The Gir forests of Gujarat are the only natural habitat of the Asiatic lion. The sanctuary has the distinction of saving the endangered Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) from the brink of extinction. The Asiatic lion once occupied an area that ranged from northwest India to Arabia. Hunted widely during the British regime their numbers dwindled dramatically. It was the efforts of the Nawab of Junagadh and subsequently the forest department that has now revived the population of this majestic animal. The sanctuary covers an area of 1412 sq km of which the core area comprises 258 sq km. The topography of the area is rugged – ravines, plateaus and rocky hills. There are many human settlements in the sanctuary. The lion is known to be tolerant of human settlements. Gir, in fact, is the home of the Maldhari community of cattle herders who have a symbiotic relationship with the lion.
Gir is also home to 300 species of birds. Celebrated ornithologist Dr Salim Ali believed that had it not been for the Asiatic lion, the area would have taken its rightful place as one of the foremost bird sanctuaries in the country. The famous Somnath temple is just 55 km away from the sanctuary and among the must-see itinerary, of visitors to Gir National Park.
Besides its most famous inhabitant -the Asiatic lion – there are many other wildlife attractions in Gir – rusty spotted cat, pangolin, ruddy mongoose, civets, paradise flycatcher, etc. The list of avian attractions is also wide and varied – Malabar whistling thrush, orange headed ground thrush, paradise flycatcher, black naped fly catcher, Indian pitta, tawny eagle, etc.
Permits: Permits are required to enter the core area of the national park. Permits can be obtained from Sinh Sadan Orientation Centre.
When to visit: While mid October to mid June is the season, the best time to visit is from December to April.
Accommodation: Gir Forest Lodge, Maneland Jungle lodge, Sinh Sadan Guest House.
How to reach:
Air: The nearest airport Rajkot is 165 km via Junagadh. Gir National Park is 60 km from Junagadh.
Rail: The nearest railway stations are Sasan Gir and Veraval. Sasan Gir is 415 km from Ahmedabad.
Road: Buses ply from Ahmedabad via Rajkot, Junagadh and Mendard. Volvo buses are available from Ahmedabad to Junagadh, from where a mini bus can be take to Sasan Gir.