Travel Guide for Gir National Park (Gujarat)
Destination Type :
What to expect :
Gir or Sasan Gir is a National Park located in Gujarat, covering 1,412 sq. km of area. While the forest was declared a sanctuary only in 1965, the conservation measures had started much before that by the Nawabs of Junagadh. The first thing you'll notice about the forest is the consistent brown shade, which sets it apart from any other national parks in India. Starting with the soil, tree trunks, leaves and even most of the animals residing here are of some shade of the same colour. The other important thing about this forest is, it is the only place in India where wild Lions can be found. And so it is the only place in world having Asiatic lions. Once the population of lion in Gir had been very low, but with conservation the density has increased significantly. Now it's not rare to spot a wandering group of lions out of core area and inside the buffer zone as well.
Reaching there :
There are many convenient ways to reach Sasan Gir, given the high number of big cities around. However the closest city from Gir is Junagadh, which is located 60 KM away. There are no airports in Junagadh, but it is connected with other cities in Gujarat and a few major cities across India by train. The closest airport is technically Diu, which is only 92 km away. But Rajkot (162 km) is a better option as it is better connected with other major cities. Flights and trains are also available for Jamnagar and Bhavnagar which are respectively 216 & 250 km from Sasan Gir.
Personally, I found the most convenient way to reach Gir was via Rajkot. Rajkot can be reached by train or by flight. Both airport and station is less than 4 km from the bus stop and can be reached in a rickshaw (we paid 50 bucks from station to bus stop). From there frequent state buses are available for Junagadh. It takes around 3 hours to reach Junagadh from Rajkot and the fare is around 90 bucks. From Junagadh buses or auto rickshaws can be taken for reaching Gir. Cabs can also be arranged from Rajkot airport/station, which is charged around 3,000 Rs.
If you are traveling from far and all these options seem infeasible for you, check for flights/trains to Ahmedabad, which is 375 km from Gir. Buses can be taken from Ahmedabad to Junagadh or you can hire car in Ahmedabad for making this journey.
Move around :
Public transport option is not great in Sasan. But there are not many places to go either. Jeeps or cars can hired with help of hotel. Jeeps hired for safaris are supposed to pick you up from hotel and drop back post safaris.
Major Attractions :
Gir is famous for its lions and that is the major attraction of this place. While you are in Gir, you would want to go for safaris in the national park. There are three slots for safaris in park - 6 AM to 9 AM, 9 AM to 12 PM and 3 PM to 6 PM. Safaris can be booked online from http://girlion.in/ForestVisitDetails.aspx. It is recommended to book it in advance since Gir forest does not allow spot booking, 100% safari booking is done through online channel. Although there are usually people selling overpriced entry ticket in black outside the gate, it's best not to engage in such activity. Jeeps are not part of the entry fee and need to be hired separately. Usually all hotels have contact of Jeeps and that is the easiest way to arrange that. The entry fee to Gir is around 1,000 Rs for up to 6 people and another 2,200 is required for the vehicle.
There are 8 pre-defined trails in Gir, which are named as Zone 1 to Zone 8. Zone 8 being the shortest (22km) and Zone 1 & 3 are the longest (45 km). Zones are allocated randomly at the time of entry. You can always request for a specific zone at that time and if you are lucky they might just listen.
Aside from the national park, there's a separate campus called Devalila Safari Park or Gir Interpretation Centre. This is more like a zoo type of setting with all kinds of animals from Gir. This gives everyone an opportunity see the animals easily rather than trying their luck on safari. But of course this would not satisfy any jungle enthusiast.
Best time to visit :
Like most other national parks in India, Gir stays closed during monsoon months (mid of June to mid of October). Winters are pleasant to enjoy the forest. But summer is better for spotting lions since they tend to come out to drink water from the artificial pools made near safari trails.
Places to stay :
There are many hotels in Gir including Club Mahindra, Fern and Taj Gateway. Most hotels are in mid budget between 2K to 5K range. But cheaper hotels/guest houses are also available. I had personally stayed in Asiatic Lion Lodge and the experience had been good. It's located near Club Mahindra hotel, far from the market area and hence providing a quieter stay. But do not expect forest atmosphere in hotels in Gir as it is quite dry forest having not much greenery.
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