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Gir National Park

Gir National Park, also popularly known as Sasan Gir, is not only a national park but also a forest and wildlife sanctuary located in Gujarat. Gir National Park is one of two places in the world outside Africa where lions still exist. The other wildlife sanctuary is Bannerghatta National Park, but, unlike Gir’s healthy and flourishing lion population, Bannerghatta has only a few lions that are hard to spot.

Water from the Gir region’s seven major perennial rivers quenches the thirst of its wild animals on the hottest of the summer days. During peak summer, there are at least 300 water points available to the park’s thirsty wildlife. The forest department has to ensure water availability during times of drought, due to poor rainfall in the area. Other than being a primary water source for the park’s wildlife, these rivers also host some of the park’s popular attractions.

Wildlife in Gir National Park

According to the latest lion census, the population of Asiatic lions in the last five years has risen by 29%. The forest department stated there are around 674 Asiatic lions in Gir National Park. These lions are one of the primary attractions of the park.

Apart from lions, the park is home to 38 other species of mammals. In 2015, there were 300 Indian leopards in the park. After Asiatic lions, Indian leopards are the most sought-after wildlife species. Other predators include Bengal fox, golden jackal, jungle cat, and spotted hyena. Although the park also has some rusty-spotted cats and Asiatic wildcats, they are rarely spotted.

Amongst the commonly spotted herbivores are blackbucks, chinkara, chital, four-horned antelope, sambar, and wild boar.

With over 300 bird species calling it home, Gir National Park is also an excellent birding destination. It has at least five different vulture species – Indian vulture, Egyptian vulture, griffon vulture, red-headed vulture, and white-rumped vulture. There are also 16 distinctive species of eagles – black eagle, booted eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, crested serpent eagle, changeable hawk eagle, eastern imperial eagle, greater spotted eagle, grey-headed fish eagle, Indian spotted eagle, Pallas’s fish eagle, short-toed eagle, steppe eagle, and tawny eagle.

The park has over 40 reptiles species, including marsh crocodiles, Indian star tortoise, flap shell turtle, Indian chameleon, red sand boa, Indian rock python, Russel’s viper, saw-scaled viper, and spectacled cobra.

Gir National Park Premier Attractions

  • Kamleshwar Dam: Located in the heart of the Gir National Park, Kamleshwar Dam is an artificial dam built on the Hiran river. It is a scenic spot as well as an indispensable source of water during the summers and the perfect place for bird-watching within the park. The waters of the Hiran river are home to mugger crocodiles.
  • Darbar Hall Museum: Although not located within the Gir National Park, it is only a 2 hours drive from Gir. Located in Junagadh, also known as the City Palace, this museum is known for its extensive collection of historical artefacts. It displays beautifully preserved costumes, thrones, silver artefacts, and tapestries. Most of the artefacts belong to the Nawabs.
  • Uparkot Fort: It is a popular belief that the Uparkot Fort was built in 319 BC by Chandragupta Maurya – the founder of the Mauryan Empire, the largest empire on the Indian subcontinent. The fort was indeed built during the reign of the Maurya empire, but for a while, it lost its significance when Junagadh was replaced as capital by Vallabhi and it lay dormant until Graharipu, King of Chudasama dynasty, rediscovered it. Located in Junagadh, it is only a few minutes from the Darbar Hall Museum. The moat surrounding the fort was once filled with crocodiles to keep the trespassers at bay. The strategic location of the fort has allowed it to survive 16 sieges over 1000 years.
  • Girnar Hills: As Girnar Hills has 866 Hindu and Jain temples spread through its summit, it is one of the most sacred places for the Hindu and Jain pilgrims. The hills have a history that can be traced further back than the Mohenjo-daro period. Apart from the religious significance, the hills also offer adventure seekers a rigorous trek of 7.5 hours. The view from the top of the hills is fantastic and so are the temples once you reach there.

When To Visit Gir National Park

Summers (April to June) are considered to be the best time to visit the Gir National Park for wildlife viewing and photography although April and May are the hottest months in India as the temperatures can rise as high as  103.1°F. The heat is one of the reasons it is easy to spot the wildlife as the animals prefer to spend time in sheltered areas, under the trees beneath the shade or closer to water bodies. In the absence of vegetation, visitors can see the wildlife gathering around the water holes.

Gir National Park remains closed for the duration of the monsoon, which is approximately from June to October. For those who want to visit the Gir National Park in cooler climates, November to January is an ideal period to plan a trip.

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