I am always in awe of how birds have the ability to navigate thousands of miles and locate the most picturesque and suitable place to spend their winters. One such strikingly scenic resort for the birds is the Nal Sarovar lake. Owing to its popularity with resident and migratory birds, Nalsarovar was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1969.
The 70 odd kilometer drive from Ahmedabad to Nalsarovar is smooth and hassle free specially if you leave early in the the day. Most travelers recommend reaching the venue by sunrise to catch the early morning activities and chirping sounds of the birds in peace and tranquility. As the day progresses the sun gets pretty harsh and also the place starts buzzing with too much of human activity making it difficult to see the birds from close.
Nalsarovar in its glory claims to be one of the largest wetland bird sanctuaries of India (spread over an area of 120 square kilometers) though there are times when parts of the lake dry up. At the gate to the sanctuary is a parking lot and a ticket window. From this point itself the ‘sanctuary feel ‘ of the place is lost as there are vendors selling knick knacks, people pestering you to take a horse ride for Rs 50/- (a small round nearthe dusty parking lot ) and the numerous agents/ boatmen haggling with you over the price of the boat ride. Surprisingly all signages of instructions and rate lists are in Gujarati leaving one seriously wonder about the attitude of indifference of the tourism department towards this place of national repute.
The tickets cost Rs 85/- per head with an additional Rs 200/- for the camera. The ticket costs include a drop in an eco van ( No personal vehicles are permitted into the sanctuary) to the point from where one gets into a boat. The official rate for the boat till the closest island is Rs 220/- per head if you take a shared boat and Rs 1350/- if you hire the complete boat. However things are a complete mess as the boatmen quote anything between Rs 2000/- to Rs 7000/- with temptations to take you to islands in the interiors to see more species of birds. Its all up to you as to what kind of bargain you can strike. The boatman who is also a self styled guide uses a long pole to row the boat as the water is not very deep ( 4- 5 feet). The lake claims to have 36 islands with some of them having watch towers and one of them an island called Dhrabla has some kind of eating places where local cuisine is available (kathiawadi thali). He will also provide you with Gathia – a kind of dry snack to feed the birds so that they come closer to you. Being a wetland one gets to see lots of water fowls- brahminy ducks , grebe, storks, pelicans, flocks of greater and lesser flamingoes, geese, bitterns etc.
Nature has bestowed Nalsarovar with a lot of beauty – so much so that birds come from thousands of miles to visit this place. We need to be cautious and restrict the commercialization of this picturesque locale so that these feathery international tourists continue to make this their preferred vacation choice.