It was our first trip to a salt marsh and what better place to start than the world’s largest salt desert in India itself 🙂 We visited Rann of Kutch from 6th Feb – 8th Feb and booked the 2N/ 3D package at Rann Utsav tent city.
Our first impression of the tent city was ‘wow’. It is spread over 5 lac square meters and has more than 350 tents. The temporary housing built by Gujarat tourism department takes 1 month to be set up and has state of art facilities.
Packages at Rann Utsav Tent City:
There are 3 packages available – 1N/2D, 2N/3D and 3N/4D. Details of the package can be found on rannutsav.com. We had booked a 2N/3D package that included sunset and sunrise tour to White Rann, half day tour to Kala Dungar + Gandhi Nu Gaam and half day Bhuj tour.
All Rann Utsav tent city packages include the following:
- Pick up and drop from Bhuj airport/ railway station (at specific times)
- All meals (starting from lunch on the day you reach to breakfast on the day you leave)
- Sunset tour to White Rann
- Complimentary access to in-house activities and cultural programs.
If you opt for 3N/4D package, you also get to visit Mandavi beach in Gujarat.
Limitations of the package:
We always prefer to travel on our own and plan our own itinerary. This time however, we had to go with the package because we wanted to stay in the tent city. Living in the tent city is a great experience, but comes with its own limitations. Some of the limitations are:
- Go as per the planned itinerary: You have to go to White Rann on the first day and depending on the package; either Kala Dungar or Mandavi beach on the second. If someone wants to do beach on the last day and Kala Dungar on the 2nd, you cannot do that. If you plan to skip something, its your loss.
- Spend more time at attractions than required: The White Rann sunset tour starts at 4:30 pm when the sunset is after 6:30 pm. It takes 20 mins to reach the rann; and if you go by camel cart; you can do just nothing but stand and wait for sunset to happen. The area where camel cart takes the tourist is dirty, brown and marshy; thanks to the constant tourist inflow. Similarly, the tour to Kala Dungar reaches Kala Dungar before 5 pm and there is nothing to do except sit and wait for sunset or click pictures.
- Limited information: Staff at the tent city are very polite and helpful. However, they are temporary recruits and have limited knowledge about the place. They are very well trained to provide information of amenities inside the tent city; however they cannot tell you what you can expect at the Mandavi beach or if White Rann can be visited during the daytime. It was probably my mistake; but because we were going with the package we did very less research before the trip on attractions we were going to visit.
- Go with the herd: The bus got little delayed when we left the tent city for Bhuj and we reached Bhuj around 12 noon. As per the plan, we were supposed to go to Aina Mahal followed by Sri Swami Narayan temple. Both of them close by 12:45 pm. Some elderly in the bus insisted they did not want to miss the puja at temple so they be dropped at the temple first. We wasted good 15 min in this detour.
Accommodation at tent city:
There are various kinds of tents available at the tent city. Choose from one of these depending on your requirement:
- Premium tents
- Deluxe AC Swiss Cottages
- Non AC Cottages
- Economy Swiss Cottage
Rates vary based on the peak and non peak season. Senior citizens get a 10% discount too. Check http://rannutsav.com/package-tour.php for rates.
We booked the non AC cottage. Weather during the day is pleasant and AC is not required. Also, kids below 6 yrs are complimentary.
Accommodation at tent city is divided into various clusters. Each cluster has 20 to 45 rooms depending on how big they are. Every room has an attached bathroom & hot/ cold water. Every room has complimentary toiletries and blankets. AC rooms also have a room heater. It was not required in Feb, but must be required during peak Dec cold when the thin blankets won’t be enough.
Food at Rann Utsav:
Pure vegetarian food is served at Rann Utsav tent city. There is an option for Jain meal too. Every meal is an expansive buffet and consists of Kutchi food; which is slightly different from Gujarati food. Its little on a spicier side.
There are 2 dining areas and depending on which cluster you are in, you will be allocated to one of these. The dining areas are huge and designed exquisitely. Breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner are included in the packages. There are food stalls outside too.
Activities at Rann Utsav Tent City:
Tent city has many complimentary and paid activities. Here is a list of complimentary activities:
- Table Tennis
- Bicycle rental (20 mins)
- Trampoline for kids
- Buggy ride to go from one place to another
- Star gazing
- Small indoor kids play area
- Cultural show
List of paid activities along with rates in Rann Utsav 2016-17:
|Activity||Rate per person||Duration / Rounds|
|Bullet Ride||700||1 hour|
|ATV Buggy||3000||30 mins|
|Dirt Bike||1500||30 mins|
|Tandem Bicycle||200||30 mins|
|Activity||Rate per person per attempt|
|Giant Swing/ Pendulum swing||500|
|High rope course – One level||300|
|High rope course – All levels||750|
|All Activity package||1500|
Cultural program at the tent city
Cultural program is organised in the tent city every night between 8:30 pm and 10 pm. It includes variety of music and dance. The programs are slightly different everyday so its not boring. There was a puppet show at the edn. Some of the highlights of the program were:
Dance by Guinness World record holder Mr.Rajender: He holds a record for dancing round and round for straight 90 mins. He danced and while dancing made beautiful peacock using a saree. The uniqueness about this peacock was that there was no knot in this. He did the same next day but made a cute rabbit. Here is a small video of him:
Dance by Afro-Indian tribe called Siddhi Dhamal: This is a folk dance by the Siddi community settled in Gujarat. These dancers can spit fire, break coconut with their heads and do some amazing things to entertain guests.
Athingo: This is a style of garba where 6 dancers perform using dandiyas around a pole and create a design with 8 colours.
Is it worth booking a package or is it better to stay in Bhuj and visit Rann separately?
This is a question that often gets asked because of the price of the package. Despite the limitations associated with the package, we would recommend booking the package for the following reasons:
- The whole experience of staying in the tent is different from staying in a hotel.
- Staying at the tent city comes with other amenities and activities. While we do not like to splurge when travelling, we prefer to have a comfortable stay when it comes at little higher cost than we would have spent otherwise. Comparing cost:
- A decent hotel in Bhuj: Rs.3000 per night per couple
- Taxi to White Rann: Rs.3000 per day
- Meals for the day: Approx Rs.500 per person/ Rs.1000 for a couple.
- Time spent on road: ~4 hrs.
- That makes it Rs.7000 per day. Basic tent house costs Rs.10000 per night for a couple. So even doing basic math; I find spending Rs.3000 more on amenities, food and convenience better than staying in Bhuj. If you can combine White Rann with Kala Dungar; it may make more sense. But then you either miss sunset or sunrise at White Rann; both of which are a treat to the eye.
Which package to go for at Rann Utsav tent city?
I will recommend the 2N/3D package. You get time to visit the Rann for sunset and sunrise; and you get enough free time to experience the various facilities at the resort. The 3N/4D package comes with an additional tour of Mandavi beach that I recommend doing from Bhuj if you are keen at it. Bhuj is on the way from Rann Utsav tent city to Mandavi beach (Distance from tent city to Mandavi beach is 150 km and from Bhuj to Mandavi beach is 66 km).
Top tips when visiting Rann Utsav tent city:
- Keep a lock with you: There are no lockers and the tents have no locks. Though the staff is very honest in general, it’s always a good idea to keep valuable safe.
- Do not go to Rann of Kutch in the camel cart offered by the tent city. Take the bus instead. The area where camel cart drops the tourists is very dirty and slushy. The bus drops tourists at the parking. There is a 1 km walk from there and camels/ camel carts and horse carts are available.
- Book an AC room, especially in peak winters. Even in early February when the night temperature was between 12-18 deg Celsius, it was very chilly.
- Carry your water, woollens and a plastic sheet to sit on when visiting the Rann.
- Last but not the least, if you have the enthusiasm and time; do visit Rann in the day time when there are hardly any tourists. The place looks lovely in the day. You will not get drop by the tent city, but you can go on your own. Staff at the tent city do not have much information about this and may misguide you. Here is how you can do it:
- If you have your own vehicle, drive down to the BSF check-post. Get the permit and drive your car to the parking. Beyond that, take a camel cart or horse cart.
- If you do not have a car, walk till the BSF post (hardly 500 mts from the last point where tent city buggy will drop you). Get the permit. Govt. buses run from this point to the parking lot. However, they run only when there are a handful of people. If you are lucky, they may be running.
- If the bus is not running, try to get lift from some private car going inside. Parking lot is 2.5 km away so walking may not be a great idea.
Overall, we had a good time at the resort and would recommend a stay there if you are visiting Rann of Kutch. It does come with some limitations, but the whole experience of staying in the tent and the amenities that come with the Rann Utsav tent city is a good value. The resort has activities for guests of all age group, food is great and the hospitality is warm.
You can check my blog on Rann of Kutch.