AN EXPANSE OF SALT FLATS and grasslands in northwest Gujarat, the Little Rann of Kutch has a stark and unforgettable beauty – in sunlight, the salt crystals in the sand glitter like diamonds, while at night they bathe the landscape in an eerie blue haze, Every year, during the monsoon, when the sea and rivers flood the region, the salt flats are transformed into great marshy swamps, with patches of higher ground forming grassy islands known as bets. Some 4,841 sq km (1,869 sq miles) of this unique ecosystem, which supports a variety of rare fauna, form a wildlife sanctuary which is one of the last refuges of the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemiortus khur), known locally as ghorkhur. Akin to the Tibetan kiang, the ghorkhur is distinguished by a dark stripe along its back. Only about 1,000 of them now remain. Known for its speed (up to 60 km or 37 miles per hour), the wild ass lives in herds led by a stallion, and survives by migrating between the grassy bets through the seasons, in search of food.
The sanctuary also has a large population of nilgai (blue bull), blackbuck, chirtkara (Indian gazelle), wolves, and the rare caracal. Birdhife includes migratory demoiselle cranes, pelicans and flamingoes who come to the salt marshes during the winter months.
Dhrangachra and Dasada are both interesting bases from which to visit the Little Rann of Kutch Sanctuary. Dasada has a 15th-century fort and a village where potters and textile printers practise their craft. The family of Dasada’s former feudal chiefs arrange accommodation and guided tours of the Rann. Dhrangadhra, capital of a former princely state, has a fine 18th-century palace, and a bazaar with interesting colonial buildings. Tours of the sanctuary can be arranged through the Forest office here. Accommodation is available in the government rest house.