Gir Lion Sanctuary

Sasan Gir is located on south Gujarat. It is nearly 6 hours journey by car from Rann of Kutch in Dassada. We bypassed Rajkot town and turned towards Somnath via Junagarh.
Passing through Junagarh and not stopping to visit the fort would be a sacrilege. We stopped to see Junagarh fort. According to historians Juangarh fort, I do not know if this exact fort, was built in nearly 200 BC during Mauriya empire. The fort has been captured and rebuilt several times by different rulers that occupied it. Such a historic fort, yet approach to  fort I found to be shabby with shanties on both sides of the approach road. Fort  is in slight elevation. One can see Junagarh town and a view of Mount Girnar from the fort. A view from ramparts of Junagarh fort  with a big cannon in the background. I read that a Turkish admiral of the then ruler had set this cannon, when Portuguese occupied ports of Daman and Diu. I am not sure of the veracity of this fact.
Inside the fort, a view of court house. 

A view of the Mount Girnar from Junagarh fort. Mount Girnar is an ancient mountain. On different peaks of mount Girnar  there are holy temples for Hindus and Jains. Notable being Dattatreya temple, Gorakhnath temple and Ambaji temple for hindus and Digambara and Swetambara temples for Jains. One has to climb up more than 8500 steps to reach the peaks. We did not visit. May be next time.  

We drove on towards Sasan Gir on NH8D. Our destination was Lion Safari Camp. In Lion Safari Camp, one has to live in tents. These tents are like one room accomodation with attached bath. These tents can get quite cold in late night and early morning, because temperture in this part of Gujarat drops dramatically at night. Arrangement of additional blankets is must, if travelling in winter. A typical tent is shown below. Lion Safari Camp also had arrangement for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

In the evening cultural program was organised by camp management. Performance was given by a group of black entertainers. I thought they are foreign students, moonlighting for pocekt money. I was surprised to learn that these are Gujajati speaking people, whose ancestors migrated from East Africa to Gujarat more than 300 years before. 

Coming back to the main purpose of the visit, that was to watch a lion in the wild. However, we were told that lions are elusive creatures. in order not to disappoint us visitors coming from different parts of India, Gujarat government has created a sort of old age home for retired lions. In this government operated park, one is certain to see a lion from close proximity. So we visited government operated part first. In this park, one can choose between a A/C or non A/C bus that runs on biodiesel. We booked our ticket and got in. As promised, we saw lions from up close.

However, our desire was to see lion in the wild. We had arranged a jeep to take us into the reserve forest. Getting entry into the forest is restricted. One has to stand in queue in forest rangers office to get a permit. On a given day, only a limited number of permits are given, unless ofcourse one is a VIP.  Our entry permit was arranged by Lion Safari Camp by sending their man in advance. Our guide was Sharoohkh Khan, not the actor, a local Gujarati teenager. Sharoohkh was genuinely offended when we questioned his ability to spot a lion.

We moved around in Gir sanctuary for nearly two hours without any trace of elusive lion. We were almost about to give up, when another tour operator excitedly directed us in the opposite direction we were going. We rushed, there they were a family of lions – a mother with three kids. We were not allowed to stand there very long by forest officers. So I managed one picture, that is clear and clean. I was told this is a two year old lion.

In addition to elusive lion, Gir sanctuary is full of deers. We saw Spotted deer, Cheetal, and Sambar deers, plenty of them.

We also did some birdwatching in Sasan Gir Lion Safari Camp. But that will be next blog.

Tags: Junagarh Fort, Mount Girnar, Lion Safari Park, Lion, Sambhar Deer, Spotted Deer

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