Sasangir Wildlife Sanctuary more commonly known as Gir is the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion. The sanctuary is a hilly rugged terrain lying in the western state of Gujarat close to the city of Junagadh covering an area of 1400-sq-km. It was created to protect lions and their habitat in 1965. Unlike other sanctuaries of India, Gir is a success story of lion breeding as the lion population of the sanctuary has increased from fewer than 200 in 1980 to an estimated 411 in April 2010. Due to this, Sasangir is the top destination for lion safari in India. Gir is also considered to be one of the most important protected areas in Asia due to its supported species.
Animals Found: The rugged topography and favorable climate supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna at Gir. The sanctuary is home to 32 mammals, 310 birds, 24 reptiles and over 2,000 species of insects and the vegetation comprises 450 plant species. It is the only place after Africa where a lion can be seen in its natural habitat. Besides lions, over 30 species of wild animals including leopards, hyenas, foxes, wild boars, monkeys are found here. The leopards are spotted more easily here than any other sanctuaries of India. Other commonly noticed mammals are spotted deer or chital (numbering about 30, 000), antelopes, striped hyenas, jackals, nilgai, sambar, antelope, chausingha or four-horned antelope, barking deer, wild boar, ruddy mongoose, langurs, jungle cats, indian porcupine, chinkara, gazelles and crocodiles to name a few.
Sasangir also shelters a sizable number of bird population such as peafowl, peacocks, parrots, raptors, spoonbill, white ibis, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, honey buzzard, redheaded merlin, bonelli's hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, painted sandgrouse, blossom-headed parakeet, spotted dove, spotted owlet, flycatchers, woodpeckers, flamingo.
Most commonly found trees are teak, Ber, Flame of the forest, Jamun and Babool.
Best Time to Visit: December to April is the best time to visit the sanctuary. It remains closed from mid-June to mid-October and even longer in case of heavy monsoon rain. Visitors can explore the sanctuary in a jeep safari.
Getting There: State run buses are available between Junagadh (at a distance of 64 km) and Veraval (at a distance of 32 km). Steam trains run to Veraval twice daily and once from Junagadh. The nearest rail station is just 1 km from the park. The nearest airport is Keshod 86 kms from the sanctuary.
Where to Stay: If you want to stay inside the forest, there is a state run Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge not far from the railway station and Lion Safari Lodge about 200 meters Sinh Sadan. If not, there are quite a few modest range budget hotels outside but close to the sanctuary.