Gir National Park attracts droves of visitors to see the Asiatic lion in the wild, as it’s the only place in the Asia where these creatures are now found. Once almost hunted to extinction, numbers have recovered well due to conservation efforts. The park’s core zone, which extends for almost 260 square kilometers, was declared as a national park in 1975. However, the sanctuary was set up a decade earlier, and lion numbers have been increasing since then.
According to the latest census in 2015, the number of Asiatic lions in Gir and the surrounding area has increased by 27% since 2010. The total lion population has been recorded at 523, consisting of 109 male lions, 201 female lions, and 213 sub-adults and cubs. A total of 268 lions were sighted in Junagadh, 44 lions in the Gir-Somnath district, 174 in Amreli, and 37 in Bhavnagar.
Gir’s forested hilly terrain makes it a preferred habitat for the jackals, leopards, antelope, and deer that also live there. It’s home to crocodiles, and over 300 species of resident birds as well.
Gir National Park is situated in the south west part of Gujarat state, 360 kilometers from Ahmedabad, 65 kilometers from Junagadh, and 40 kilometers from Veraval. It’s inland from the beaches of Diu. The entrance to the park is located at Sasan Gir village, and this is where the park reception and orientation center is (next to the forest department’s official Sinh Sadan Guest House).
|DISTANCE FROM GIR NATIONAL PARK|
|Ahmedabad International Airport||390 Kms||7 hr||Car|
|Junagadh Junction||60 Kms||1.5 hr||Car|
|Veraval Railway Station||40 Kms||1 hr||Car|
|Rajkot||160 Kms||3 hr||Car|
|Diu||100 Kms||2 hr||Car|
The most popular time to visit Gir is from December to March. However, it can get very crowded during peak times with long waits. You’re more likely to see wildlife, such as lions, when it’s hot (from March to May), as they come out to get water.
The best safari to go on is undoubtedly the first one of the morning, when the lions are most active. They tend to sleep for the rest of the day and don’t move around much! Weekends and holidays are to be avoided due to the crowds and higher fees charged.
Gir National Park is open from Mid October until Mid June. There are three safaris a day at Gir. They start at 6.30 a.m., 9.00 a.m., and 3 p.m.
A Gir Jungle Trail entry fee, which grants visitors a permit to go inside Gir National Park, is payable per vehicle with up to six occupants. The cost depends on the day you visit, with weekends and major public holidays being the most expensive. Ask us for rates.www.gujarattourismonline.com
Safaris of both Gir National Park (Gir Jungle Trail) and Gir Interpretation Zone (Devalia Safari Park) can be booked online here. The earliest that bookings can be made is three months in advance, and the latest is 48 hours beforehand.
Only a limited number of permits are issued per day (this has been raised from 30 to 150 to help meet demand). 50% of permits are made available for online booking. The remainder are issued at the park’s reception center. If you haven’t booked in advance, it’s best to be at the permit office well before it opens in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a long line and you may even miss out on a permit, especially during peak times.
The permits are processed in batches before each safari, with a substantial break in between. Processing for the 6.30 a.m. safari starts half an hour before. However, the queuing up begins as early as 4 a.m.! According to locals, during peak times, this stretches to midnight.
If you’re part of a group, sort your jeep hire out first. Jeeps can hired from hotels and guesthouses, or the reception center. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll usually find a spare spot in a jeep on offer there, and you can share the costs with the other occupants.
There are eight safari routes inside the park. They’re randomly assigned by the computer for each permit. Certain types of private vehicles are allowed in the park but only if they use petrol.
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