Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary is a pride of not only the state of Gujarat but also India. Established in 1965, the wildlife sanctuary comprises 1412 sq. km of extended deciduous forests scattered with evergreen and semi-evergreen flora, grasslands, rocky hills, scrub forest. Both the flora and fauna in the reserve are fed by perennial, streams, rivers and the large Kamleshwar Dam that harbors many crocodiles. This is also an ideal destination for the birds as well.
Also known as Sasan-Gir the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, the fully protected wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat is located 65 km South-East of Junagadh, 43 km North-East from Somnath and 60 km to the South-West of Amreli.
Outside of Africa, Gir is the only place where wild lions are reserved. Tourists to Gujarat shouldn’t miss the chance to explore Gir Sanctuary because they would have the similar experience of an African Safari as they would explore the wild lions roaming in heard in the lap of nature. Besides Asian lions, Gir reserves rare flora and fauna.
It was a time when human co-existed with lions until the first half of the 19th century. The Asian lions used to roam to the borders of Greece in the East and the modern day Bangladesh in the west. But gradually with the growth of human population, civilizations expanded by taking over forests after forests until they made the lions to the door of extinction. Just like the Bengal tigers, cheetahs, lions are also found less these days because of the human expansion of their civilization. Gir is an initiative to protect these endangered lions so that they can live here peacefully, breed and elevate the standard of their population just as they should maintain to balance the ecosystem.
The Nawab of Junagadh was suggested to take the initiative to preserve the lions by Lord Curzon in 1901, was offered to hunt lions while visiting the kingdom of Junagadh. Initially the total area of the lion reserve in Gir was 3000 sq. km in 1880 but today only 1400 sq. km is left for the reserve to save the Asian lions along with various other species.
After years of experimentation and study, scientists have been able to balance the lion breeding and latest census has confirmed a much better and increased population among the locally called sher or sinh (Lions). The adult Asiatic lions weigh in between 115 to 200 kgs. They hunt in short distances at a pace of 65 km/hour. They mostly prey nilgai, chinkara, sambar, chital- the various breeds of Asian deer. After a hunt they consume around 75 kilo of meat that keep them full for minimum 2-3 days and during this time they will not hunt.
Tourists are explored in enclosed vehicles in Gir as they are in the home of the wild Asian lions, leopards, cheetah, panther, crocodiles and hyenas. The local Maldharis coexist in the wilderness.
Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary is famous for its wild cats. Besides 350 approx. lions the wild life sanctuary preserves four other species wild cats. The nocturnal leopards, wild desert cats, the rusty spotted wild cat and the jungle cat dominate the forest.
Deer and Antelope are also found in large number in this place. Chital or the Indian spotted deer are found in large heard here. Along with the Chital tourists can get a gaze at the sambar, chausingha, the four horned antelope, blackbucks and many more.
Besides the land animals, crocodiles, snakes are also found in the marshy lands of the Gir forest. Honey badgers or ratels are also found in large numbers here that are world famous for killing deadly poisonous snakes.
Gir houses the rare birds. From Malabar whistling thrush to the Paradise flycatcher tourist can get a sight of the rare migrating birds if they visit during the winter.
Flora is also important to explore when tourists are in Gir National Park. The isolated hilltops, plateaus, marshy grasslands have rare trees and plants grown in the forest. Teak is an important tree that is forested here such as khair, timru, dhavdo, amla etc. The notable non teak trees are simal, samai, khakhro, umro, asundro jambu, amli, kalam and vad. These non-teak plants are mostly evergreen. Savannah type of grassland is dominant in this region. The flora here mainly gets water from River Hiran that flows throughout the year. The rest of the streams are seasonal.
Winter is the best time to visit the Gir National Park.
INR 75/- Mon.-Fri| INR 95/- Sat.-Sun| INR 115/- on Holidays| US$20 for Foreigners.
By Air: Keshod is 40 Kms, Rajkot is 160 Kms and Diu is 110 Kms
By Rail: Sasan - 0 kms and Rajkot 160 Kms distance from Gir National Park
By road: Rajkot-160 Kms [3 hour drive], Junagadh- 55 Kms, Ahmedabad-408 Kms [7 hour drive], Diu - 110 Kms and Veraval - 40 Kms