Gir is the only home in India for the Asiatic Lion of which there are nearly 300 in the park. The Gir National Park lies in the Gujarat peninsula in South-Western India. The terrain is rugged with low hills and the vegetation is mixed deciduous, with stands of Teak, Acacia, Jamun, Tendu and Dhak trees, interspersed with large patches of grasslands. The trees on the hills are sparse and stunted.
Within the sanctuary, there are numerous human settlements of cattle herders called Maldharis with an estimated 20,000 head of livestock (which, incidentally, forms a significant part of the Lion’s diet).
There are also places of Hindu worship and pilgrimage and sulphur springs at Tulsi Shyam and Kankai Mata. The edges of the park have good population of Indian Gazelle, protected by religious sentiments of the local people.
Wildlife Attractions in Gir National Park
A distinct belt of vegetation is found along the main rivers and streams. Species like the Jambu, Karanj, Umro, Vad, Kalam, Charal, Sirus and Amli are mainly found here. These trees are mostly broad leaved and evergreen, giving the area a cool shade and the moisture content. Finally, Prosopis and Casuarina have been planted in the coastal borders as part of the afforestation plan.
The Asiatic Lion
Gir Sanctuary is the last and only home of the critically endangered Asiatic Lion. These lions are a smaller more compact version of their African counterparts, and are best viewed at dawn or dusk when they are on the move. The major difference between the two is that the African Lion appears larger than the Indian Lion because of its large and luxuriant mane.
Leopard is considered to be one of the most beautiful and graceful animals in the jungle, also the most dangerous one. Popularly known as the Prince of Cats, this animal is the most adaptable among the predators, one of the reasons why it occupies a much larger spread of Gujarat forest cover. In the Gir National Park it is found in all the varied habitats and vegetation types. The approximate population of 210 Leopards resides within the sanctuary area.
Not leaving the water predators behind, Mash crocodiles are often seen along the Kamleshwar Dam Site. Another major attraction among the reptile population of Gir National Park are the numerous non-venomous Snakes such as the Indian Rock Python along with the four venomous varieties of Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Saw Scaled Viper, Russell's Viper. Among the lesser-known wildlife of Gir National Park includes the most common animal that can be sighted in the sanctuary, the Chital or Spotted Deer.
Other main wild attractions are Nilgai, Chinkara, Sambhar, Black Bucks, the four horned Antelope, Wild Boar, Indian Flying Foe, Grey Musk Shrew, Indian Hare, Pale Hedgehog, Small Indian Mangoose, Small Indian Civet, Indian Pangolin, Indian Porcupine, Ratel, Indian Fox, and Jackal. The three smaller wildcats - the Jungle Cat, Desert Cat and the Rusty Spotted Cat also inhabit the forest, a fact which shows that the forest is not just meant for the protection of Lions, but the entire cat family.
The forest is also rich in bird life, with an estimated 300 species inhabiting the Gir National Park. Many wildlife experts believe that had Gir not been a Lion sanctuary, it could have easily passed off as a protected area for the incredible diversity of birds that it harbors. The avifauna here occupies the forest floors, small plants and shrubs and even the canopy of the trees. The Paradise Flycatcher, Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike, Pied Woodpecker, Bonelli's Eagle, Creset Serpant Eagle, Painted Sandgrouse, Bush Quail and Grey Patridge are the commonly found varieties in the park.
Jeep Safaris are an ideal way to travel inside the park, as the uneven terrain of the park can be conveniently covered on a sturdy vehicle. The park authorities permit you to take your own vehicle inside the park but only with the addition of a park guide. Jeeps can also be hired from the office at Sasan or from the tour operators. Seats should be booked in advance for a ride on the mini bus operated by the park administration. The safari timings are 6:30 to 9:30 AM and 3 to 5 PM.
Tribal Village Visit
A couple of tribes still reside inside the park co-existing with the wild animals. A visit to these tribal villages is an interesting experiences that introduces the visitors to the unique lifestyle and ways of living of the tribal people.
The historic town of Junagadh has a number of attractions that include forts, palaces and gardens. Shopping options in the town abound with ethnic Rajasthani goods finding the top spot on a shopper's list.
How to get there
Nearest airport is Keshod, while it will be ideal to travel by air to Rajkot and take a bus or taxi from here. Another major airport is Ahmedabad, connected to Delhi through daily flights (6:00 and 18:15). Indian Airlines flies Mumbai-Ahmedabad twice a day (5:30 and 19:30)
The nearest railheads are Sasan Gir and Veraval, while the most convenient railway station is Rajkot. Delhi is connected to Rajkot through the Sarvodaya Exp. (Dep. 21:55, Monday), Jat Jamnagar Exp. (21:55, Sun), Dee Porbandar Exp. (8:25, Mon, Thu) and Uttaranchal Exp. (13:40, Sun). Daily trains plying between Mumbai and Rajkot include the Saurashtra Mail (20:25), Sau Janata Exp. (8:00) and Saurashtra Exp. (7:55). Another railhead is Junagadh, connected to Ahmedabad through the Jabalpur Exp. and Somnath Exp.
State Transport buses are available from Junagadh and Veraval between November and June. To reach the park from Ahmedabad, take the NH8A to Chotila via Bagodra, Limbdi and Sayla, NH8B to Jetpur via Rajkot and Gondal, NH8D to Junagadh via Vadal. From here, take the district road to Sasan Gir via Khadia and Mendarda. Volvo buses run between Ahmedabad and Junagadh (Rs. 200/head). From there a mini bus will take you to Sasan Gir.
Distances from Major Cities
160 km/3 hrs.
415 km (SW)/7 hrs.
Travel Tips/Important Information
- The entry gate of the park is located at Sasan on the south-western border, while entry tickets can be obtained from the reception desk at the Sinh Sadan Guest House.
- The park charges are, Entry Fee : Rs. 30 (Indians) & US$ 5 (foreigners), Vehicle Entry : Rs. 35 (Indians) & US$ 4 (foreigners), Guide Fee : Rs. 50 (first 4 hrs) & Rs. 20 (every additional hour), Jeep hire : Rs. 600/safari, Still Camera : Rs. 50 (Indians) & US$ 5 (foreigners), Video Camera : Rs. 2500 (Indians) & US$ 200 (foreigners), Safari : Rs. 600 plus entry, Lion Safari Camp : Rs. 1000 plus entry (6 pax), Lion Show : Rs. 50 (Indians) & US$ 5 (foreigners)
- Park timings are 8 to 11 AM 3 to 5 PM.
- Do not talk loudly or play music as the noise may scare away the animals.
- Do not pollute the surroundings by smoking or throwing polythene bags and other non-biodegradable material.
- It is better to get adequate information about the place and take along a guide. Carry all the essentials along including a flash light, prescribed medication and clothes according to the season of your visit.