Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gir Forest – The Lion’s den in India

The 1516 sq km wide sanctuary came into being in 1969. Of late, the area has been enlarged and widened to 5000 sq km. However, the core area of the protected forest is 1432 sq km. For visiting core area of 258 sq km requires permission from Sink Sadan Forest Lodge Forest is almost barren, rocky with only 10% green area. Gir is the only forest in Asia that homes lions. The 1913 census said that there were only 18 lions, but 1995 (May 13 to 19) census surveyed lion population to more than 304 living their happy household on 157 meter high Gir forest. There are 268 leopards, 2262 shambars, 137 hyenas, 387 chinkaras, 1856 four-horn antilopes, panthers, wild boars all of them are free and in abundance. Parrots, peacocks, monkeys are also seen in the Gir forest. Hunting is prohibited in the forest. Visitors will come across the wild animals during the Safari.

How to reach Gir forest:

From Junagadh 6-15 in the morning you can board Delwada Passenger, and at 7-52 am reach Visavadhar and reach Sasan Gir at 9-05 am. The distance is 73 km from Junagadh to Gir via Keshode. Sasan Gir is a station on Verabal-Khijdia branch railway. From Verabal trains reach Gir in 11/2 hrs. Buses are also available frequently from Junagadh to Verabal via Sasan Gir. Share taxi is also available en route Gir. Nearest airport to Gir is at Rajkot.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Where to stay at Gir:
Near railway station there is Sink Sudan Forest Lodge, Ph:(02877) 285555, A special attraction of this lodge is a wild life film show daily at 7-00 pm in the evening.

On the same compound, Forest Dept's Economic Forest Guest House, Ph: 285540. For any help contact Deputy Conservator of Forest, Wild Life Division, Sasan Gir-362135, Ph: (02879) 285541.

Guest House-Sasan Gir, Gujarat;

Nearby along the river, TCGL's Lion Safari Lodge,

The posh The Taj Gir Lodge, Ph: 285521,

Ordinary hotels are also available on the bus route—H Annapurna, Ph: 285569; Rajashree Guest House, Ph: 285740; Hotel Umang

How to travel inside the Gir forest and surroundings
From March to May early morning or evening are the best times for viewing lions, but Gir forest remains open only from end of Oct to mid-May. It remains open daily from 6-30 am to 11-00 am & 3-00 pm to 5-00 pm. The temperature of Gir varies from 33-43° C in summer to 7-15° C in winter. It may abruptly change due to heavy rain at times. If you are fortunate enough to get booking in advance, the experience of spending the night at Dak bungalow in the forest will be memorable

Booking for forest safari usually starts from 7-00 am to 11-00 am & 3-00 pm to 5-00 pm. Both ticket and permit are issued at the same time. The Forest Department office is situated at Forest Bungalow. Individual journey begins between 7-00 to 10-00 am & 4-00 pm 6-30 pm for 6 heads group. Jeeps go to forest safari in 6 different routes. The longest of the routes is 31 km. A surcharge is levied on camera and car accompanying the tourists. In the morning, there is a scheduled jeep safari for 30 to 50 km round up, try to avail that.

Day's package for Gir starts at 8-30 am and comes to an end at 7-30 pm. Contact Assistant Director of Information, Rang-Mahal, Junagadh for the same.

Try also to visit Forest Lodge Complex Museum near reception centre. You may go through the history of the origin of Gir forest. The daily life of Gir lions, documented on film is a special attraction to tourists at the Orientation Centre. Crocodile Rearing Centre is yet another spot for tourists. The daily life of crocodiles may be seen at the centre as well.

Tourists can reach Delaliya is Interpretation Zone Safari Park 12 km from the forest by jeep or local bus from Gir. The wild members of Gir are visible in the 4 sq km area. Except Wednesday, visit any day you like paying very nominal fee. Ticket available at Debalia reception. You may go from Lion Safari Lodge to visit safari.

The Crocodile Project near Kamaleswar Dam is another tourist spot. Wild animals of Gir visit the crocodile infested reservoir to quench their thirst. On top of trees watch towers are there at Kamaleswar.

96 km from Sasan inside the Gir Forest is Tulsi Shyam Hot Spring. Take a dip and visit the temples of Krishna, Bhim and Kunti near by.

For staying at Tulsi Shyam there are TCGL's Toran Tourist Camp stay in the dormitory system; Private hotels and Dharamshalas are also there.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

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