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Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary
The last home of the Asiatic lion (Panthera Leo lersica) is 59 km from Junggadh via Visavadar. The Sanctuary, which covers 1400 sq. km, was set up to protect the lion and its habitat, and in this respect has been a success : since 1980 numbers have increased from less than 200 to an estimated 250 . Although the lions seem remarkably tame, in recent years they have reportedly been wandering further a field, well outside the limits of the sanctuary, in search of easy game- which in earlier times was found within the park itself. The problem is compounded by the declining areas of forest outside the sanctuary, forcing villagers to forage for fuel within the sanctuary precincts, reducing the habitat of the lions. The best time to visit the sanctuary is from December to April, and it is closed completely from 16 June to 15 October. If there has been a heavy monsoon, the sanctuary may open later.
Apart from the lions there are over 30 species of other animals , including bears, hyenas, foxes and a number of species of deer and antelope. The deer include the largest Indian antelope (the nilgai) the graceful chinkara gazelle, the chousingha and the barking deer. You may also see parrots, peacocks and monkeys.
The lions themselves are elusive but you'd be unlucky not to see at least one on a safari, although it would be safer to allow for a couple of trips if you're determined to see one .Morning safaris are generally a better bet than those in the afternoons. Unfortunately the local guides are poorly trained and speak little English.
Whatever else you do, take a jeep and not a minibus. While the latter stick to the main tracks, the jeeps can take the small trails where you're much more likely to come across lions.
Before you can go on safari, you must get a permit . These are issued on the spot at the Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge office . Jeeps can take up to six people. There are three main tracks in the park, so you will cover 25 to 35 km , depending on the track your jeep is assigned to. Jeeps are available from the lodge office every day between 7 and 11 am and 3 and 6.30 pm during winter (October to February) and from 6.30 am during summer (March to June).
There are 25 species of reptiles in the sanctuary. A crocodile-rearing centre has been established next to Sinh Sadan Lodge where hatchlings are reared and then released into their natural habitat.
There are two places to stay at Sasan Gir village. About a 10 minute walk from the railway station is the Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge (Tel: 40). It is a very pleasant place to stay, with rooms set around a quiet green garden. Good singles/doubles with mosquito nets and baths with air-con. Whilst advance booking is generally not necessary, the period between Christmas and New Year can be packed out. There is a restaurant which serves thalis or a nonveg dinner.
Gujarat Tourism's Lion Safari Lodge(Tel: 21) is down by the river, about 200 metres from the Sinh Sadan, surrounded by well maintained gardens.
STC buses between Junagadh and Veraval. Travel via Sasan Gir numerous times throughout the day. The 45 km trip to Veraval takes one to one and a half hours. To Junagadh, the 59 km trip takes around two hours.
Slow steam trains run to Veraval (two hours) twice daily, to Delwada(Diu) once daily and to Junagadh once a day.
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