Gir National Park - Gir is famed as the sole habitat of the mighty Asiatic Lion in India.
Gir National Park
If you are looking for a close encounter with the Asiatic Lion, then Gir National Park is your best and only bet. Gir's lions are peculiarly unafraid of the humans which could be a result of their close proximity to the Maldharis, a local community of herders who have lived within the boundaries of the park for centuries. Staring into the eyes of a majestic predator can be an exciting experience and if you feel afraid to do that, then mount an elephant and let your mahout do the rest. The sad part of the story, however is that there are very few of these creatures left in the wild, a fact which could be reasoned in the words of Wynter-Blyth, a profound naturalist, who said "The Lion is much bolder, more fearless of man and less cunning than the tiger and so is much more easily shot. This explains the disappearance of the noble animals from all its other Indian haunts whilst the tiger manages to maintain its numbers."
The story of Gir resembles a fascinating lore tracing its past centuries back. The area was an erstwhile hunting retreat for the maharajahs until the British came and wrote the rest of the story with their contemporary weapons almost ridding the entire area of these gentle giants. Eyes opened when the lion was on the brink of extinction and the nawab of Junagadh decided to take the initiative. The area was formally declared a Lion Sanctuary in 1965 and further accorded the status of a national park and nature reserve in 1974. The best time for a jaunt to the area are the cooler months from late November to February.
Wild Attractions in Gir
Official figures state the big cat population at 300 lions and as many leopards, making it one of the most prolific in the country. To see the giant creatures on the prowl is a fascinating experience. Herds of other denizens including sambar and spotted deer (chital), blue bull (nilgai), chousingha (the world's only four-horned antelope), chinkara (Indian gazelle), wild boar, Jackal, striped hyena, jungle cat, rusty-spotted cat, langur, porcupine and black-naped Indian hare are also commonly seen.
Seen basking in the sun, along the river is the marsh crocodile (mugger) along with other species (40 in total) of reptiles and amphibians. The violent chirps of birds (250 species) indicate that a wild beast is somewhere on the prowl. Commonly spotted avians entail the painted sandgrouse, grey francolin, quails, Asian paradise flycatcher, black-naped monarch, white-browed fantail, Asian brown flycatcher, grey-headed flycatcher, verditer flycatcher, tickell's blue flycatcher, greenish warbler, white-eye, coppersmith barbet, common and marshal's iora, rufous treepie and the yellow-footed green pigeon.
Tribal Village Visit
The maldharis, a term used for indigenous communities residing inside the park, have built their fascinating villages within the park boundaries. A visit to these villages and interacting with the people can be a rewarding and enticing experience.
Crocodile Breeding Farm
The one of its kind farm is located near the Sinh Sadan Lodge at Sasan. Crocodiles are bred here for release into the wild. Kamleshwar Dam on the Hiran river is also worth a visit.
Jeep and mini bus safaris are convenient ways of
roaming around inside the park. Moreover, the sturdy four wheeled
drives make the uneven terrain and the off beaten paths easily
approachable. Private vehicles are also allowed inside the premises
but only with the addition of a park guide, who can be of much help
and assist you in animal spotting.
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