Gir is one of the oldest sanctuaries in India and the only place to see the Asiatic lions. It is also home to more than 300 bird species. The lion population in Gir had dropped to only 15 in 1900s at which point it was declared a wildlife sanctuary by the Nawab of Junagadh. Since then the lion population has seen a steady increase. The 2010 census has recorded the lion count at Gir as 411.
I guess the ideal way to reach is via air travel. Diu is the nearest airport which is around 110 kms from Sasan Gir. One should be able to complete the journey from Diu to Sasan Gir in 2.5-3 hours. We opted for rail travel. We took the (19017) Saurashtra Janata Express from Mumbai (BDTS) to Rajkot (RJT). There are multiple trains to Rajkot/Junagadh. We opted for this as it reaches Rajkot well in time (7:30 a.m) so that we could do the evening safari at Gir. There is a connecting passenger train from Rajkot to Junagadh which is very convenient. We missed the connecting train as our train was around 45 minutes late. We took a rickshaw to the bus depot and decided to check on taxi/bus availability for Sasan Gir. We got a state transport bus to Junagadh which took us about 2 hours. We had our breakfast at the Junagadh bus stand and arranged for a taxi to take us to our resort. We got the taxi for Rs. 1000/-.
We stayed at Saavaj resort. Review of the resort can be read here. We got a good deal from goibibo.com. The twin-sharing AC room cost us Rs 2800/- per night. Package included all meals.
In order to do safaris at Gir, you need to get the required permits. There are 3 slots for safaris during the day. (morning 6-9 and 9-12 and afternoon 3-6). Book Safari permits at http://girlion.in/. 50% of the permits are available for booking online. Ensure that you book the permits online. We saw queues of people waiting for permits at the counters. (our guide said 4-5 hours wait) Since there is a steady flow of tourists and the number of permits allocated is limited, it is necessary to do the booking online. You need to show your permits at the counter, upon which you are allocated a route and a guide. These are randomly selected.
If you are doing multiple safaris, keep your old permits. These are useful as a proof, when requesting for a different route on the ground that you have covered a particular route already.
You need to pay Rs 250/- for the guide. Camera charges are additional. They charge Rs 100/- for any camera having a resolution of more than 7 mp. Gypsy was arranged for us by the resort. (Rs 1800/- per safari. Rs 500 of these was for pickup and drop from resort to the sanctuary.).
Safari timings are just 3 hours which I feel are less. For the morning safari, the guides generally try to get you out of the safari quickly so that they can get allocated the next safari (9-12). Ensure that you do not lose on your safari timings because of this.
We covered routes 6, 3 and 5 during our safari. Both our Lion sightings happened on route 6 which is through dense forest. Route 3 has a lake on the way and makes for good bird sightings. We got white browed fantail flycatcher, changeable hawk eagle, etc. The leopard sighting we got was on route 5.
Devalia Safari Park is a place that you can check out once. It is a 412 ha fenced area which has all the habitats and animals of the Gir forest within its confines. A bus takes you through this park which provides ample opportunities for photographing these animals.
Summers are supposed to be the peak season for sighting the animals and the probability of sighting them increases dramatically.
Our return journey was with the (59460) Veraval - BCT Passenger Express. Veraval is around an hours drive from Gir. Taxi was 1200/-. It takes around 16 hours to reach Mumbai. Only advantage is that it reaches Mumbai early in the morning and you have the day at your disposal.
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