The Gujarat coast is one of the richest areas for wintering waterbirds in India and we start in Jamnagar where sites such as Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary and Narara and Pirotan Islands will show us thousands of flamingos and hopefully large flocks of one of our main targets here, Crab Plover. Lakhota Lake in the city attracts large flocks of gulls, with the chance of an Indian rarity.
Gir National Park is the only site remaining in India for the Asiatic Lion. The local population is currently doing well with an estimated 600 lions, and we also have a reasonable chance of seeing Asian Leopard. Birds here include Mottled Wood Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Jungle Nightjar, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Pitta, Red-naped Ibis, Red-headed Vulture, Short toed Snake Eagle and Barred Buttonquail.
Velavadar National Park protects a large remaining area of grassland, a habitat very much threatened elsewhere, and is set attractively between two rivers. In winter one of the most spectacular sights is the evening harrier roost. Whilst numbers have reduced considerably from the thousands recorded there in the early 2000s and earlier, it is still an amazing experience to watch harriers coming in from far afield and silently dropping into the grass to roost. Velavadar is famous for its Blackbucks but is good for mammals generally, and we have a reasonable chance of seeing Wolf and Hyena here. Birds include Common Crane, Dalmatian Pelican, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Painted Francolin, many larks including Ashy-crowned, Rufous-tailed and huge flocks of Greater Short-toed and Bimaculated, as well as the rare Stoliczka’s Bushchat.
Day 1: Arrive in Jamnagar from Bhuj (or Ahmedabad)
Our trip starts in Jamnagar, whether we have arrived after a drive from Bhuj (for those who have just completed our main Rajasthan and Gujarat tour) or Ahmedabad (for those flying in from Delhi or Mumbai or elsewhere).
Jamnagar on the southern shore of the Gulf of Kutch is a Marine National Park, protecting large numbers of passage and wintering gulls, terns and waders, and is the best site in India for the unique Crab Plover. We will visit the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary on the Ruparen River, one of the prime sites here, with a combination of saline and freshwater lagoons supporting many thousands of wintering birds, including Common Cranes, Black-necked Stork, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, waders including Great Thick-knee, White-tailed Lapwing, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers, and Indian Skimmer.
Day 2: Jamnagar
Our full day in the Jamnagar area will allow us to explore a few sites in the area. Narara Bet and Pirotan Islands support huge numbers of birds, although permits are not always available for these protected areas inside the National Park, particularly the latter which is only accessible by boat. Regardless, there is plenty to be seen in more accessible areas. Even Lakhota Lake in the heart of the city attracts large numbers of gulls with the chance of something unusual. We will see many species overall, potentially including Great Crested Grebe, Western Reef Egret, Pallas’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Greater Spotted Eagle, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Sand Lark and Rosy Starlings.
Day 3: Jamnagar to Gir National Park, via Mokarsagar Wetlands
Leaving Jamnagar early we will stop for birding at Mokarsagar Wetlands at Porbandar, another coastal city with excellent local birding, hopefully with close views of a confusing array of large white-headed gulls for any gull enthusiasts amongst us! Both Heuglin’s and Steppe forms of Lesser Black-backed Gulls are likely, as well as Slender-billed, various terns, big flocks of both Greater and Lesser Flamingos, and many other waterbirds. We then continue on to Gir, where we stay at the Gir Birding Lodge, in a prime location right at the periphery of the park.
Days 4 – 5: Gir National Park
Sasan Gir, or Gir National Park, is an area of dry deciduous forest famous as the only remaining site in the world for the Asiatic Lion. This subspecies of Lion once ranged from the edge of Europe in Turkey, all across Asia to eastern India, but was driven almost to extinction by hunting. Thankfully numbers have recovered to several hundred now, but with the entire population restricted to an area less than the size of Greater London, they are precariously vulnerable to disease, poaching, and have to share much of this land with an increasing human population and their cattle and crops. Gir also supports a large population of Leopards, as well as Chinkara and Chousingha, the Four-horned Antelope.
Gir also supports a varied birdlife, including Indian Thick-knee, Brown Fish and Mottled Wood Owls, Indian Pitta, Egyptian Vulture, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Laggar Falcon, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, White-bellied Minivet, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Marshall’s Iora, Tawny-bellied and Yellow-eyed Babblers, and Rufous-fronted Prinia.
We have two full days to explore the forest and surroundings by open jeep and on foot.
Day 6: Gir to Velavadar Blackbuck National Park
From Gir we head east to Velavadar National Park, famous for conserving the largest population of Blackbuck remaining in India. It is also an excellent location for other mammals, including Indian Wolf, Golden Jackal and Striped Hyena. We will arrive in time to catch the amazing spectacle of the evening harrier roost, with many Montagu’s, Pallid and Marsh flying in all around us before dropping down into the grass for the night.
Day 7: Velavadar Blackbuck National Park
For birders the extensive grasslands of Velavadar are a fantastic habitat. We will have morning and afternoon safaris to explore and, as well as those harriers that remain during the day to hunt, we will also look for White-eyed Buzzard, White-rumped and Indian Vultures, Grey and Painted Francolins, Laggar and Red-necked Falcons, Indian and Singing Bush Larks. Lesser Florican breeds here in good numbers in the monsoon, but is unfortunately near impossible to find at other times of year.
Day 8: Velavadar to Ahmedabad and Delhi or Mumbai
Today it is time to head back to Ahmedabad but, depending on flight timings, we will have another morning to bird around Velavadar. If we have had enough of birds by now (!) a remarkable stop we could make on our drive to the airport is the more than 5000-year-old remains of the Harappan city Lothal, part of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation, and site of the oldest known sea dock in the world.
The tour ends in Ahmedabad, from where we can catch flights to Delhi or Mumbai and onward as necessary.
View species bar chart on eBird.
As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures.
This tour is guided by Mike Prince, plus local birding guides.
- Prices quoted are per person, assuming an exclusive 2 person tour. Larger group sizes attract a discounted per person price, which we will confirm to you on enquiry.
- International flights are excluded.
- We may change the itinerary described due to various reasons such as latest birding information, availability of accommodation, state of the roads, and other unexpected factors that, this being India, do pop up from time to time!
- The final price and itinerary will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans.
See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, what's included, other exclusions, prices for larger groups, single room supplements, and booking details.