A day at the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary

Spring is perhaps one of those few best days of the year when I can enjoy the warmth and the cold at the same time. This also makes it a perfect time to explore the wild side of Gujarat before it gets too sultry. So, a couple of weeks ago, a friend and I planned an impromptu trip to Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary. It is barely 60-65 Km from Ahmedabad, and we both could do with a nice long drive away from the city. We got a verified and licensed car on rent in Ahmedabadfor the trip. 

The drive

Once we crossed Sanand, the drive became much more scenic than its previous patch of road. The stretch between Sanand and Nalsarovar was flanked by lush greenery on both sides and one could see glimpses of the rural life. Women running their daily chores, children heading to school, and all this while peacocks danced around the fields, houses, and even on the roads. It was quite fascinating to see these elusive birds living in tandem with the villagers, without so much of a scare. It took us about two hours on the NH 947 leading us to the sanctuary. 

The lake

Although technically this is a lake, it looked like more of an ocean. It is a low-lying plain between Central Gujarat and East Saurashtra. This was once a sea link between the Little Rann and the Gulf of Cambay. Over the years water from the sea filled up this zone and turned into a huge lake. The expansive water body with its adjoining vegetation has become a breeding and nesting ground for hundreds of resident and migratory birds. Every year, over 200 species of the most exquisite birds from Central Europe fly all the way down to these tranquil waters to escape the harsh winter of colder latitudes and find food, shelter, and warmth in the tropical land. With so many avian members in one place, it is arguably the largest wetland bird sanctuary of the state and one of the largest in the country.

A tour of the sanctuary

We had reached somewhere around afternoon when there are chances of spotting some of these beauties. There were boat rides available at the edge of the lake, where a few tourists were haggling for the fare. I had my camera ready, in case I found the right subject. Just then, a black-tailed Godwit with its long tail and long legs landed on the edge of the water, closed its wings, and started pecking on the soil for some insect. And a little further away, we could hear the screeching sound of a flock of gulls or ducks, I couldn’t figure then. 

We boarded the boat and started sailing under the mellow afternoon sun. We had barely sailed for about five or 10 minutes, when a bunch of gulls surrounded us like goons, calling out to meet their demands. The oarsman tried to shoo them away but they were relentless, pecking on the boat stern and one of them trying to pull at my bag. Being a pet owner (of a pair of parakeets and a cat) I knew what it meant. I fished out a pack of cookies that I had packed for the trip and the moment I dished out a few of them on the boat, they dived into it together as if it was the last piece of food on the planet. And then there was silence. 

As we continued our ride, my friend requested the oarsman to ride along the edges where mostly the water birds rest and feed. After sailing for another fifteen minutes we spotted a bunch of flamingos trotting around the reeds and feeding on mussels that often wash up through the water. Their milky white neck and torso were complimented with bright pink beaks, like the perfectly painted portrait. We also randomly spotted a couple of pelicans, white storks, and herons.

So long farewell…

Soon it was time for the sun to start setting. Calling all members of their feathers, each group of birds started gathering in groups and heading towards their resting areas. The quacking Brahminy ducks sailed southwards towards the more forested side of the lake. The long-legged members found their cozy corners within the tall reeds. And overhead, a bunch of homebound larks sailed through the evening sky, swaying and dancing to the wind in unison. 

This was perhaps the highlight of the day, watching the dark silhouettes of birds create an animated image on the rusty orange background of the evening sky, where a crescent moon had just appeared. And slowly all the chirping, calling, and quacking came to a silent pause, indicating us to bid adieu for the day! 

Pro Tips:

  • If you want to travel directly to the lake right after you land in Ahmedabad, book a comfortable and affordable Ahmedabad airport taxi.
  • Accommodation around the sanctuary might be a challenge, hence a day trip is recommended.
  • For a holistic tour, also explore the regions outside the sanctuary as well. 

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