Gir Forest National Park
Originally protected by the Nawab of Junagadh, after British viceroys brought to his attention the plight of the lion in Asia, the sanctuary is the jewel of Gujarat's ecological resources.
Gir is the home of the Maldharis, a term used for the many Hindu and Muslim pastoral groups of the area. The Maldhars live in traditional settlements called nesses and tend Jafrabadi buffalos, Gir cows and other livestock. Some of them also have camels, sheep and goats. Among the best-known pastoral groups of Gir is the Sorathi Rabari.
Siddis are a community with African origins. Believed to have come from African countries as mercenaries, slaves and labour, the Siddis grew to become powerful generals. Some of them even became rulers. In Gir, there are villages of the Siddis, who are well known for their dances and other performances. Nagarshi Pir at Jhambur nearby is a major shrine for the Siddi community.
Flora and fauna
According to official census figures, Gir has about 410 lions and 300 leopards, making it one of the major big-cat concentrations in India. Sambar and spotted deer (chital), blue bull (nilgai), chousingha (the world's only four-horned antelope), chinkara (Indian gazelle) and wild boar thrive in Gir. Jackal, striped hyena, jungle cat, rusty-spotted cat, langur, porcupine and black-naped Indian hare are among the other mammals of Gir.
Gir has a large population of marsh crocodile or mugger, which is among the 40 species of reptiles and amphibians recorded in the sanctuary.
The park checklist has 250 birds listed. About 50 other species (including the endangered lesser florican and the saras crane) are recorded in the grasslands along the periphery of the sanctuary. Many species like the painted sandgrouse, grey francolin, quails, Asian paradise flycatcher, black-naped monarch, white-browed fantail, Asian brown flycatcher, grey-headed flycatcher, verditer flycatcher, Tickell's blue flycatcher, greenish warbler, white-eye, coppersmith barbet, common and marshal's iora, rufous treepie and yellow-footed green pigeon have been spotted by our guests around the lodge itself. Long-billed vulture, Indian white-backed vulture, red-headed (king) vulture, Eurasian griffon vulture, changeable hawk-eagle, crested serpent eagle, bonneli's eagle, greater spotted eagle, lesser spotted eagle, tawny eagle, steppe eagle, imperial eagle, Pallas's fish eagle, grey-headed fish eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon, laggar falcon, red-headed falcon, oriental honey-buzzard, white-eyed buzzard and other raptors have been seen in the sanctuary. Gir also has brown fish owl, Eurasian eagle owl and spotted owlet. In the evening, nightjars can be seen near the lodge gate.
The lodge can also be used as the base to visit the coastal areas from Veraval to Diu Bird Sanctuary for shore birds.
Gir also has about 2000 species of invertebrates, and the trails around the lodge can be good for butterfly spotting.
Flights to Rajkot (3½ hour drive) & Bhavnagar (5 hour drive) from where it is a 4 hour drive to Sasan Gir. Flight to Diu (1½ hours) from where it is a 2 hour drive to Sasan Gir. Trains to Junagadh (1¼ hour drive) & Rajkot (3½ hour drive) from where there are buses and taxis to Gir. Ahmedabad is 6 hours away and is also an international airport. Transport can be arranged at an extra cost.
Junagadh, Rajkot and Bhavnagar are well connected with Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Mumbai and other parts of the country. One can reach these places by train and can then travel by road to Gir. For train timetables visit www.indiarailinfo.com or www.indianrail.gov.in and for ticket booking visit www.irctc.co.in or www.indianrailways.gov.in