India is the only place after Africa where lions can be seen in their natural habitat. So if you ever get to India, do not miss the opportunity to see the “king of the jungle”. The Gir National Park in Gujarat is the leading place for a lion safari in India as it is home to about 300 of these majestic beasts. It is also the last remaining abode of the Asiatic Lion in the world. Safaris either on a jeep or on the back of an elephant are available to get around the park. Though jeeps are faster and safer, however, an elephant ride will increase the fun. The best time for lion safari is from November to June.
Lions are one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera. The males are highly distinctive with their mane. A fully mature male lion exceeds 250 kg (550 lb) in weight and their life span is about 10 to 14 years. They live mostly in savanna and grassland and are more social than other cats. They are the second largest living cat after the tiger. Till about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from Western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. Their cause of decline is still not fully known but habitat loss and conflicts with humans are the likeliest causes.
The best places in India for lion safari are:
Gir National Park: Being the only remaining abode for the Asiatic Lion and housing the highest population of leopards in India, Gir is visited by streams of visitors annually. Also, the Kamleshwar dam in the middle of the sanctuary is home to a record population of marsh crocodiles. Other wildlife includes chital (spotted dear), nilgai (blue bull), wild boar, jackals, hyenas, etc. Gir National Park also has over 300 different varieties of birds.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Also called the Borivili National Park, spreads an area of 13 kms in Mumbai. Bus tours are arranged for exploring the park during which visitors often come across the mighty cats.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary in Kerala is one of the most well-known lion safari destinations in India. It is also home to a large population of gaur. The sanctuary also has a crocodile rearing centre and a deer farm.