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Published: February 19th 2013
February 16… My idea of hell is being trapped in a car for 12 hours – what was I thinking when I opted for a car journey between Udaipur and Sasan Gir?? You look at the map and it’s only 600 kms between the two places, mostly on major highways. Well, I had hoped it wouldn’t take quite as long as it did, however, this is India.
We left at about 6:20 am. The first couple of hours after leaving Udaipur were through the hills – the longest stretch between curves in the road might have been a kilometre or two at most. Then we reached the flats of Gujarat but traffic volume had increased by that point so we probably didn’t travel more than 60 kms per hour. Once we neared Ahmedabad, language conspired to slow things down – the road signs were in Gujarti, not a language my young driver understood, so we had to keep stopping and asking for directions the further south and west we went. We did eventually arrive at the Gir Birding Resort, my home for the next three nights while on safari, at about 6:30 pm, as the sun was setting and I
was about to go mad.
My cottage was comfortable – nothing too special but certainly an okay place to stay. I had to get someone to come dispose of a big spider (in my opinion – we don’t get them that big at home) that lurked in my bathroom sink but after that was taken care of, all was good.
February 17… Happy 93rd
birthday to my Grandma - now quite belated but I was thinking of you! No safaris today – that’s what happens when you make a spur of the moment decision to go somewhere that requires permits and things to be arranged. Ah, the joys of government bureaucracy. I spent the day doing pretty much nothing except reading. I would rather have been on safari.
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1965 and Gir National Park was set up in 1975. Combined, the two areas cover approximately 1400 sq kms and are now home to over 400 endangered Asiatic lions, the last of their kind found anywhere in Asia. There are also over 300 leopards roaming around, as well as lots of prey for the cats, including various species of deer and antelope. There
is a lot of birdlife too. There are over 50 small villages within the confines of the Sanctuary, mainly farming and raising animals. These animals provide an easy source of prey for the cats, so there is a lot of human/cat conflict as you might expect. The government is gradually trying to relocate these human settlements.
February 18… I got picked up at 6:45 am for the morning safari – everyone has to go the government office to check that their identification agrees to the permits and pay camera fees (an extortionate 500 rupees per safari!) before you can go to the park gates. Once at the park gates, your ID and permits are checked again, which seems like overkill to me but that’s the process. Eventually, you’re on your way into the park.
Fortunately, near the end of the first safari, we were the first jeep to see a lone male settling in for a morning nap. He was pretty far away (maybe 75 meters) and under a lot of tree branches but hey, it counts. According to the guide, he probably weighed around 150 kilograms and was four or five years old. Male Asiatic lions don’t
have the same big mane like their African relatives. By the time we left, word had spread about the sighting and there had to be 10 or 12 jeeps taking a look.
Safari #2 was also successful – we started in late afternoon and saw lots of chittal (spotted deer), a few sambar (larger deer) as well as nilgai, a type of large antelope. We met a friend of the guide, a forest officer who was travelling by motorcycle, who led us to two male lions a few kms away from where we were. I feel very blessed, as we were able to get closer to these two cats than the one this morning. What a joy to spend some time watching them in their natural environment. I went to bed a happy girl!
February 19… Happy anniversary to my Michele and Stu (Lucky #13)! We had no luck seeing any cats on this morning’s safari but it was still a great way to end my stay in Sasan Gir. I’m very glad I ventured to this out of the way spot to see the lions!
Off to Pondicherry via Chennai and the south of India tomorrow
- looking forward to the warmer weather.
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