The Gir National Park of Junagadh district of Gujarat is one of the most fascinating and must visit places of India. Initially, this marvelous park was established as a forest reserve on September 18, 1965, in order to preserve the endangered species of the Asiatic Lions. The park is stretched over an area of about 1412 square kilometers and designated as the only hide out for Asiatic Lions in the world.
The population of the lions in the park is about three hundred. The park is also an ideal shelter for other species of animals such as four-horned antelope, small Indian mongoose, Indian flying foe, wild boar, chinkara, hedgehog etc. Initially, The Park had only fifteen tigers before it became a national park but according to the 2001 census, the population raised to three hundred and thirty eight.
The National Park of Gir is also an important and ideal home for another impressive animal known as leopard. The park accommodates the largest population of leopards in the country. It exhibits mixed deciduous type of vegetation with teak, Acacia, Banyan and flame of the forest as its main trees.
The best way of exploring the jungle and sure-shot way of watching lions is by opting for the ‘Lion Shows’ organized by the authorities around the Dewaliya area. This show is going to be replaced by jungle safaris, in order to enhance the sighting chances of this majestic creature.
For guaranteed sighting of lion, one can enter into an important part of the park known as Gir Interpretation Zone. This zone is stretched over an area of about four kilometers and situated just around twelve kilometers from the headquarters of the park i.e. Sasan Gir Village.
Besides lions, the park also exhibits a range of interesting sightseeing. There is a history and myths simultaneously associated with every nook and corner of the park. It is home to few antique temples such as Tulsishyam and Kankai Mata.
The park is also quite famous for Madharis or the cattle herders. This community of the park is famous for their hospitality and lifestyle. The customs and myths associated with this community is an excellent example of coexistence between wild animals and human beings.
The most efficient and best way of exploring the park is by taking a jeep safari. Jeep safari offers a great opportunity to sight the wild creatures quite closely. The most popular safari routes are Sasan-Chodavdi, Sasan-Kamaleshwar Dam, Sasan-Kankai and Sasan-Tulsishyam routes that offers an opportunity to watch the world’s biggest cats. The best time to watch is early in the morning and late in the evening.
Accommodation around the park is not an issue, as the park offers a great range of hotels suitable for visitors with almost any budget. One can also find two lodges within the park operated by forest authorities’ namely Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge and the Gir Lodge along with few privately owned lodges. It is always advisable to book these lodges well in advance in order to avoid any odd situation especially during the months of winter.