Being the only home for Asiatic lions, Gir forest national park is the place where you can spot the lions roaming free in the wild. Every year from mid October to mid of June, Gir forest national park stays open for jungle safari. And this year its from 16th of October. Not to mention that Gir is one among few of the oldest national parks in India.
The national park covers the 258.7 sq km and wildlife sanctuary owes 1153.4 sq km. Together they make up almost 1412.1 sq km of protected area which comes under government of Gujarat. However another 470.5 sq km of area is considered as buffer zone that is reserved and unclassified forest. Thus total 1882.6 sq km makes up the Gir forest.
Besides Gir forest lions can only be spotted in southern and central African grasslands. With their total count of approx. 21000 only in the entire world, lions are endangered species. Efforts are made to increase their territory and population.
Gir Forest National Park
Established in 1965, Gir forest is one of the most important protected areas in Asia due to its supported species. Most of the part of the park is deciduous forest and dry scrub land, provides the best environment for lions to survive and grow.
The place was the hunting ground for the Nawabs of Junagadh, however after steep decline in the population of lions, Nawab Muhammad Mahabat khan 3 assisted in the conservation of the lions and prohibited hunting.
How to reach Gir Forest ?
Gir is located in Talala district, Gujarat, India. Junagadh, Rajkot and Ahmedabad are the major cities that are easily connected to Sasan Gir. The location of national park is given here in the map.
By Road : you can reach directly to Sasan Gir by road from any part of the country. Nearest major town is Junagadh and Rajkot if you come by road.
By Train : you can find trains to Junagadh from Rajkot or Ahmedabad and then take a 55 km of road trip to sasan gir.
By Air : Nearest airports are Rajkot and Ahmedabad. From there you have to hire a taxi to reach the Gir national park. Rajkot to gir distance is around 164 km and Ahmedabad to Gir is approx 347 km.
Gir Jungle Safari
In the period of mid October to mid of June jungle safari is permitted for the tourism purpose as well as for the awareness and educational purposes. Tourists love jeep safaris. Each jeep carries 6 persons and timings for safaris are 6 AM to 9 AM, 9 AM TO 12 PM and 3 PM to 6 PM. Dusk and dawn timings are the best time for spotting lions and other wild animals. However in winter season when atmosphere is pleasant all the day, afternoon timing is equally effective.
Total of 8 routes from different paths, 30 vehicles and 3 slots of timing available for jeep safaris. So total 90 trips takes place per day. One can easily spot lions roaming in their natural habitat in the safaris. Apart from lions Indian leopards, deer, and black buck can also be seen.
In addition to real jungle safari, the government has developed an interpretation zone for more tourists and to have glimpse of lions and understand their habitat. It is known as devaliya interpretation zone. This is almost a zoo like setting but without cage, you can spot all the animal of Gir at the interpretation zone.
Devaliya Interpretation Zone
To promote Eco tourism and to reduce the overload of large number of tourists visiting the forest, government has developed a fenced area known as Interpretation Zone of Devaliya safari park. The sole purpose of creating this area is to provide an opportunity to see lions and other animals for a shorter period of time and at economical rates.
Do you know these things about lions ??
- Lions are the second largest living from cat family after the tiger.
- The only lion population in Asia survives in and around India’s Gir Forest and is listed as Endangered since 1986.
- Both male and female lions roar, and that roar can be heard from 8 kms away and it is nearly 114 db strong
- According to 2015 census. there are around 523 lion in gir, India and approx. 20,000 lions living in Africa.
- The mane of the male lion is a distinctive characteristic of lions. Any other species from cat family doesn’t have such apperance. It makes male lions appear larger and allowing them to be more intimidating. Another key point is that It signals maturity and health status as well. Lionesses tend to favor denser and darker manes.
Lions are very social cats and lives in a group called pride. Afircan lions have around 3 males and 8 to 10 females in a pride with their cubs, whereas asiatic lions have different pride for males and females. They come together during mating season.
How to book jungle safari ?
All the bookings of safaris get booked in advance through online booking system. Since it is the only place of Asia where you can spot the lions roaming free in the wild, most of the bookings are done months advance. If you are planning to go for a safari, make sure you plan more than a month earlier.
Booking of jungle safari is very easy process, you can book online through these two websites.
Many resorts and hotels at gir forest provides the facility to book safari for their customers. It comes with packages of safari, drop in and out services.
Best places to stay in the forest
Few of my best resorts are Fern, Amidhara, Gir Jungle Lodge and Saavaj Resorts. Along with accomodation they also provide the facility to book safari for you and manage a guide to help you understand the flore and fauna of the place.
Other Major attractions at Gir Forest
Apart from lions Gir national park is a home for many other animals and plants. More than 28 species of mammals, around 250 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles and more than 2,000 species of insects resides here.
Some major birds includes crested serpent eagle, endangered bonelli’s eagle, cresred hawk-eagle, brown fish owl, Indian eagle-owl and Indian peafowl.
Lions are endangered species and we need to take efforts to protect them.
The Lion population is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years and estimated that fewer than 20,000 lions remains. One of the main reason of the decline include human interference and disease. Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are considered the most significant threats to the species. The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from one another, which can lead to inbreeding, and consequently, reduced genetic diversity.
Additionally lions are on the top of food chain, their conservation is significantly important for nature. Lions need undisturbed space for living. Since population of humans are drastically increasing, scrubs and grasslands getting constricted. These results in decrease in wildlife species especially lions who are used to these habitat.
Its ignominy to say that our interference into nature has invaded so deeply in the food chain that its top most animal is struggling to survive. If we consider earth as our home, than the animals are our family members and plants are our pillars. We have to divert our thinking towards conservation than consumption, conserve more and consume less, the best way to keep our home safe.
P.S. : All the images of this article is captured by passionate wildlife and bird photographer Mehul Bhadania. His interest in wildlife and birds has led him to many unexplored places and habitats. His every picture inspires me to get close to nature and understand them. I really appreciate his work and wish him the great success in his upcoming projects.