Situated at the tip of western Gujarat, the Rann of Kutch is a land of many wonders. Its unique landscape and rich culture as well as the gifted artisans and colourful tribals that inhabit the area are enough win you over. Condé Nast Traveller lists a few things you shouldn’t miss out on before you leave this often overlooked destination.
Visit traditional villages
As captivating as the landscape is, it is the inhabitants of the Rann of Kutch who really draw you in. A large number of villages specialise in different forms of artistry. The Hodka Artist Village is home to a large number of artisans who specialise in everything from intricate Banni embroidery to leather work, while the Ludia Village boasts colourful mud houses that reflect the culture of its people. The Rann of Kutch also plays host to various nomadic communities who eventually settle down here. The Bharvads and the Mirs are two such groups of people who brought with them interesting forms of weaving and beadwork, which make for beautiful gifts and souvenirs.
Go for a safari
The Rann of Kutch—home to the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary—is inhabited by the largest population of the endangered Indian wild ass. Also found here are nilgais, golden jackals, striped hyenas, Indian wolves, Indian and white-footed desert foxes, desert cats and a variety of lizards and reptiles. That isn’t the only interesting bit though. Keeping with the spirit of the Rann of Kutch, the safari options are far from conventional. Apart from the open-air jeep, you can choose to go on a horseback safari or even a camel safari. And, to make it just a little more interesting, you can even go animal-watching at night with nothing but the light of the moon to guide you.
If the land critters don’t interest you much and you’d rather spend time scouring the sky, then the Rann of Kutch doesn’t disappoint. It is home to a saline dessert nicknamed ‘Flamingo City’ located at the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary. Every year, during the winter season, thousands of flamingos migrate to this region to breed and make for a truly spectacular sight. Pelicans, cranes, stork, Indian and sand grouses, raptors such as eagles, falcons as well as endangered species like the Lesser Florican and the Houbara Bustard can be found here.
Celebrate at the Rann Utsav
To experience an amalgamation of everything that is Kutch, a visit to the Rann Utsav is a must. The monthlong festival travels to various other locations in Kutch as well and showcases the diversity of the region. With its varied terrains serving as a backdrop, under full moon nights with a perpetual breeze made comfortable by numerous bonfires and luxury tents to retreat to, the festival provides the perfect ambience to sit back, relax and enjoy the various forms of traditional art and culture on offer. Organised by the Gujarat Tourism Department and attracting over 800 tourists annually, the Rann Utsav is one big celebration filled with folk music, dance, carnivals and pageants. The Rann Utsav will take place from 15 December 2012 to 31 January 2013.
Enjoy a sunset and the Chir Batti
As natural as a sunset may be, the experience of watching the sun descend with no visual obstructions in the Rann of Kutch is far from ordinary. Pitch a tent and enjoy this picture perfect moment while simultaneously preparing for a sight that is bound to leave you in awe. Occasionally, on dark nights, a strange phenomenon known as Chir Batti (ghost lights) can be witnessed. Appearing in shades of white, blue, red and sometimes yellow, these lights can be seen hovering a few feet over the ground or travelling at fast speeds over the arid land.