The Gir National Park, was established on 18th September, 1965, as a Forest Reserve, primarily to conserve the Asiatic lion. The total area under national park status is about 2,450 hectares. It is located in the Junagadh District of Gujarat, about 65 km south-east of Junagadh city, and 90 km east of Keshod Airport, in the Kathiawar (Saurashtra) Peninsula. Sasan, with a forest rest-house, is the headquarters of the sanctuary.The Gir is a mixed deciduous type of forest with teak, ber, flame of the forest, jamun, a variety of acacia, particularly babul. It is a hilly tract with plenty of rivers, and offers the visitor long pleasant drives, through the thick forest cover.
It is the only remaining habitat of the Asiatic lion, which has been confined to this forest, since 1884 ( about 239 lions were reported in 1985 ).The Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than its African cousin, nevertheless, a large male lion of the Gir is quite a sight to behold. The best way to observe the big cats is, of course, in their natural surroundings, at dawn and dusk, when they are on the prowl. The Forest Department does arrange lion shows every Sunday, where the spectators can watch prides of lions on the hunt.There are guided trips available, to watch these magnificent animals from a very close range.
The chinkara, wild boar, striped hyena, jackal, common langur, porcupine, hare, black buck, are the other animals, that can be found in this sanctuary. There are over 200 bird species including the peafowl, grey partridge, Bonelli's eagle, crested serpent eagle, jungle bush quail, painted sandgrouse, common green pigeon and several species of doves . The Gir is also home to the marsh crocodile, which can be sighted easily in its rivers, particularly in the lake of the Kamaleshwar dam. There is also a crocodile breeding farm at Sasan.
The Gir is steeped in history and folklore. It boasts of temples of great antiquity, like Kankai Mata and Tulsishyam, a place of pilgrimage with hot springs. The forest is famous for its cattle herders, the Madharis, whose buffaloes form a substantial part of the lions' meals. Extremely hospitable, the Madharis are herders, whose lifestyle has changed little over the years, and their folklore and traditions are a unique record of coexistence of humans with lions.
Wildlife viewing in the Girs is best done, by driving around the forest. The best drives from Sasan are, to Baval Chowk and Kankai, to Chodavdi and Tulsishyam, and to Kamaleshwar dam. Though a sturdy car would do, a jeep is definitely more appropriate.
Three unusual reserves, the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary - home to several water-birds, the Little Rann of Kutch - home of the Indian wild ass, and the fascinating Flamingo Island, render the state of Gujarat a virtual haven for wildlife buffs.
When to visit
The sanctuary remains closed from June to October and the ideal time to visit is between December and March.The Park is closed during monsoon till mid-October.
How To Get There
State transport buses make the two hour trip between Junagadh and Veraval via Sasan Gir, four times a day. Slow steam trains run to Veraval twice daily, and to Delwada and Junagadh once a day.
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