From experiencing the jungle trail to living in the middle of one, the Gir National Park is a treat for travelers. Africa and India are the only two places where lions roam around freely in the wild. And in India, Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the last remaining Asiatic Lions.
Up to the early 1900s, indiscriminate hunting led to a drastic decrease in the Lion population in India and they were completely wiped out from other parts of Asia. It was the effort of Nawabs of Junagarh that resulted in the initial conservation measures to protect the species. In 1965, the Government notified the large geographical extent of Sasan Gir as a wildlife sanctuary in order to conserve the Asiatic Lion. From a population of about 20 lions in 1913, they have risen to over 523. The Park now covers a total area of 1412 square kilometers of which 258 kilometers form the core area of the National Park.
The Park is open for tourists from 16th October to 15th June every year.
It takes about one and a half hour to reach the National Park from Junagadh Railway Station.
The Rajkot railway station is about 3 hours away from Junagadh with cabs and buses (both private and public) available to cover the distance.
The driving distance from Somnath to the National Park is approximately 50 Kms and it takes nearly an hour.
The Diu airport is closest to the Gir National Park at a distance of 110 kms which can be covered in 2 hours. There are cabs and private and public buses available outside the airport.
It is a treat for naturists as more than 400 plant species cover the forest reserve along with teak mixed with dry deciduous species.
Some of the most sought after plant species include ber, jamun, babul, flame of the forest, zizyphus, tendu and dhak. A banyan tree and a range of other plant varieties like karanj, umlo, amli, sirus, kalam, charal and an occasional vad are the other attractions.
According to government statistics of 2015, the Saurashtra Region is inhabited by 523 Lions and over 300 Leopards. The park is also home to two different species of deer and the ‘Chowsingha’ – also referred to as the world’s only four horned antelope. The Jackal, striped Hyena and Indian Fox are some of the smaller carnivores found in Gir Forest.
The exotic flora of Gir National Park gives shelter to more than 200 species of birds one of them being, the critically endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures.
Sasan Gir is also home to more than 40 species of reptiles and amphibians including King Kobra, the Russell’s viper, Saw-scaled viper and the Krait.
It is among the richest and oldest places of worship of India. It was robbed later by Mahmud of Ghazni.
This dam is home to marsh crocodiles and is the resting place of a large number of bird species.
This museum showcases an exceptional range of former Nawabs’ belongings, like weapons, chandeliers, howdahs, armor and palanquins.
This zoo was built by a Nawab in 1863 to save lions.
Constructed under the aegis of Chandragupta Maurya in the year 319 BC, it was inundated at least 16 times and it has been abandoned during the 7th to 10th century till it was rediscovered inside a dense forest.
This lake is a bird watchers paradise with species such as pied woodpecker, eagles, back-headed cuckoo, sparrows and others.
There are two ways to book your safari.
You need to reach the safari boarding point, Sinh Sadan, at 5.30am after purchasing your tickets.
There are 30 entry permits for each vehicle and 90 trips undertaken every day. During peak season the number of trips escalates to 150 per day. (available online)
Price (Indian): INR 5300 / Jeep (Maximum 6 Persons are allowed in ONE Jeep)
Price (Foreigner): INR 12800 / Jeep (Maximum 6 Persons are allowed in ONE Jeep)