Gujarat: Of lions and antelopes
Gir is India’s only sustained lion sanctuary and that is the main draw of the park. Close to the deciduous forests, lies the grasslands of one of the few great blackbuck sanctuaries.
The Asiatic Lion is smaller, hunts in smaller packs and has come from Persia. Gir NP is the last remaining park where the Asiatic Lion thrives. The blackbuck on the other hand, is the last species of the antelope genus (not the last antelope though) in India. Both are magnificent animals and you can spend afternoons just gazing at their antics.
Best time to travel: October to March
Duration: 5 days
Experience & Activity Level: None required. Easy journey
Accommodation style: Deluxe lodges
Destinations: Velavadar & Gir National Park
Welcome to the unique wildlands of the West – the endless grasslands and salt flats of Velavadar and the scrub and teak forests of Gir. Welcome too, to the two unique species that live in these wildlands – the blackbuck in Velavadar and the Asiatic lion in Gir.
The journey is a hop, skip and jump before you arrive at Velavadar gazing out into the grasslands and enjoying your mock-sundowner (alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat). As you settle into a series of dreams, you will realise that you are in true wilderness. The last of these dreams though would be interrupted by a gentle knock on the door to inform you that a jeep has magically appeared to take you to see the majestic blackbuck. Enroute you’d see blackbucks jousting or simply owning the stage after visiting a joust with a rival. You might also see the Desert Wolf and if really lucky, the Lesser Florican. Lesser Floricans are more visible during the monsoons. Later they turn into Floricannots.
From Velavadar, you would be whisked away to the 2300-year-old city of Junagadh a fortified city with grand forts and even more beautiful palaces. Velavadar is also the trampoline that will launch you into Gir.
Apparently, if you are in the Gir National Park for 2 days, there is a high chance of you already having seen a lion – unlesss you are Chuck Norris of course and you would see a lion as soon as you land at Delhi. At the airport. In the WC. As soon as you look into the mirror. Gir is also interesting for the Maldharis, or cattle grazers who reside there in harmony with the lions. They understand perfectly the importance of personal space.
Gir ends your Western Indian (as opposed to West Indian) odyssey. Of course, you can continue down South, up North or sideways East. And each of those journeys are worth the travel.