Gujarat is one of the most prolific areas for exotic species of birds and animals. The Gir National Park is one of the major tourist attractions of Gujarat. Established on 18th September 1965 with the primary aim to conserve the Asiatic Lion, Gir wildlife sanctuary is located in the Junagarh district of Gujarat. Sprawling across the area of 2,450 hectares the sanctuary is a mixed deciduous type of forest interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen flora, acacia, scrub, jungle, grasslands and rocky hills. Fed by the perennial and seasonal rivers and streams the sanctuary has large water bodies that offer the visitors long pleasant drives through the thick forest cover. According to the official census figures, Gir has about 300 lions and 300 leopards making it one of the major big cat concentrations in India. Apart from this the sanctuary is a home to various species of animals like Jackal, langur, porcupine, striped hyena, jungle cat etc. Due to abundance of water bodies in the Gir national park, one can also see large populations of marsh crocodiles or mugger which is one among the 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. The park also provides shelter to about 250 species of birds and about 2000 species of invertebrates.
Gir National Park is a home to Maldharis, a term used for many Hindus and Muslim pastoral groups of the area. These people live in traditional settlements that own jafrabadi buffalos, cows and other livestock. Another famous pastoral group of Gir is Sorathi Rabari Siddis with African origins. In Gir there is a village belonged to Siddis who are renowned for their dances and other performances.
Excursions from Gir National Park
On a tour to Gir National Park visitors can enjoy an excursion to various near by places that include
Verava: Situated at a distance of 36 km from Gir Wildlife sanctuary, Verava is a fishing port which is renowned for its dhow-building yard where massive hand –built seaworthy vessels are made. Once belonged to Nawab of Jumnagarh, the place has old gates and historic buildings.
Somnath: Somnath Temple is one of the landmarks of the Gujarat state which is one of the 12 jyotirlingas or holy abodes of Lord Shiva. It is situated at a distance of 40 km from Gir National Park and is among the main pilgrimage for Hindus. Somnath also has Lord Krishna’s cenotaph and bathing ghats at Triveni Tirth, a medieval Sun Temple, historic Ahilya Temple and Bakhla Tirth which are among the major tourist attractions of Gujarat.
Junagadh: Located at a distance of 63 km from Gir National Park, Junagarh district is one of the most interesting cities of Gujarat. The district has rich cultural heritage in the form of Ashoka’s rock edicts, ancient Buddhist caves, the Uparkot Fort of the Chudasama Rajputs etc. The famous mystic poet Narsinh Mehta also lived in Junagarh district. On an excursion to Junagarh don’t miss to visit Sakkarbagh Zoological Park that is renowned for captive-breeding of Asiatic lions.
Girnar: Just 60 km from Gir National Park is situated Girnar at an elevation of 3,660-ft from the sea level on the outskirts of Junagadh with temples on ridges and on the summit. The 12th century Jain Temples with their splendid architecture and exquisite carvings is one of the major tourist attractions among the visitors.
Climate: Like any other part of India three seasons are enjoyed at Gir National Park which are summer, winter and monsoon. Among all summers is the longest one with maximum temperature up to 45ºC. The hottest months of summers are April and May. Monsoon brings the relief from scorching heats from June till September. Due to less waterfall the water crises is a major issue with the Gir National park and thus various artificial waterholes are made and refilled by the forest authorities to fulfill the needs.
Best Time to visit: The best time to enjoy a tour to Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is anytime between April to December. Weather is hot and dry during the summers from February to June with the temperature up to 43°C. The winters are chilly from October to February with the temperature can be as low as 5 °C. During the monsoon from June to October the park remains closed for the visitors.
Accommodation: There are various lodges, bungalows and resorts near to the Gir National Park for comfortable accommodation.
Sasan Gir, the forest bungalow is among the best options to stay but it is advisable to book it in advance.
Sinh Sadan, guest House run by the forest department is reasonably priced is also a good option for accommodation.
Lion Safari Lodge, run by the forest department is another good option to live close to the wild life and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the surroundings.
How to Reach Gir National Park
By Air: Keshod is the nearest airport to the Gir which is 60 km from it can is well connected with a good network of roads to reach Gir.
By Rail: Junagadh railway station is 65 km. from Gir and is well connected by road. Sasan is the closest railway station on the meter-gauge line. One can also enjoy the journey in slow steam trains which runs from Veraval twice and to Delwada and Junagarh once a day.
By Road: State transport run buses make the two hour trip between Junagarh and Veraval via Sasan Gir through out the day.
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