Set up in a vast, expansive space of nearly 1412 square km, the Gir National Park in Gujarat is one of India’s best known and prestigious national parks. Inaugurated on 18th September, 1965, the park was made the principal home to Asiatic lions, one of the rare species of lions that are found in India and parts of the Middle East. The Park is located about 65 kilometers south east of the Junagarh district of Gujarat and features lush deciduous forests, acacia shrubs, wetlands and grasslands which forms the part of diverse topography of the sanctuary.
Since olden times, Asiatic Lions lived in a habitat that stretched far and wide, across South and South West Asia, that is, roughly from Greece to Modern Bangladesh. However, with the rapid growth of human population, the habitat and subsequently population of Asiatic Lions swiftly decreased till the time their territory comprised only few areas within British India and around the present day Gir National Park.
In 1901, when the Nawab of Junagarh invited Lord Curzon for the “hunt”, the latter declined citing the dangerously low population of lions while persuading the former to organize their conservation. Thereafter the Nawab forbid the killing of the lions and together with the conservation efforts of The Government of India after independence, the population of lions increased to an appreciable level. The Gir National Park is the result of the preservation efforts of the Nawab and the Government. Although the count of lions have increased, their habitat area has continuously decreased, from around 2500 square kilometers in the mid-20th century to the present day only 1400 square kilometers.
Nearby Wildlife Attractions
Gir National Park of Gujarat is primarily famous for the Asiatic Lions. However, the national park is home to several other species of wild animals, including panther, wild boar, jackal, bear, spotter dear, sambar, leopard, chinkara gazelle, nilgai, jungle cat, mongoose, langur, blackbuck, black naped hare, porcupine, as well as Indian Chaousingha-the indigenous specie of a four horned antelope. At the time of Monsoons, nearly 200 distinct variety of birds could be observed including the crested serpent eagle, grey partridge, peafowl, and jungle bush quail, painted sandgrouse as well as common green pigeon and several varieties of doves. Besides, Gir also provides shelter to marsh crocodiles which can be easily sighted within the park location.
Jungle Safari in Gir National Park
Jungle Safari is one of the best and most exciting ways to explore Gir National Park and Lions. Jeeps with guides are arranged by the Gir Forest Department that let you have an informed and exploratory tour, deep within the park. Moreover, the department also arrange for “Lion Shows” in which the organizers send advance trackers to ensure the location of the lions and then lure them with live baits so as to keep them visible for the tourists.
Best Time to Visit
The Gir National Park is accessible to visitors from mid of October to mid-June. However the best months to visit the park are November, January and February. One can have the best view of the lions either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It is only during this time that most of the animals in the park get active and can be easily sighted.
Kankai Mata Temple and Tulishyam Hot Springs are located within the vicinity of the Gir National Park. The hot springs are natural and one can take bath here too. These are situated around 36 kilometers from Gir’s entrance. Moreover, one can also witness local cattle herders called Madahris, grazing their buffaloes. These buffaloes sometimes become the catch of the lions of the Gir.
How to Reach
The nearest airport is Keshod situated at a distance of 92 km from the park while the second-nearest airport is Rajkot at a distance of about 172 kilometers.
The town of Junagarh is only 78 kilometers by road. Good quality roads connect the national park to other major nearby cities. From Junagarh itself there are frequent buses that ply towards the national park.
Gir National Park has a railway station of its own by the name of Sasan Gir. The station is situated on the Rajkot-Junagarh and Ahmedabad-Junagarh railway line. Moreover there are daily trains that connect the towns of Delwada, Veraval and Junagarh to the National Park as well. The Sasan Gir railway station is located at a distance of nearly 37 kilometers from the Gir National park.