm and we inquired about the places to see around , the resort people suggested us to visit a light house which is 14 kms from Guhagar. We went there just on time as the closing time was 5 pm. We got a real good view of the Arabian sea and on the way back we spotted a wolf. It was running ahead our car for almost a kilometer. This made my husband Aka the photographer very happy.

Then we spent some time in the Guhagar Beach and returned to the resort. The resort is a new one and they had villa types room. Though the rooms were extremely small for the price we paid but they provided a good service. Morning we went trekking to a water hole which was just behind the resort and we spotted few birds there. Upon returning we had breakfast and checked out from the resort.

Our plan of the day was to visit Thosagar falls near Satara and then drive back to Pune. But destiny had a different plan. We religiously follow Google map for navigation . In the name of short cut google took us to a top of the mountain where we couldnt see anyone even to ask for directions. The roads were steep and crooked and google suggesting us to cross a pile of rocks to reach Thosagar falls. It is one of the most unforgettable slash scariest moment of life. Thank goodness we always prefer driving during the day time. I cannot even imagine what our state would have been if it was dark.  So my advice here would be follow google map but be sure to ask for directions to the locals. It will take you extra few minutes but will save you from unimaginable. So what we did, we just followed the mountain road and asked for direction to the first person we encountered. And without second thought we drove back straight to Pune.

But the mountain was very beautiful , if i have to tell you exactly where we got trapped, when you drive through a highway you see lot of windmills in a far away mountain. Thats where we were driving through.

To visit Ganpatipule please check the MTDC website for availibilty of rooms on any long weekend. Plan little ahead during peak season because the rooms are always on high demand.

 

 

Intoduction….

This blog is being created  to record all the travel memories.. I am planning to include all the information right from booking the flights ,hotels , sightseeing, activities, place where we had food and shopped .. and much more..

Me and husband love to travel and we take thousands of pictures which are then shelved in some hard drives and never to be seen again.. I hope this site to be a outlet for those pictures. And also give my readers the overview of all the place we have visited so far and will be visiting in future..I hope to do some justice to the place which we visit and be some help to those who are looking for few extra information to plan their travel.

Rann of Kutch and Little Rann, Gujrat India

Rann of kutch is the world’s largest salt desert which is spread across 7500 square kms. It is located at the far western part of India which shares its border with Pakistan.

Reason of the Visit

This time it was my choice to visit the Great Rann of kutch. I somewhere read in a newspaper about the Rann of kutch festival(Nov to feb), it was just a spark. It was always on my wishlist to visit the place since I saw the hindi movie Refugee. Bhuj was another place which I wished to visit after the 26 Jan 2001 disastrous earthquake.

Before the Travel 

The nearest Airport to Rann of kutch is Bhuj. There are flights from Mumbai to Bhuj and from there it is hour and half drive to Dhordo village where you can find good accommodation options. Since we were flying from Pune we booked tickets to Ahmadabad.

 

On the Day of Travel (5/01/2017)

We took off  at 11:45 pm and we landed in Ahmadabad  at 1 am. The whole airport was decorated with colorful kites and the place looked so vibrant even at 1 AM . Since it was late night we booked a hotel room for the night in Ahmadabad.We stayed at Le Grande Residency Behind Gujrat college. The rooms were very clean and good. The breakfast was complimentary. They both had south Indian and also Gujrati food items.

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Ahmadabad Airport

Day 2(6/01/2017)

Next day we started from Ahmadabad at 10 am and pushed towards Dhordo Village.We stopped on the way for lunch at Sugar and spice around 2pm. The place was clean and we could see how Modiji has been doing a good job.

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disposal on the highway

Throughout the highway we saw so many salt pans and windmills.We reached the Dhordo check post exactly at 5 pm and from their the road divides in to two. One leads to Dhordo village and another to Kala Dungar(black hill). We decided to head towards Kala Dungar to see the sunset. Kala Dungar is the highest point of kutch and from there one can get a aerial view of Rann of kutch. From the check post its 40 kms. At the checkpoint one  can get permission enter the Rann of kutch in their own vehicle . But we didn’t stop there as the place we were staying was supposed to take us inside which was included in the package. So we went straight to kala Dungar.

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View from Kala Dungar

The silver line you see is the bank of Rann of kutch and behind its the vast salt desert.It was hazy so we couldn’t get the whole view of the desert but it sure was breathtaking.

After that we headed to our resort in Dhordo village. We Checked in at Toran Resort which claims to be the nearest resort to the Rann of Kutch, which is actually true because its just opposite to the visitor center.The place was very clean and we stayed in a Bhunga.

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Toran Resort Bhumgas

They provide  food all 3 times. Just that it gets over soon so make sure you go early. We checked in at 7:30 Pm and we had some time before the dinner time.So we decided to take a walk to the market. On the way we got a lift in a camel cart.People are very friendly.The cart man didnt charge us for the ride and when we offered money he politely declined .First time in a tourist spot I witnessed something like this.The market had variety of stuffs. Bags, Bandhini, cotton  fabrics with natural dye print, ready made dresses, camel leather bags and shoes, all very colorful and rates being very nominal.That day I just took a stroll around the market didn’t buy much.

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Dhordo Market

Day 3(7/01/2017)

The next day morning we got up to find out that there was power outage and no hot water. But somehow managed to get ready and by the time I went for breakfast it was closed by 10 am. So asked them make bread butter for my kid and then checked out. They provide hot water in a bucket when demanded.

After  we checking out  went to the visitor center where we got permission and ticket to enter the Rann of kutch. Per person it is Rs 100 and do not forget take a  Id proof.The buses keeps going inside so you can board any bus after you give the permission form at the check point. The white Rann is 4 kms from the point of entrance and the bus dropped us at the gate. From there one can choose to walk to the viewing tower or take a camel or horse cart. Its just Rs 100 per person and it is worth the money. They drop you at the the viewing tower. Did I mention that Rs 100 also includes return fare?

You can enjoy the view from the tower or choose to walk on the salt desert, beware of water in some spots. The landscape is amazing and the vast spread of the salt is spectacular. Its altogether is a different experience.From this place Pakistan border is just 80 Kms.

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View from the tower

After spending few hours  inside the desert we headed towards tent city Dhordo. We stayed at Lallooji and sons tent city. We booked through official RannUtsav website. They had one day and two day packages as per the traveler’s requirement which also included local sightseeing, pickup and drop to Bhuj railway station or Bhuj Airport. Inside it is not allowed without a booking. There were many activities for all ages. The kids will be well entertained here.Food was also provided all 3 times as complimentary and they had very good spread of food items which mainly included Gujrati delicacies.

Inside the resort they had many activities like cycling , paintball , cricket , club house , library and some adventure activities too. They also had a Dominos outlet , handicraft shops etc.

That day evening after having lunch and relaxing and evening high tea we boarded the bus from the resort to the white Rann. Camel carts were also available on first come and first basis.To our disappointment they took a turn before the gate dropped us well before the viewing tower.We stayed there till the sunset and sunset is something not to be missed and before getting dark they took us back to the resort but we had different plans.We again got down at the entry point and  took a bus back to the gate. we wanted to witness the white Rann in the moon light. I had read and heard how the salt reflects the moon light and it is a treat to the eyes. But it was much more than that.. The whole place was lit like somebody had switched on a giant tube light.  The gate closes at 8 PM and buses goes inside till 7:30 PM. So dont miss going inside during the night. If it is a no moon day you can see the sky full of stars.

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White Rann in the moonlight

This picture doesn’t do justice to the real beauty of White Rann in the moonlight.A open space and uninterrupted view of the vast landscape something not to be missed.It is best viewed on a full moon day.

After dinner spent sometime around the tent city and I did a full fledged shopping for hand bags and fabrics.

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Day 4(8/01/2017)

Again In the morning around 6 AM went inside White Rann to witness the sunrise and this time own vehicles are allowed inside.

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After returning had breakfast and we checked out of the tent city and drove back to Bhuj where we visited Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal which are side by side and also visited the swaminarayan temple and I highly recommend this places where you will get to see unique collections of antiques and marble carvings. Bhuj has so much history.

And our next stop was at a handicraft Village known as Bhujodi which is not very far from the Bhuj Ahmadabad highway. If you have missed anything to buy at The Rann festival you can catch up here.

Many small small outlets where you can shop for handicraft items.

After satisfying my shopping cravings we headed to restaurant to satisfy our hunger cravings. Stopped at a hotel just after exiting from Bhujodi  on the highway. Ordered a Gujrati Thali and it was one of the best meals we had on that trip.

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Hotel near Bhujodi

Then our next stop for the day was Wildass Sanctuary which is also known as  Little Rann. It is famous for the Wildass which are not found anywhere else in the world.Also it is the largest wildlife Sanctuary in India spread over 4954 km sq. We reached our accommodation  in little Rann little  after the sunset and as soon as we entered we spotted a Nilgai and couple of Wildass. We stayed at the Eco Camp. For more details about the stay and safari booking you can check here.

Day 5(9/01/2017)

The next day morning the Safari was arranged of us from the Eco camp in a Jeep. The landscape is something which  I have never witnessed for a wildlife sanctuary. A plain horizon till your eyes can reach absolutely no hindrance. We saw many salt pans around the sanctuary. We were told that the density of salt in the ground water was about 13% whereas in seawater it is 6%. Saw many migrated birds. The highlight of the safari was we spotted the Shaheen Falcon.  It is adapted to taking prey in the air and can achieve a speed of 240 kmh in level flight; when diving after prey it can exceed speeds of 320  kmh (200 mph).  Very rarely  we can see the bird as it will be always on flight to hunt for its prey.

Few Pictures taken around the sanctuary .

The one thing I like to mention is the wind playing music.. When the jeep was moving we kept hearing a flute sound with so much rhythm initially we thought it is being played in some temples around but there were few holes in the back frame of the jeep which was actual source of the sound.

After the Safari the food was ready at the camp. We got refreshed and had lunch and then headed towards to Ahmadabad to catch flight to Pune.

Ahmadabad we reached around 5pm and we had enough time to visit the Kite show and flower show. Reached the airport around 8 pm. This vacation sure was very unique in its own way not like any another we have taken so far.And more than any place I really enjoyed shopping here.

Picture Credit : Mohammed Siddique

If you have some more time, there are other places around kutch which you can visit

=> Naroli : Its a handicraft village between Bhuj and Dhordo village. It is about 14 kms from the main road

=> Mandvi Beach and Vijay Vilas Palace

=> Indian Bustard Sanctuary