Dwindling wildlife and their conflict with the homo sapiens is a constant and worsening theme in the history of our civilization. That is why whenever I discover a positive story in this regard, I try to witness the same. The story of the demoiselle cranes of Khichan is one such rare but pleasant story that should delight everyone.
Khichan is a small village located somewhere between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. I came across the name a few years ago, probably in some travel forum. It is known for the thousands of demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides Virgo) that flock this nondescript village during the winter, when the Eurasian Steppes get too cold for comfort. More importantly, the villagers protect and feed them religiously, instead of hunting them down unlike some others places. What is interesting here is that this is a fairly new phenomenon and not something continuing from prehistory. From whatever information I could gather, these discovered this spot only a few decades ago and kept returning due to the safety and hospitality. So, we can rest assured that these birds are intelligent enough to find what is good for them and not merely following the habit set some mysterious primordial creator or advanced clients from prehistory.
I reached Phalodi junction, the nearest railhead to Khichan, at noon. I was coming from Jaisalmer and planning to move on towards Jodhpur to catch another train to Kota. But I had kept a few hours in between for this although I was not fully sure about the route. I had tea at a shop near the station and inquired them about it. They said that I can just take an autorickshaw and so I did. He quoted 300 Rs for going Khichan, waiting for an hour and returning. I knew it was a bit higher and I could have bargained but I readily agreed as I was happy that I will be easily achieving my target without any hiccups. Also, since he agreed to wait, I could just leave my luggage with him and move around freely.
It was barely 5-6 kms away and we reached within 10 minutes. Initially, it just looked like any other place in the region but suddenly the autorickshaw took a turn and stopped in front of the “entry point” which is basically a bit of elevated ridge hiding the bird area from the passerby on the highway. The entry fee of INR 30 wasn’t much and I could already hear the loud chorus of trumpeting calls by thousands of cranes although I could see none of them. Anyways, after the formalities, I climbed a few stairs and suddenly found myself amidst a completely different universe.
There was a small water body in the middle of an otherwise arid, reddish-brown landscape and there are thousands of cranes covering the entire stretch beyond it till the horizon. Occasionally some of them will suddenly take flight, covering the sun like the Persian arrows, only to settle down after a while. They do love this place.
However, I felt alarmed every time they did so, screeching loudly and flying over my head. However, after a few minutes I exorcised my Hitchcockian demons and realized that these birds are mostly peaceful, just like the people here.
I was told by one of the locals that they arrive early morning and the villagers arrange for their food. After that they spend the whole day here and then for the night they fly away to a different place. I could not fully understand what he was talking about but apparently, there is a salty lake somewhere in the Thar desert where they spend the night.
I walked around the area and saw multiple ponds around which the birds congregate. They are here in such high numbers that they have overshadowed the local birds. I could barely see one egret and probably a couple of ducks among other species. Apparently, these cranes love the place so much that they start arriving for the winter sojourn as early as August nowadays and stay till March.
I clicked pictures to my heart’s content although the 55-200mm was not very satisfactory and an hour and a half flew away. I returned to Phalodi and moved on to my next destination but this will remain one of my shortest by most satisfactory detours.
Khichan Traveller FAQ
Where is Khichan and what exactly is the deal here?
It is a small village in the Thar desert region in Rajasthan. Jodhpur is the nearest big city, 139 kms away. It became famous because the villagers started feeding and protecting migratory demoiselle cranes. Number of these seasonal visitors has swelled over the years. You also explore the village and its old havelis.
How to reach Khichan?
Phalodi is a junction on the railroad between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Khichan is barely a few kms from here. You can get autorickshaws, everyone knows the place here. Otherwise, Phalodi is also connected via buses with other major cities such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Nagaur and Bikaner, all less than 200 kms.
How much will it cost to visit Khichan?
Not much really. The autorickshaws will quote anything between 200-300 to go, wait and come back to Phalodi. You can also get into the buses if you can figure out the route and save money. Actually, it is not very far and if you have time, you can actually take a walk. Entry to the village is INR 30.
Can one stay in Khichan?
There are one or two resorts out there. I guess they are only beginning to realize the tourism potential. Although I had no time, it is not a bad idea to spend a night here because you can then catch the early morning feeding rituals, which, according to a local villager, is another sight to behold.
What is the best time to visit Khichan?
The birds start arriving in August and stay till March. However, it is advisable to avoid the heat in Rajasthan and visit between December to February for a comfortable experience.
16 thoughts on “Khichan: A Hitchcockian Delight”
Wow what an amazing place!!
Unique photos, very dynamic. A video wouldn’t have done a better justice to these birds.
Thanks Nina… I did take a video but din’t like it myself
Enjoy reading the story of these birds. In flight captures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this experience.
It is a wonderful sight to see so many cranes flocked together. Lovely pictures.
Well this is a destination less visited i guess…seems undiscovered. I had not heard of this place before. But yourcaptures make it look awesome. And the well written travelogue makes it a must-pin item 🙂
And what a lovely story. Those are some really kind- hearted people there.
Khichan looks like a hidden gem. 🙂
I’m guessing this is what you gave up that desert safari for. 🙂
What an amazing experience! I love visiting reserves to see birds that have migrated in huge numbers. The atmosphere is amazing – the noise incredible!
Whoa! I’ve never seen so many birds in one place in my life. I think I’d be a little scared… screeching and flying over my head sounds quite scary. I love the photo opps though, so unique. I hadn’t heard of Khichan before, but I guess that makes sense since it’s a small village off the beaten path 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
I wish I knew about this place when I visited Rajasthan a couple of years back! It’s certainly a step in the right direction and I hope the area uses its new-found tourism responsibly. Those birds are so numerous. I understand why you thought you were in a Hitchcock movie!
Wow, I’d love to see groups of birds flying like that in person! I bet it’s an amazing sight, especially with how many there seem to be. I love that the villagers come and arrange their food too, so nice of them 🙂
Wow, this is so so amazing. I never heard about this village and about these migratory birds. This has surely been added to my bucket list now and I’ll make sure I visit the place whenever I am anywhere near Jodhpur. Loved all the pictures, they are so appealing. Thanks so much for sharing a truly undiscovered location.
Wow there are so many birds!! The pictures in which they are all flying are quite impressive! I love seeing & taking pics of wild animals. In Australia i visited a place with so many birds as well, it was incredible!
My dog would be going absolutely bananas with all those cranes! There is something so magical about watching them fly, or any bird really. I also thought it was cool that the villagers actually arrange for their food! I wish more people were animal friendly like that here in the States.
You’ve taken some amazing pictures of these birds. I have never seen so many big birds at the same time, this would be a first for me. I will have to add Khichan to my Rajasthan itinerary!
OMG! This place is just splendid! Yes, a day trip might be enough but its a definite not-to-miss place when you’re in Jodhpur or Jaisalmer! I was planning to visit Jaisalmer last year, but it flopped. Guess its a good thing, coz now I know of one more place not to miss when I go…