Drive to the Sahyadris
11 Jan 2017: Day 11 (Moti Virani – Jamnagar, 316 km, 6 Hrs)
We commenced our drive from Moti Virani at 0730 Hrs reaching the coastal city of Jamnagar at 1300 Hrs. There we checked in at the Hotel President and even before going to our room, paid a visit to Mustak Bhai, the owner of the hotel who is well regarded as the walking encyclopedia of Jamnagar’s wildlife. He put aside all his work and based on our wishlist, chalked out a plan sharing precise location details where we had the best chances of spotting the target birds.
After a quick lunch, we were on our way to INS Valsura with the hope of sighting the Red-necked Phalarope. Unfortunately, the sun was very harsh and we were not able to scan the saltpans effectively limiting our chances of spotting the Phalarope. Nevertheless, we did sight birds like Indian Spot-billed Duck, Lesser Flamingos, Western Reef Egret, Cormorants, Pied Avocets, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Heuglin’s Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Common Kingfisher, Isabelline Shrike and a single Greater Short-toed Lark.
12 Jan 2017: Day 12 (Narara Marine National Park)
Based on Mustak Bhai’s advice, we left for Narara at 0630 Hrs and reached in about an hour. There we purchased entry tickets (Rs. 40 each) and hired a guide (Rs. 300). While none of the guides had birding knowledge, they did know the area well and we knew where to go based on the map Mustak Bhai had drawn for us.
During the next two hours, while we were scouting out for birds, we were equally awed by the vividly colorful sea life. We encountered Puffer fishes, Octopus, Starfish, Sea Anemones and various kinds of Sea Slugs along with birds like Grey Heron, Egrets, Sand Plovers, Curlew, Whimbrels, Greenshank, Redshank, Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Terns and Rosy Starlings.
Towards the end of the walk, we finally spotted Crab Plovers at a little distance; not being discouraged by the knee deep water we were in, we spent a good amount of time with the birds until our guide made us walk back to safety.
We returned to the hotel, got some rest and in the evening, went to the Balachadi Beach. While birding was not great, we did spot birds like Glossy Ibis, Curlew and various Plovers.
A key bird that we had failed to find in Jamnagar was the Oystercatcher. On inquiring with Mustak Bhai, we learned that Narara is the best place to spot them. However, we had not seen even a single bird at Narara in the morning. Mustak Bhai explained that during low tide, these birds are dispersed around, but during high tide they do congregate close to the shoreline.
So, we decided to spend the next day trying our luck spotting the two important species that we had missed to spot till now, the Phalarope and the Oystercatcher.
13 Jan 2017: Day 13 (INS Valsura and Narara Marine National Park)
We returned to INS Valsura and scouted the saltpans extensively for any sign of the Phalarope. When about to abandon our search, two cottonball like tiny birds landed in a saltpan right next to us. It was real fun observing these birds as they reminded us of the wind-up toys of our time, spinning and darting around in no fixed pattern.
We then proceeded to Narara at high tide hoping the Oystercatchers would congregate at the shoreline. Just before reaching Narara, many Great Crested Grebes and Black-necked Grebes were spotted in the saltpans that dot the approach road to the Marine Park. On reaching Narara, the Oystercatchers were spotted easily, but to our frustration, they were roosting on a small island that was beyond the range of our camera. Anyway, we did take a few record shots before returning to the hotel.
Hotel President: Hotel President offers basic rooms at a nominal price. The rooms do show age but are clean and well maintained. The staff is reliable, attentive and eager to assist. For wildlife enthusiasts, no visit to Jamnagar is complete without meeting Mustak Bhai. We would have surely missed some of the very important species if it would have not been for Mustak Bhai. Mustak Bhai also maintains a website with information on the various wildlife spots in and around Jamnagar: http://www.jamnagar.org/
Phone: +91 288 255 74 91
Tips for visiting Narara Marine National Park
What to wear: Shorts/Capri, old Shoes/floaters, Cap, Sunglasses and sun screen.
What to carry: Drinking water and snacks.
When to go: Check tide timings, visit early to avoid crowd.
Please feel free to ask us any question about our time at Jamnagar. Also, stay tuned for details on the next leg of our road trip.