“Few can sojourn long within the unspoilt wilderness of a sanctuary, surrounded on all sides by its confiding animals, without absorbing its atmosphere; the Spirit of the Wild is quick to assert supremacy, and no man of any sensibility can resist her.”
Experience watching live discovery channel in India Itself as you witness the majestic king of the jungle roaming freely in its habitat in search of prey, the view sending chills down your spine, on a visit to the most celebrated Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Also known as Sasan Gir, the park is the perfect place to explore the gorgeous landscapes of Gujarat, spot the magnificent beast in action and closely understand the ecological balance.
Gir National Park
Located 65 kms from junagadh district Of Gujarat, Sasan Gir is the only place where one can spot Asiatic lions living freely in the wild.Established in 1965 and covering a vast area of 1412 sq km (about 258 sq km for the fully protected area (the national park) and 1153 km² for the Sanctuary), Gir is one of the most important protected natural areas in the Asian subcontinent housing the rare, innumerable and unsupported species of flora and fauna. The Gir national park takes the pride in providing the best natural habitat to the endangered species of Lions which were on the threshold of extinction in the 21st century. Since then Asiatic lions are now viewed as an isolated population of a subspecies including African lions. The Gir forest is also known for the Chowsingha – the world’s only four horned antelope. A striking feature of this sanctuary is the coexisting Maldhari community living here since generations carrying out grazing and livestock harvesting. Every year, this national park attracts tourists in a large number from various places around the world to experience its charismatic bliss.
History of Gir National Park
Back in the glorious days of Raja and Maharajas, Hunting wild animals was a favourite sport and also considered as matter of pride and honour. Hunting and famine led to a steep decrease in the number of lions in the 18th century. Finally, in 1960 Indian Government banned hunting and poaching . In addition to it various initiatives and efforts by the Indian Government and the NGOs brought many changes in the population of the Asiatic lions in the coming years. The lion breeding program was successful and bred about 180 lions in its captivity since its inception. Gradually all the efforts paid off. Now In 2020 the lion population has increased to 674 and even the distribution area of the lions increased tremendously.
A wildlife enthusiast visiting the wildlife sanctuary can be rest assured to witness a tremendous wide variety of fauna and would not be sad at any cost. Carnivores dominate the land of Sasan Gir and roam freely and safely in the rugged region.But in addition to it one can get a fabulous opportunity to witness around 2,375 distinct fauna species of Gir. Lets have a look at the wide variety :
Carnivores – Asiatic lions, Leopards, jackals, jungle ctas, mongoose, civets, sloth bears, hyenas, etc.
Herbivores – Sambar, Nilgai, Chital, wild boar, blackbuck, Chinkara, Hareetc.
Reptiles – Indian star Tortoise, monitor lizard, marsh crocodiles,snakes like pythons, saw scaled vipers, etc.
Birds – Vultures, crescent serpent eagles, brown fish owl, pygmy wood pecker, indian eagle owl, oriole, Indian Pitta, Rock Bush Quail, etc.
Bird pics by Mr. Dharmesh
Dense forest valleys, mixed deciduous forests, grasslands, plateaus and hilltops altogether make a unique topography of the Gir national park. Teak trees dominate the forest with other varieties like flame of the forest, acacia,khair, dhavdo, timru, amla, etc. Broadleaf and evergreen trees like simal, khakhro, amli and banyan are found in some parts of the forest and contribute to the moisture retaining in the otherwise dry forest area. Some part of Gir is dotted with savannah type of grasslands. Because of the presence of rich and diverse flora in the Gir forests, it has become a very important biological research area. The park is majorly nurtured by the perennial River Hiran and Kamleshwar Dam. The rivers Shetrunji, Shingoda, Godavari, Raval, and Macchundri also flow through the forest.
Major Attractions Of Sasan Gir
Jungle safari – Undoubtedly the best attraction of this wild life park is the jungle safaris in Open 4WD safari vehicles which give all the tourists a fabulous opportunity to see the rare lions and other animals at such a close range. The enthralling jungle safari in the open jeeps is an exhilarating experience as one can spot lions and lioness crossing tracks staring at us or while playing with their cubs or ready for a kill. The three hours long safari through the dense forest can give you an adrenaline rush for sure and keep your excitement levels soaring sky high at all times!!!. Dont forget to catch glimpses of lions in your cameras.The guides definitely are an helpful addition during the safaris as they cater a lot of unknown information to the tourists. The ” lion shows” organised by the Gir Forest Department make sure that you spot lions as the forest officials track them and tempt them with live baits. There are 3 safaris in the whole day and you can choose based on your preferences. The national park is open from October -June and is closed in the rainy season from Mid June to mid September. Safari timings : 06:30 AM to 08:30 AM,
08:30 AM to 10:30 AM
03:00 PM to 05:30 PM
Entry Fees : Rs. 800 / per group pf 6 persons for Indians and Rs. 4800 for foreign nationals
Telephone: +91-88266678881 +91-9971231439
Devalia Safari Park or the Gir Interpretation Zone – It is the enclosed area of the sanctuary where Asiatic lions are kept in captivity. It comprised of 412 hectare of chain-link fenced area which represents Gir in short, including all habitat types and all major wildlife present in the main sanctuary area. This park gives a sure shot opportunity to witness the lions to all those who were not lucky enough to spot lions in the jungle safari. It has been made by the eco-tourism department to lessen the tourist pressure on Gir as a whole and to increase the chances for tourists to view the wild animals.The safari tour is conducted in a mini bus or open gypsy that takes visitors to another cross section of the Gir. Travelers can watch here a good variety of wildlife in just 20 to 30 minutes tour. The park operates from 8 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 5 pm from Monday to Saturday and is open throughout the year. Entry Fees : Rs. 150 per group of 6 persons for Indians and Rs. 1500 for foreign nationals.
Crocodile Breeding farm – It’s located inside the Forest Department office complex and is walking distance from Sinh Sadan Orientation Centre. Crocodile Breeding Center is place where reptiles are hatched and reared before they are set free into the forest in their natural habitat. One can learn the whole process of breeding of crocodiles at this farm. It is the best spot to capture crocodiles basking in the sun.Gujarat State Forest Department adopted the Indian Crocodile Conservation Project in 1977 and released close to 1000 marsh crocodiles into the Kamleshwar Dam. No entry fees.
Maldharis and Siddis Tribe Visit : Maldharis migratd to gir 125 yrs ago while Siddis live in this region since 800 years. Maldharis are pastoral community while Siddis are agricultural community. They happily coexist with the royal beast in the jungles of Gir and offer their cattles as prasad to the lions in exchange of occupying a small place in the lions world. The tourists get once in a lifetime opportunity to vist the settlements of theses tribes and witness their lifestyle but only with guides.
Kamleshwar Dam – Located in the park premises and built on the perennial river Hiran, Kamleshwar dam is the lifeline of the Gir national park. It is the best place to spot Indian marsh crocodiles. The photographers can get best shots of the lush green landscapes, wild animals drinking water at the reservoir, birds perched in the surrounding trees or the beautiful lake side views. It is the first spot in the jungle safari tour and the tourist get a chance to witness the local villages of Gir from here.
Gir Orientation Zone – Developed at Sinh Sadan with an aim to provide valuable information with the help of the life-size models of birds and animals, creative board for the bird call identification and well-designed information charts on display. It is a crucial step to promote awareness among tourists to conserve the heritage of the country. Souvenir shops located in the same premises sell memorabilia of the asiatic lions,ethnic artisanal handicrafts, decorative objects, folk crafts and the profits from these are utilised for welfare of Gir officials.
Gir Arboretum – It is an amalgamation of a nursery hosting rare indigenous flora of Gir and bird watching site. One can visit the exhibitiona as well as listen to calls and fluttering of flycatchers, babblers, prinias, parakeets, woodpeckers, doves, shrikes, robins, drongos, etc. The Butterflies can be spotted in great numbers in the tranquil surroundings with occasional spotting of deer, hare, snakes, etc.
Amphitheatre – A free of cost show is arranged everyday at the amphitheatre located in the premises of Sinhsadan guest house run by GTDC. A must watch show in the peaceful surroundings.
Tulsi Shyam Temple : This is a famous temple in the area dedicated to Lord Krishna where 3000 yr old idol in black colour of Lord Krishan is worshipped. The hot sulphur springs near to the temple and the famous road known for its Gravity hill phenomenon are the other major attractions.
How to reach :
By Air : Diu airport, 92kms/ Rajkot airport 160 kms from Gir.
By Rail : Junagadh railway station is the nearest. From Junagadh, 65 km road trip on bus or taxi can take you to Sasan Gir taking almost one and half hr.
By Road : Gir National Park is 60 km from Junagadh and 360 kms away from Ahmadabad.
- Safaris can be booked online on the official website well in advance. After online booking one has to visit the forest reception centre before the safari as the office allocates jeep, driver and guide on showing the online receipt.
- Prefer going for the early morning or afternoon safaris as wildlife sightings are common during this time.
- Permits to the park are limited in number. So hurry to avoid disappointment.
- Carry lots of water while going on safaris.
- Do not get down from the vehicle and try not disturb the animals by calling, shouting or making weird actions. Remember they are wild and dangerous.
- Flash or intrusive photography is not allowed.
- A list of hotels are available but you better book in advance as they are always booked due to influx of visitors.
- There are 8 zones in the wildlife park and out of them zone 1 AND 8 are longest.
- Zones for the jungle safaris are allocated randomly at the entry point.
- If you are travelling by private vehicle to Gir, then it is advisable to travel and reach Gir during daytime as it is dangerous to travel during nights.
- Opt staying at the Sinh sadan Guest house as the booking office of the jungle safari is in the same premises and you get a chance to interact with the tour drivers and guides and listen to their interesting wildlife stories. Occasionally at nights one can hear lions roar in close proximity.
- Food options are limited and the local hotels gets closed by 8.30 in the evening. So have dinner at your hotel room with prior orders or have it early at the local joints.
Stay tuned for my upcoming blog describing my personal experience in the thrilling world of Lions as i embark on a journey in the wild. Keep liking, sharing and commenting….
“There is no Wifi on safari but you will surely get connected“
Pics by Mr. Savaj and Mr. Dharmesh