The Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary
It is often referred to as the last home of the Asiatic Lion. The Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary lies on the south-western fringes of the Saurashtra Peninsula and covers 1412 sq km. It is home to about 300 Asiatic lions. Created in 1913, it was declared a sanctuary in 1965.
At one time almost extinct, the Asiatic lion has steadily increased in number over the years, and today, Gir is the only place in the world outside the African Continent where the big cat can be seen in its natural habitat.
The Sasan Gir forest is also home to nilgai, spotted deer, wild ass, wild boar, gazelle, chital and chinkara. For reptile lovers, there is a crocodile-rearing and research centre where hatchlings are reared and later released into their natural habitat.
Also within the Gir Forest is the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary with a wide variety of birds including the back-headed cuckoo, the paradise fly-catcher, eagle, flamingo, the painted sand grouse, parrot and peacock. They all make their home amidst the teak, sal and dhak trees. A heritage temple of Lord Krishna is situated near the Tulsi Shyam Springs.
How to get there: The nearest railhead is Junagadh, 32 km away from where there is a meter-gauge line to the rail junction at Sasan Gir.
The nearest airport is at Rajkot. Buses and cabs are also available aplenty.
The best time to visit: Between mid-October and mid-June.
The Forest Department issues permits for safaris and department vehicles take visitors into the forest reserve.
Accommodation: The Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge, belonging to the Forest Department has around 20 rooms. The tariff ranges anything between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,500 a room.
For reservations, contact the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Sasan Gir, ph:02877- 285540 or fax: 02877-285641. Several reasonably priced private hotels have also burgeoned around the area.
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