A view of the Mount Girnar from Junagarh fort. Mount Girnar is an ancient mountain. On different peaks of mount Girnar there are holy temples for Hindus and Jains. Notable being Dattatreya temple, Gorakhnath temple and Ambaji temple for hindus and Digambara and Swetambara temples for Jains. One has to climb up more than 8500 steps to reach the peaks. We did not visit. May be next time.
We drove on towards Sasan Gir on NH8D. Our destination was Lion Safari Camp. In Lion Safari Camp, one has to live in tents. These tents are like one room accomodation with attached bath. These tents can get quite cold in late night and early morning, because temperture in this part of Gujarat drops dramatically at night. Arrangement of additional blankets is must, if travelling in winter. A typical tent is shown below. Lion Safari Camp also had arrangement for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In the evening cultural program was organised by camp management. Performance was given by a group of black entertainers. I thought they are foreign students, moonlighting for pocekt money. I was surprised to learn that these are Gujajati speaking people, whose ancestors migrated from East Africa to Gujarat more than 300 years before.
Coming back to the main purpose of the visit, that was to watch a lion in the wild. However, we were told that lions are elusive creatures. in order not to disappoint us visitors coming from different parts of India, Gujarat government has created a sort of old age home for retired lions. In this government operated park, one is certain to see a lion from close proximity. So we visited government operated part first. In this park, one can choose between a A/C or non A/C bus that runs on biodiesel. We booked our ticket and got in. As promised, we saw lions from up close.
However, our desire was to see lion in the wild. We had arranged a jeep to take us into the reserve forest. Getting entry into the forest is restricted. One has to stand in queue in forest rangers office to get a permit. On a given day, only a limited number of permits are given, unless ofcourse one is a VIP. Our entry permit was arranged by Lion Safari Camp by sending their man in advance. Our guide was Sharoohkh Khan, not the actor, a local Gujarati teenager. Sharoohkh was genuinely offended when we questioned his ability to spot a lion.
We moved around in Gir sanctuary for nearly two hours without any trace of elusive lion. We were almost about to give up, when another tour operator excitedly directed us in the opposite direction we were going. We rushed, there they were a family of lions – a mother with three kids. We were not allowed to stand there very long by forest officers. So I managed one picture, that is clear and clean. I was told this is a two year old lion.
In addition to elusive lion, Gir sanctuary is full of deers. We saw Spotted deer, Cheetal, and Sambar deers, plenty of them.
We also did some birdwatching in Sasan Gir Lion Safari Camp. But that will be next blog.
Tags: Junagarh Fort, Mount Girnar, Lion Safari Park, Lion, Sambhar Deer, Spotted Deer
The resort provides three good meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner in their community dining hall.
in the afternoon, post lunch, we took off for a visit to the Rann. We had booked an open jeep for the purpose before hand. At least two other jeeps accompanied us carrying more tourists. Rann is vast expanse of empty space. It gets filled up with water during monsoon season. In December, when we vistied, Rann had patches of water. There were a large number of migratroy birds and local birds flocking the wet land. In most places, desert floor had cracked because of lack of moisture. There in the midst of no where, we saw herds of wild ass. We were told, Rann was one of the natural habitat of the ass. It has been declared a sanctuary for wild ass.
We also were fortunate to view a desert fox. The fox alsmost camoflaged itself with the sorroundings. Only trained eyes of our guide could locate the fox. Very agile and very shy, it vanished into a concealed fox hole.
We also saw a herd of nilgais. A male Nilgai posed for the camera, while the herd moved one.
We saw one salt harvesting pond on the Rann. It was run by local villagers. Villagers trap the salt water that flood the Rann during monsoon, and let it dry under relentless sun of the Rann. Many consider, such activity is detrimental to wild life of Rann. Conservationists believe that many such salt harvesting ponds are appearing all over Rann. Again conflict between human activity and wild life.
We had a good view of the setting sun on the Rann. As the sun set, temperature immediately started to come down. It is advisable to carry wind cheaters, if one plans to spend evening on the Rann. I heard, one can take beautiful shot of moon on the desert. We returned to warm comfort of our resort. After dinner, we went to bed as we had to move on next morning. I plan to go back for a longer stay on the Rann.
Tags: Gujarat, Dassada, Little Rann of Kutch, Rann Rider, Wild Ass, Desert Fox, Nilgai, Salt Farming