The only National Park in Asia that has a fair population of the Asiatic Lions is located in the Indian State of Gujarat and this National Park is named as the Gir Forest National Park. This is also a wildlife Sanctuary and is called as the Sasa Gir that is located at the Talek Gir area in Gujarat. Gir National Park is a part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests region and the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary covers a total area of 1412 sq. km. of which 258 sq. km. is a National Park and 1153 sq. km. is a Wildlife Sanctuary. Gir National Park was established in 1965 and today the area is home to Asiatic Lions along with various other elusive animals and rare birds of the likes of Black Bucks, Asiatic Wild Ass, Gir foxes, Hyenas, Brown Fishing Owl, Pygmy Woodpeckers, etc. It was brought to the notice of the Nawab of Junagarh by the British Viceroy that he number of Lions at the Nawab’ s private hunting ground had been reduced to only around a dozen in 1913 and it was the Nawab who had decided to declare this private hunting grounds as a sanctuary and protected area to help in the conservation of the remaining Lions at Gir and today Gir National Park is the only other place in the World after Africa where visitors can spot the Lions roaming free in the wild inside the forest reserves.
It was during the reign of the various dynasties across Asia that excessive hunting of this beast of the forest that their numbers had declined drastically and were almost wiped out of various places in Asia and only about a dozen remained at the private hunting grounds of the Nawab of Junagarh and after various conservative steps were initiated, their numbers rose from 20 in 2013 to around 523 as per the census of 2015 and the population of the lion species at Gir National Park is divided into 106 males, 201 females and 213 sub-adult lions that roam in the wild at the forest reserves of Gir National Park. Though this number is much healthier compared to that it was about a century ago but the threat to the Asiatic Lions inside Gir National Park always remains even though the forest reserves are well protected as there are constant threats of poaching of these Asiatic Lions. There were also reports that the lions of Gir National Park were poisoned by the local people because the animal had attacked and killed their livestock.
But the biggest threat to the population of the Lions of Gir National Park has always remained the weather as the zone falls under the dry delicious forests and during the scorching heat of the summers that the forest fires become a major threat the this results in the death of not only the Lions but the various other animals species as well. Also there are problems of floods, epidemic and the natural calamities that always come to the forest reserves of Gir National Park thereby causing a threat to the Lion population here. The authorities of Gir National Park have been successful in the maintaining of the breeding centres that not only study the behaviour of the Asiatic Lions but also practices artificial insemination at the Sakharbaug zoo that is known to have successfully bred around 180 lions that have been sent across to zoos across India and abroad where the lions have found a safe habitat. The other dominant fauna species to be found at Gir National Park are Indian Leopards, Stripped Hyenas, Jackal, Fox, Mongoose, Desert Cat, Wild Boars, Nilgai, Chital, Chinkara, Black Bucks, Porcupine, Hare, etc. The reptile species inhabiting the Gir National Park are Indian Cobra, Mugger Crocodile, Tortoise, Indian Monitor Lizards, Pythons, etc. The various birds in Gir National Park are vultures, Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian pea fowl, Indian Pitta, Rock bush quail, Eagle owl, etc.
Location and How to Reach Gir National Park –
Gir National Park or Sason Gir is located in the Indian State of Gujarat that is at the western most part of the country and the distances to the Gir National Park from the prime cities in Gujarat are:
- From Somnath to Gir National Park – 43 Km (North East)
- From Junagarh to Gir National Park – 65 km (South East)
- From Amravali to Gir National Park – 60 km (South West)
Distances to reach Gir National Park from other prominent cities and towns in India:
- Mumbai to Gir National Park – 351 km
- Pune to Gir National Park – 464 km
- Delhi to Gir National Park – 1080 km
- Kolkata to Gir National Park – 1856 km
- Ahmedabad to Gir National Park – 340 km
- Surat to Gir National Park – 249 km
To reach Gir National Park, in case you are travelling from other parts of India, it is recommended that you fly to Ahmedabad International airport and from here the time to reach Gir National Park is around 7 hours by road. In case you are interested to travel to Gir National Park by rail then the nearest rail station near Gir National Park are at Junagarh (65 km) and Vernal (40 km). There are two domestic airports as well at Keshod and Rajkot that will help you access Gir National Park by air and later by road.
When to visit Gir National Park –
Ideally the best time to visit Gir National Park and get the opportunity to witness the Lions and the Black bucks of Gir National Park in the wild is from the months of November through March. Because from the months of April to May it gets very hot during the day but this again is the best time for photography as the animals come out of their hiding in search of water sources at the forest reserves of Gir National Park and you can capture amazing clicks during these months. In case you are interested in a holiday and want to experience a pleasant wildlife safari then it is recommended that you visit Gir National Park from the months of November to march. The Gir National Park is closed for public viewing from the months of June to mid-October every year as this is the time the monsoon arrives and also the weather is very hot as well when temperatures can reach up to 45 degrees in the day time and also the monsoon rains are needed to rejuvenate the flora of Gir National Park that has a stable ecosystem and also is home to rich biodiversity that spans across 600 flora species, 2000 species of insects, 36 species of mammals and 300 species of birds inside the forest reserves of Gir National Park.
How to reach Gir National Park –
Once you are here at Gir National Park and have checked yourself at one of the various stay options around Gir National Park that range from budget hotels to high end resorts, the next thing on your mind is to catch your wildlife safari experience and sight the lions of Gir National Park. To offer a wildlife safari experience into the interiors of Gir National Park, the forest authorities have allowed the option of visitors to go for jeep safari rides inside the forest reserves. Unlike the other National Parks in India, Gir National Park doesn’t have the options of Elephant Safari or Canter Safari ride and jeep safari is the only option for tourists to explore the forest reserves of Gir. The forest permit for tourists to go in for jeep safari inside Gir National Park can be obtained from the Sindh Sadan Forest Lodge Office and once you have the permit you can go for the experience of a lifetime to witness the Lions of Gir National Park on an open end jeep ride. These jeep safari rides inside the forest reserves of Gir National Park are made available by the forest authorities of Gir National Park and once can go for morning and afternoon jeep rides inside Gir National Park to spot and click the pictures of the mighty Asiatic Lions. The jeep safari rides are conducted in the morning time from 7.30 AM to 11 AM and again in the afternoon from 3 PM to 5 PM. Jeep safari rides cost around INR 4000 for one jeep for Indian Nationals and 6 persons + 1 child are allowed on one jeep.
Places of Tourist Attractions near Gir National Park –
- Devaliya Safari Park
The Devaliya Safari Park is also called as the Sasan Gir Interpretation Centre and this place was developed for the tourists to have a better understanding of the Gir Forest National Park along with its varied wildlife. The main idea behind the introduction of this park was to reduce the human interference in the main area of Gir National Park. The Devaliya Safari park is located in the Talala Gujarat and this offers the visitors to Gir National Park a guaranteed sighting of the Asiatic Lions in their natural habitat in the wild. The Devaliya Safari park near Gir National Park is having an area of 412 hectares and the entire area is covered with ferns that illustrates the rich floral and faunal wealth of Gir National Park including the major habitat and the dominant wildlife of Gir National Park like Lions, Sambars, Chinkaras, Wild Boars, Blue Bucks, Black Bucks and Spotted deer as well. This Devaliya Safari park is a real treat to all wildlife lovers and this is a guaranteed place to spot the Lions of Gir National Park and the presence of this park reduces the load of traffic into the core forest reserves of Gir National Park in Gujarat.
To plan your visit to the Devaliya Safari park near Gir National Park it is necessary for you to plan in advance as the permits are issued by the forest department everyday on a first come first serve basis and in order to avoid the rush of tourists especially during the peak season of Gir National Park it is always recommended that you book your permits well ahead in advance. The tourist reception centre issues these permits to explore the Devaliya Safari park and the permits can be availed by providing the same details that you furnish for your wildlife safari at Gir National Park like ID, photo proof, name, age, gender, etc. Online permits issued are however non-refundable here at Devaliya Safari park. There are options of Bus and jeep safari both here and in one jeep 6 adult and 1 child can travel and both these safaris are conducted in the morning as well as the afternoon slots.
- Crocodile Breeding farm
One very interesting place to visit near Gir National Park is the crocodile breeding farm. As we are already aware that Gir National Park has a fair population of the Mugger crocodile reptile species and in case you are interested to see them that a visit to the crocodile breeding farm is a must. The Mugger crocodiles are bred here so that they can be released in the forest reserves of Gir National Park to maintain an ecological balance inside the interiors of Gir National Park and the forest authorities of Gir National Park take the responsibility of breeding the crocodiles here at eh breeding farms and later releasing them into the Kamleshwar Lake.
- Kamleshwar Dam
The Kamleshwar Dam is built on the River Hiran and is located inside the forest reserves of Gir National Park and the waters of this dam serve as a lifeline for the wildlife of the Gir National Park. It is in the waters of this Dam that you find a decent population of the Mugger crocodiles of Gir National Park in the wild.
- Tulsishyam Temple
The Tulsishyam temple near the Gir National Park is a very revered temple shrine that is dedicated to Lord Krishna and visitors who pay a visit to Gir National Park ensure to visit this temple so that they have a safe safari experience and also get the opportunity to sight the Asiatic Lions in the wild at Gir National Park. This area around the temple also has numerous hot springs as well.
- Zanzir waterfall
A very picturesque waterfall that has waters around the year is present on the Hiran river near Gir National Park. People flock here to bathe in the waters and also experience the beauty of nature at Gir National Park.
How to access Devalia Safari Park along with Gir National Park
Along with Gir National Park, the Devalia Safari Park also attracts thousands of visitors to sight the majestic Asiatic Lions in the natural habitat each year. As Devalia Safari Park is a part of Gir National Park, it can be said that this is the only place in the World where the Asiatic Lions are to be found. The Devalia Safari Park just like Gir National Park is opened for public viewing from the 16th of October to 15th of June every year and visitors can book their safari rides inside this place to access the varied wildlife to be found at Gir National Park. To access Devalia Safari Park as well as Gir National Park, Junagarh is the best approach and the closest rail head that receives trains from various cities and towns like Ahmedabad, Rajkot, etc. and it is just around an hour and half drive before you reach Gir National Park to check into some of the very comfortable and deluxe hotels and resorts around the vicinity of the Park. Gir National Park offers a wide variety of stay options for the guests ranging from budget lodges to star category hotels and resorts for tourists depending on the choice of stay needed for the guests. While some tourist who come to Gir National Park want to spend an entire holiday experience and they come here with their families and so they want to have all luxury while they stay at Gir National Park and so they chose to stay in star category hotels and resorts but many photographers and backpackers who come to Gir National Park for a once in a lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of these unique Asiatic Lions in the wild and also to witness the various places of interest in Gujarat as well and so they are on a budget and for them there are the accommodations of low cost budget lodges and guest houses in the vicinity of Gir National Park.
Along with the private Hotels, Resorts and Guest Houses where visitors can get to witness a laid back and comfortable stay in Gir National Park there are also the budget lodges that are operated by the Forest department of Gir National Park like the Gir Lodge and the Sindh Sadhan Forest lodge (this is also from where you can get your permits for safari bookings into Gir National Park and Devalia Safari park as well). For the budget hotels near Gir National Park, the tariffs start from INR 600 per night to INR 1000 per night and the luxury hotels the prices start from INR 5,000 per night to INR 10,000 per night but the luxury resorts offer some of the best accommodation facilities for the guests. These rates of the luxury hotels at Gir National Park often come down to half when the tourist season is not at its peak and you can book your visit to Gir National Park during that time (say when it is not the school holiday season, festivals, New year, etc.) but it is always advisable to check the prices before the booking is done. Even though visitors come to Gir National Park during the peak season but people also come during the off season not to experience the jungle safari but simply to enjoy their stay away from the city in the luxurious hotels and resorts at Gir National Park. It is therefore always advisable to plan your visit to Gir National Park much prior to your planned time of visit to avoid any last minute hassles and so you should book your hotels and safari ride inside the forest reserves of Gir National Park. In addition to the various hotels and resorts around Gir National Park there are also various safari camps present that overlook the Hiran River and are located along the mango orchards around Gir National Park and these safari camps are actually luxury camps that offer various facilities to guests to enjoy a complete jungle safari experience during their stay at Gir National Park.
Once you are done with your pleasant stay experience and also the wildlife safari experience of Gir National Park and the Devalia Safari Park, then you can ensure to visit the places around Gir National Park in Gujarat that are the vibrant attractions of Gujarat and this is the land of culture, history and traditions. Located in the western most part of India, Gujarat is not only renowned for its population of the Asiatic Lions at Gir National Park but also a land of diverse historic monuments and history dating back 4000 years with connections to various civilizations including the Indus Valley civilization. The land of ‘Bhuj’ in Gujarat can be called as a place that has some of the various ancient monuments of history recorded here. Even though Bhuj in known to the people of India for a devastating earthquake of 2001 that had killed around 12,000 people and devastated many historic buildings and tourist attraction that had to be rebuilt. Bhuj is a prime tourist attraction where tourists not only come to pay homage at the site of the earthquake but to be a part of the 4000 year old history of Bhuj and to immerse in the vibrant culture of this place that finds mention in the Mahabharata and was also touched upon by Alexander the Great, the Sultans of the region and the British as well.
The famous Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan is the brand Ambassador of Gujarat tourism and the state has been drawing millions of tourists not only at Gir National Park but across the various historical monuments, world famous architectures, temples and the exotic wildlife where tourists can smell the fragrance of ‘Khusboo Gujarat Ki’. After your visit to Gir National Park you can make a visit to one of the very renowned temple shrine of Lord Shiva at the Somnath temple in Gujarat that is one of the very sacred suites for the Hindu community. The Somnath temple is a part of the Char Dham Yatra and it is said to be having one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. These 12 Jyotirlingas are spread across India and a temple shrine is present at these places. As per Hindu mythology, the God of Moon had built this entire temple shrine with gold and this temple shrine is located on the shore of the Arabian Sea overlooking the beautiful waters of the place and this temple shrine had faced the wrath of many outside invaders and had to be rebuilt on several occasions. Every year lakhs of pilgrims throng this temple shrine to seek blessings of Lord Shiva in Gujarat.
Junagarh is a very popular city known for its relics and varied history in Gujarat and the name literally means an Old Fort. Junagarh near Gir National Park in Gujarat has many Hindu temples, Buddhist Monasteries and mosques and also many other historical structures as well. The land of Junagarh was ruled by the Bibi Nawabs until the independence of the country and the intention of its Nawab merge Junagarh with Pakistan after India’s Independence from the British was foiled as the land had a majority of Hindu population and Junagarh remained with India after Independence and today Junagarh is home to the Gir National Park and host of other historic monuments like the Mohabat ka Maqbara, Ashoka Rock Eddict, etc.
Lord Krishna’s temple of Dwarkadhish:
Another very holy temple shrine located near Gir National Park in Gujarat is the temple shrine of Dwarkadhish that is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is situated on the Gomti area. This temple shrine is a very sacred place for the Hindu people from across the World and the main attraction here is the festival of Janmashthami (lord Krishna’s birthday) and the temple attracts thousands of devotees during this time. Lord Krishna is a revered God among the people of Gujarat and the Gujarati welcome phrase ‘Jai Shri Krishna’ has Lord Krishna’s name in it. The temple shrine is believed to have been built by Lord Krishna’s grandson who was the King of Dwarka and it dates back several hundred years and has some of the finest architectures. It is believed that when Lord Krishna has come to settle at Dwarka, it is believed that an entire island emerged from the Arabian Sea and the temple shrine is built on this island itself.
The earlier capital of Gujarat and the largest city of the state, Ahmedabad is a land of historic monuments, elaborate architectures and loving people. The tourist attractions in Ahmedabad are temples, museums, forts but the most important place visited by tourists in the Sabarmati Ashram that is the Ashram of the Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi. Another popular attraction is the Akshardham temple that is located at Gandhinagar and the major festivals celebrated are of Sankranti and Navaratri.
Vadodara or earlier Baroda
Vadodara is the third largest city of Gujarat and is also a cultural capital of Gujarat and this place is a testament to how the Mughals were expelled from the place by the Marathas and Garhwals and this city is a beautiful example of the past and present and Vadodara had flourished under the rule of King Sayaji Rao II. Located around 50 m ahead of Vadodara is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chempaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park that will enthral any person interested in history, culture and architecture that spread of a construction across 600 years. The important places in this park are the Jama Masjid that speaks highly of the Indo-Islamic architecture. There is also a temple shrine called as the Kalika Mata temple that attracts thousands of devotees every year here. Another place to visit in Gujarat after your visit to Gir National Park is the Rani Ka Vav located at Patan that are historic monuments actually step well that were erected by Queen (Rani Vidyamati) in memory of her deceased husband King Bhima I on 1063 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014.