India – One and only den of Asiatic Lion
A large number of tourists flock India to catch a glimpse of a wide variety of wildlife found in India. One of the most famous animals found in India is Asiatic Lion. Its territory is limited to the Gir National Park and its surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. It attracts so many tourists due to the fact that it is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List and is found in abundance only in India.
Gir National Park: Place where you can spot the King of the Jungle
Spread across an area of about 1412 sq km, Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a forest and wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat. Established in 1965, it is also recognized as Gir Forest or Sasan Gir. The region is divided into parts – 258.71 sq km area is fully protected as a national park and remaining 1153.42 sq km area as a wildlife sanctuary. The region is a part of the Kathiawar Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion and preserves more than 520 Asiatic Lions.
Gir National Park is located in the southwest part of Saurashtra peninsular region in Gujarat. The sanctuary is situated at a distance of 65 km to the southeast of Junagarh district and 60 km to the southwest of Amreli district of Saurashtra. The orientation centre and park reception are located at the Sasan Gir village. Also known as Devalia Safari Park, Gir Interpretation Zone is situated at 12 km west to the village at Devalia.
Most of the area comprises rugged hills, with high ridges and densely forested valleys, with grassland plateaus and isolated hilltops. Moreover, Gir Forest is very dry teak forest. Teak can be found in the region along with dry deciduous species. The forest has more than 507 plant species including 48 shrub species, 232 herb species, 64 climber species, 132 tree species and 26 grass species.
Gir is quite abundant in terms of fauna as it preserves as many as 2375 distinct species, consisting of about 38 species of mammals, 37 species of reptiles, around 300 species of birds and more than 2000 species of birds. Some of the main fauna species include:
- Carnivores – Indian leopard, Asiatic lion, striped hyena, honey badger, rusty-spotted cats, etc.
- Herbivores – Chital, nilgai, chinkara, wild boar, blackbuck, porcupine, hare, pangolin, etc.
- Reptiles – Indian cobra, mugger crocodile, monitor lizard, python, tortoise, etc.
- Avifauna – Indian Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Indian peafowl, black-headed oriole, crested treeswift, brown fish owl, etc.
- Jungle safari
- Bird watching
- Crocodile breeding
- Tribal visits
There are three types of safari available in Gir National Park – Gir Jungle Trail, GIZ Devalia Bus Safari and GIZ Devalia Gypsy Safari. Timings for all three are different, depending on the day of the visit and charges vary as per the nationality. It is important to note that only 6 persons can go in a gypsy at one time. Only 1child between 3-12 years of age will be allowed along 6 people.
Best time to visit
The park is closed for four months from June 16 to October 15 due to the monsoon season. Therefore, the best time to visit the park is from October 16 to June 15.
How to reach
- By Air: Keshod airport at a distance of 38 km is the nearest airport to reach the Gir forest.
- By Train: Sasan Railway Junction is the nearest railway station.
- By Road: Private or public transport can be used to reach the forest by road. Some nearby locations include Veraval (40 km), Junagarh (55 km), Diu (110 km), Rajkot (160 km0 and Ahmedabad (408 km).
Where to stay
There are plenty of accommodation options near Gir National Park. One can either choose budget hotels or luxury resorts, depending on their interests. Tourists can avail the best services at these wildlife resorts and enjoy their vacations. Some of the most popular options in proximity to the forest include Gir Birding Lodge, The Fern Gir Forest Resort, The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest, Maneland Jungle Lodge and Lion Safari Camp.
Some important things to know
- The entry permit for sanctuary must be obtained online 90 days prior to the visit.
- Guide fee, camera fee and vehicle fee are separate from the e-permit.
- Private vehicles are prohibited inside the park.
- Refrain from getting closer and hurting any animal or bird during the safari.
- It is advisable to wear light-colored clothes as animals are likely to be aroused from dark colors.
Attractions in and around the park
- Somnath – Counted amongst 12 jyotirlingas, this is a holy shrine and is a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus. One can find several temples and ghats at this destination. It is just 55 km away from the sanctuary.
- Kamleshwar Dam – Built over Hiran River and surrounded by lush greenery in the sanctuary, this dam has the largest population of marsh crocodiles in the country. This place also serves as the best destination for photography and bird watching.
- Tulsi Shyam Temple – Located inside the sanctuary, it is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Nearby hot sulphur springs are believed to have healing powers and therefore attract a lot of tourists.
- Gir Bhimchas – It is a water reservoir inside the park. It is often believed that Bhima created this reservoir to quench the thirst of his mother, Kunti.
- Kankai Temple – Another temple located amidst the Gir National Park is Kankai Temple. The main temple is dedicated to Kankai Mataji, who is believed to be a principal goddess to many castes in the country.
Now that you have got to know all the necessary information related to Gir National Park, brace up and get ready to catch a glimpse of Asiatic lions. It will surely be an adventure packed trip for you.