A Short Trip to Gujarat


Having seen Tigers so closely (it was so pulse racing, that I felt like my heart in my mouth) in Kanha and Bandhavgarh last year, my interest in seeing more wildlife in its natural habitat, made me book a trip to Gujarat, which is the only home of the Asiatic Lion in India --- I along with two of my colleagues, Himanshu and Krishna did a recent trip to Gujarat and Diu. The other thing that perhaps played a role in our selection of Gujarat as a destination, was the wonderful advertising campaign that Gujarat Tourism has been running for the last couple of years, where, Amitabh Bachchan, Bollywood’s biggest star, has been promoting tourism to Gujarat. The campaign from Gujarat tourism seems to be yielding excellent results, and the number of tourists travelling to Gujarat is on the rise. 

Lion in Gir, Gujarat-exclusive home to Asiatic Lions

Our trip began in Ahmedabad, where just after a few hours of sleep, we visited the Gandhi Ashram, where the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi spent a few years of his life. It is now converted to a museum depicting the Mahatma’s life. Our next stop was Diu, a Union Territory, and a beach destination, bordering the state of Gujarat. 

The next morning, we moved on to Sasan Gir (of course the main reason for our trip), en route visiting Somnath – one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Somnath Temple-one of 12 jyotirlingas

The resort, Gir Birding Lodge was very well located (just next to the entry gate of the National Park), and during the 3 safaris we did into the park, we were lucky to spot the King of Jungle a couple of times, also it was a good birding experience as we spotted many birds – Magpie Robin, Black-headed Oriole, Nightjar, Eurasian Thicknee – just to name a few. We were lucky to spot Leopard as well, which is quite rare.

Safari in Little Rann of Kutch

Our last destination was the Little Rann of Kutch – an unending expanse of salt marsh desert, also very famous, for the reason that it is the only home of the Asiatic Wild Ass. It was indeed a unique experience to see large herd of Wild Asses, the other animals I was able to capture in my camera were the Desert Fox, Blue Bulls, etc.. The area is also well known to have about 300 species of Indian and migratory birds, but they were all gone in March, so we missed them!

While currently, very few tourists from the western world visit Gujarat, this is truly a destination with great potential, and there is a lot to see and do for tourists in Gujarat. Also very impressive, is the infrastructure development, which seems to be way ahead of several other states in India – Gujarat has a good road infrastructure, availability of clean drinking water and no power shortages.

wildlife in Gujarat

The trip gave me and my colleagues a very good insight into the potential of tourism in Gujarat, and this is a destination that we would certainly be recommended, if not to first-timers, at least to second-time visitors to India.

The writer, Atul Shrivastava is the Asstt. Manager of Trans India Holidays in New Delhi, India.

Golf In Srinagar, Kashmir


I just wanted to share something interesting that I and my Golfing buddies did last weekend. Well, it wasn't officially a long weekend, but we decided to take Friday off and do a three-day golfing trip to ...Guess where... Srinagar, Kashmir.

Golf in Srinagar, Kashmir

With a lot of apprehensions and skepticism, we froze on Srinigar as our destination .... and believe me, we were glad we did. The valley was just as beautiful as I had expected and remembered it to be (from my last trip 26 years ago), and the Golf far exceeded our expectations. The Royal Springs Golf Course (just off the Boulevard road and just a mile from the Lalit Grand Palace) was a delight, to say the least. Perfectly manicured and lush green fairways, punishing roughs, fast but true Greens ----- the Royal Springs Course is actually one of the best I've played on, and believe me, I've played on quite a few courses around the world. For a course of this standard, Green Fees are pegged at an acceptable level of about Usd 40 for 18 holes. Carts and Caddies are also available.

In addition to falling in love with the Golf Course there, the other important thing was, the feeling of complete safety and security while travelling in Kashmir. Fingers crossed, but the Omar Abdullah Government seems to have got its act together on security issues, and while one did see a significant amount of security forces present, we felt pretty safe and comfortable.

Golf in India

In addition to the roundtrips between the Hotel and the Golf Course, we did travel around a fair bit -- did the usual touristy thing of a Shikara(Kashmiri Gondola) Ride on the Dal Lake, visited the Mughal Gardens , and also did a trip to Gulmarg, including taking the Cable car ride up to about 3800 mtrs above sea level. The Gulmarg Golf Course, at an altitude of about 2600 mtrs, is said to be the highest green Golf course in the world. Currently being upgraded, it is supposed to reopen in the next month or two. There are of course a few telltale signs of the state has gone through hard times, but, other than that --- what the Mughal Emperor Jehangir said about Kashmir "If there is paradise anywhere on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here." seemed so true. It is breathtakingly beautiful!!!

Accommodation wise, Srinagar now as 3 good options, The Lalit Grand Palace , a wonderful 5 star Heritage Palace Hotel overlooking the Dal Lake, then there is the new 5 star Vivanta by Taj Dal View, set on a hilltop overlooking the Lake , and then, there are of course the famous Deluxe Houseboats on the Dal and Nagin Lakes. The Houseboats, while called Deluxe, are about a 3-star standard only, but are very cost-effective accommodation for those wanting to experience Kashmir on a limited budget.

Golf holiday in Srinagar

Flights to and from Srinagar, were surprisingly inexpensive, with roundtrip fares (restricted advance purchase) being available as low as Usd 100 per person. Since it was just a three-day trip, we couldn't visit Pahalgam, the third point in Kashmir's golden triangle of Srinigar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam, but friends in the local tourism industry told us, that if we liked the Golf in Srinigar, we would love the Pahalgam Golf Course. Pahalgam, about 2 hours away from Srinigar by road, and also, an extremely scenic quaint little resort town, now has an 18 hole Championship course, which I understand is wonderful too !! On the flight back, our four balls took the unanimous decision--- that, our next golf outing would be Kashmir again !! (we all need to work for a few weeks in between though !). The attached images will give you an idea of why !!!!

The author, Kapil Goswamy is the Managing Director/CEO of Trans India Holidays , based in New Delhi,India.

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