Gir National Park is one of the most popular tourist place in Gujarat.Spread across an area of 1412 sq.km,it is home diverse flora and fauna. Located in the Junagarh district of Gujarat, Gir is home to the majestic Asiatic lions and its population has been consistently increasing since its establishment. According to the Asiatic lion census of 2015, the lion population had risen to 523 from 177 in 1968.
Since the wild animals come out in search of water in the months of summer, we decided to visit Gir in the month of March. The Gir Jungle lodge resort was our abode during the visit which was spread across 4 acres of lush green mango orchard located just 2 km from the Safari gate.We made a prior online booking for the jeep safari on Gir Online Permit booking system and we got our safari timing at 8:30 a.m. as the early morning slots were already booked.
Jeeps were ready at the lodge gate to take the visitors to witness the grandeur of the king of the jungle.With enthusiasm we reached the gate and after the permit check, we entered the Gir forest. The driver instructed us to savour the beauty of the Gir Jungle and its wildlife in silence.Before we reached the core forest area, the driver frequently stopped the jeep to show us various animals as if he knew the home of each. Every time he stopped, our eyes would scan the surrounding to witness the Lion only to be told to keep patience. We saw the Nilgai, the Chital or the spotted deer, the buck, owl, Indian peacocks, langurs, camel etc.
As we moved deeper into the forest,our driver and the guide was flooded with all kinds of questions about the lion sightings in the recent days. Our guide with high hopes would assure us that he will make sure that we could see atleast one lion and our eyes continued staring at the forest. After around more than half an hour, we reached the area where few other jeeps were standing with their engines stopped and everyone staring in the same direction.We were also directed to stop the engine and our guide pointed towards the sleeping lions few feets away. One person dressed in a uniform went towards the sleeping lions with a stick in his hand. Everyone stared at him as he neared the lions and stamped the stick on the ground which woke up the lions.The lioness elegantly woke up and started walking around glamorously while few others were lazying around. The spectators were not only taken aback by the way the person went near them but were also amazed to witness the magnificent Asiatic lions. It is said that the lions in Gir lives in close proximity to humans but never attacks them.
With big grins and joy on everyone’s face, we started moving back.While moving around the jungle, we saw several cottages inside the jungle which according to our guide belong to the Maldhari Tribe who have been living in the Gir forests since years. Several attempts were made by the government to relocate them after the forest was recognized as National Park.But due to mismanagement and non-availability of facilities at the relocation site, the tribes returned to the Jungle to maintain their traditional way of life which led to the lion population spreading outside the jungle leading to human-wildlife conflict.They have lived with the wilderness for generations by grazing their livestock and has used forest products and fodder which had a negative impact on the animals in the jungle.
Witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat for the first time and being spectators of the elegance of the Asiatic lions was an enriching experience.
Devalia Safari Park
Devalia is a enclosed area where spotting the lions is guaranteed if you don’t spot one in the Gir National Park.Also known as Gir Interpretation zone,this safari park also houses several other wildlife like the panther, spotted deer, blackbuck etc.