In a remote corner of arid Saurashtra region of the state of Gujarat is the last abode of Asia’s mighty cats – Asiatic Lions. The dry deciduous forest land of around 1600 acres has been converted to Gir National Park for the conservation of this majestic mammal species. Over the years the place has become popular with tourists due to Gujarat government’s intensive tourism campaign (with big B as brand ambassador) and the aesthetic charm of the place. There’s a forest department office in Sasan, a small village in the vicinity of Gir which serves as the main center for the tourist information and booking (starting from 2016 safaris can only be booked online). Apart from a pictures gallery and a crocodile enclosure the place is quiet with the charm of forest.
Due to increased number of tourist inflow a no. of hotels and accommodation facilities have come up surrounding the area on the edge of the forest. This tale is as much of our experience with one of the resorts as of the lion.
We stayed in Gir Pride Resort, a jungle themed luxury tent accommodation in Sasan. Mr. Solanki, the owner of property received us with warm smile and persuaded us to have a ‘chakra’ ride in the forest in the evening. It is said that you find hospitality in the least expected places. As the owner said “We try to create an experience…”, the place was great with lavish homemade food by Mrs Solanki and guidance and warm talks by her husband.
The sunset ride in the three wheeled chakra becomes a lot more than caves, temples, forest, romance and pics when you ponder on the fact that how in a remote corner of India you find people with so much warmth working with their natural surroundings to create a better life for everyone around them. The eco-friendly resort generates employment for local people while running in the most hospitable way possible.
Oh yaa, there’s a note of caution that you, like us might not spot any lions in the National Park during safari but its still compensated by the cool breeze carrying the early morning sounds and sights of varied flora and fauna.
There’s this other confined area known as Devaliya park developed by forest department for those who are inclined on seeing the big cats but its more like seeing them in a zoo minus their cage. A bus takes you around the park and you can see Leopard and Lions roaming around freely. And no matter what the guide says the Lions are too bored to give any heed to you so no matter how much to howl and scream in excitement of course, they just won’t move.And look on their face is ‘stupid humans’.