Gir National Park, Gujarat:
On the 10th of February, I took the overnight train from Jaipur to Rajkot in Gujarat. A car and driver were arranged to pick me up from the train station and get me to the tiny village Sasan Gir, the entry point to the adjacent Gir National Park.
Today, the image of a wild lion is generally connected to the savannahs of Africa, but the species roamed large parts of Asia during historic times (including the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India). Hunting reduced the numbers of these majestic predators drastically and the animals disappeared almost everywhere during the 19th century. Nowadays, the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion is the so-called Gir Forest in southern Gujarat. In 1913, it was believed that not more than 20 lions survived in the area and drastic measurements for their protection were set in place. The Gir Sanctuary was officially established in 1965 and its management continuously improved the living conditions of the local wildlife. Although the area is still partly inhabited by shepherds and their cattle, the last census of 2015 showed a growing population of 523 lions in the region! It seems a truly successful conservation story for a change… Together with the majestic cats, the sanctuary boasts healthy populations of leopards, striped hyenas, spotted deer, sambar, nilgai, four-horned antelopes, chinkara, and wild boars. I had the luck to go on an afternoon as well as early-morning safari and spot several lions during both tours!
Apart from the tours through the national park, there is not a lot to do in Sasan Gir. I did not visit the so-called Gir Interpretation Zone at Devalia where most animals occurring in the sanctuary can be seen during a bus ride through a fenced area. Instead, I used my spare time to walk through the pleasant park of the Forest Guest House observing the local bird life!
After two nights in the splendid Forest Guest House, my driver finally took me on a long drive towards Bhuj in Kachchh where I was to continue my research in the coming weeks. On the way, we stopped shortly in Junagadh to get a glimpse of the wonderful Mahabat Maqbara, which I will show you in this short following post!