Gir National Park, home to the Asiatic Lion was our next destination. Sasangir is located approximately 70 km from the Nagao beach in Diu.
We left from Diu at 5 pm and it took us nearly three hours to cover the 90 kms to reach our place of stay for the night at Gir. The road is narrow and not very well maintained as for most part is passes through the sanctuary. One can see spotted deer grazing in the jungle along the road.
Gir National Park….
Spread over nearly 1400 sq kms the national park and wildlife sanctuary is home to nearly 500 lions. There are more than 2300 fauna species including 300 species of birds. The main attractions include the Asiatic Lions, Leopards, deer, and blue bull.
Tourists are required to book the Lion safari through the online portal of the Gir National park and costs around Rs 3100. This includes cost of the vehicle and the services of the guide. A pass of Rs 200 is required for carrying a camera. Thankfully, no plastic bottles and food material are permitted to be carried during the safari. Steel water bottles are available on payment for carriage of water.
The safari lasts three hours. There are three safaris planned during the day starting with the first one at 6 am. The next is at 10 am and the last one at 3 pm. Based on our safari experiences we had been through in some of the other sanctuaries we had visited we were not expecting much. But still the desire to site the Lions motivated us enough to undertake the journey. We selected the 10 am slot for our safari.
The first two hours of the safari were on expected lines, uneventful. But fortunately, we had a very enthusiastic guide who never allowed our spirits to go low. Just as we were losing all hopes the excited voice of our guide got us back on our feet. He had sited the fresh pug marks of a lioness along the road. Only an expert eye could have located the mark from a moving vehicle. In another ten minutes we located her, the queen siting majestically in the shade.
She sat there, just ten metres from the road along the stream totally unaffected by the overenthusiastic onlookers and the passing vehicles. It was as if we did not exist, she was in her own world. Off course, she did oblige us with some great photographic poses. It was a ‘Paisa vasool’ moment for us (we got our money’s worth).
Gir Interpretation Zone….
An interpretation zone has been created within the National park to reduce tourism hazard and promote nature education. One can easily sight variety of animal species including the majestic Lions. We were lucky to come face to face with a family of Asiatic lions. We also sighted the leopards, spotted deers, blue bulls, blackbucks, and many other varieties of animals.
This safari lasts just one hours and costs Rs 3100 but is more satisfying specially if one is travelling with kids.
‘Maldharis’ are the local inhabitants of Gir forest. They are simplistic people who basically rear cattle, grow vegetables and collect honey. Their main source of livelihood is sale of milk, milk products and handicrafts. It was really heartening to see a school in the middle of the sanctuary catering to the need of the local kids. What was surprising was to see that at a time when the schools world over are closed due to pandemic, this school was open. Happy smiling faces of the young kids was a true reflection of the age old saying that ‘true happiness is not dependent on money or resources, it lies in small things, just flows from within’.
I will advise to tourists who have been to any other wildlife sanctuary before to avoid the Lion safari. You will not miss much; in fact, you may just end up saving time and money. Lions are the main attractions of Gir, however there are just 5 to 6 lions present anytime in the area reserved for tourists. So, chances of sighting are rare. Even you are lucky you may sight one or two animals. It is better to go on a safari through the Interpretation zone where also you have high chances of sighting there to four lions/ lionesses together.
Please do try and select a hotel as close to the National park to avoid unnecessary to and fro travel. The resort we had selected was located 30 minutes away and the bad road condition added to the misery.
Do make your booking for safari through government online portals as the tourist companies charge Rs 1000 to 1500 extra per booking.
Please carry your Aadhar card or any government issued ID card to prove your identity. I am attaching a slide show of the pictures I was able to capture in my camera for your viewing pleasure.