The Nal region is a low-lying area between the plains of the Central Gujarat and Eastern Saurashtra. Owing to its low lying topography, it is believed to represent a filled up sea link, that previously existed between the Little Rann in the north and the Gulf of Khambat in the south. Remnants of this sea are thought to be represented by the Nalsarovar.
The lake Nalsarovar and the wetlands around it were declared a bird sanctuary in 1969. Spread over 120 sq. kms, the lake, and the extensive reed beds and marshes are an ideal habitat for aquatic plants and animals. The lake attracts a large variety of birds like plovers, sandpipers and stints.
There are 360-odd islets in the lake. Most of them lie exposed when the water level is low. The lake gets filled with water that drains from the adjoining Surendranagar and Ahmedabad districts in the monsoon. With this fresh water inflow, brackishness in the lake is reduced considerably.
The migratory birds arrive in vast numbers, homing in on the lake. There are flocks of pelicans, flamingoes, ducks, demoiselle cranes, common cranes and several waders occupying huge patches of the lake during the season. With the approaching summer the lake water dries up making it brackish, and the fish and other insect life becomes scarce. The migratory birds and most of the resident birds, such as cormorants, grebes and openbill storks, begin to leave by April.
More than 200 types of birds mainly waterfowl inhabit this lake and come from as far as Siberia. Nalsarovar in Gujarat is a bird watcher’s paradise, one can find rosy pelicans, lesser and greater flamingos, crakes, brahminy ducks, purple moorhen, herons, white storks, various species of bitterns, grebes etc. in the lake.
Best time to see the birds is early in the morning and in the evening. The locals have maintained strict cleanliness policy and one can find the water so clean that you can clearly see the sheval plants grown inside the lake. Sheval plant is food to the birds as well as the fish inside the lake.
Nalsarovar is best for a one-day picnic from Ahmedabad. One can visit Nalsarovar in Sanand by personal vehicle or taxi. Gujarat Tourism also offers luxury tent accommodations 1.5 km from the lake, other than few more resorts there is no proper accommodation available. It is advisable to stay in Ahmedabad city for better accommodation.
Private vehicles are not allowed past the ticket window area but vehicles are available from parking to the lake site, which is about 1 km. In bird watching season government announce Nalsarovar Package, which includes everything such as entry, boating and stay. The boatman will guide you around the lake during the boat ride.
Boat ride includes journey from start point to Dhrabla island and return. On island, one can enjoy view of the lake from the watch tower. There are small huts where food plate or kathiyawadi thali (consist of three sabzi, Bajra roti, jaggery, makkhan and chatni) is served by local vendors. The local vendors are very humble and good at hospitality.
There are ‘Pilu trees’ on the island, which bears small red berry type fruit, you can enjoy that fruit. The best time to reach there is just before sunrise as the lake is calm and quiet, and flocks of birds having their food. Visitors can also take a horse ride at lakeside of Nalsarovar park.
There is also an information centre in the sanctuary which gives details of migratory birds and Nalsarovar itself. One can get to know a lot about migratory birds and the sanctuary by visiting the information centre. Although there are binocular slots at few places, but to enjoy the view while boating and at the watch tower, a pair of binoculars and camera is must accessory while visiting Nalsarovar.
Migratory birds start arriving around October so the period between November and February sees a wide variety of winter migrants. It is one of the best seasons to be at Nalsarovar. Indigenous species also flock in plenty during this season, affording maximum sightings to a birdwatcher. Birds start leaving the area during the dry spell between March-April.
You can stay at the Forest Department Rest House at Nalsarovar. Another option is to stay at Palace Utelia, 10 km away from the lake at Utelia. You may stop for food at K.P. Farm (Sanand) en route which has a swimming pool, children’s amusement park and a water park. Day trips from Ahmedabad are another viable option, since the accommodation at Ahmedabad is likely to be more comfortable and more easily available, suiting all budgets and tastes.
By Air: Ahmedabad is the nearest airport which is well-connected to major cities all over India.
By Rail: The nearest railway station is at Ahmedabad.
By Road: The Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is about 60 km from Ahmedabad and State Transport buses ply to and fro between Ahmedabad and Nalsarovar, a journey of about an hour.