GUJARAT: The westernmost state of India has many species unique to it. It is the last home of the Asiatic lion and Indian wild ass.Gujarat has little forest but 40 species of animals and over 450 species of birds— some migrant from Africa. Many local subspecies of birds are documented in the excellent and privately published Birds of Saurashtra by the late M.K. Dharmakumarsinhji. India’s first Marine National Park was established by the Gujarat Government.
Gir N.P. and Lion Sanctuary
Established in 1965, this national park forms a core area of 100 sq miles (259 sq km) with the 444 sq miles (1153 sq km) of the sanctuary providing a buffer zone around it. Only some 10 percent of the total area is forested. The area was originally protected by Junagadh State, and although hunting was banned from 1948 onwards, the greatest pressure was from thousands of cattle that grazed the area. An area of hot humid summers (112°F/44°C) and cool winters. The monsoon brings little rain. The park has a good tourist infrastructure and most of the many species in the park can be seen. Buses and jeeps are available at Gujarat Tourism, Rangmahal, Diwan Chowk, Junagadh (40 miles/65 km).Best time to visit: Dec. —Apr. (closed during the monsoon to mid-Oct.) Accommodation: Forest Bungalow, (contact Sanctuary Supervisor, Sasan Gir, Dist: Junagadh. Tel: Visavadar 60; 1TDC Forest Lodge, (Tel: 21)—can be booked through any 1TDC office or hotel. Permission:Conservator of Forests, Sardar Baug, Junagadh, Gujarat 362001 Nearest town: Veraval (26 miles/42 km) Rail: Sasan (0.5 mile/1 km) Air: Keshod (53 miles/86 km) (Gujarat Tourism Corporation organizes tours from Keshod including a stay at the park).
Established in 1979 to cover 109 sq miles (282 sq km) of mostly thorn forest north of Porbandar, the area was once a home for lions but it now lacks a corridor toe link it to Gir. The area has suffered now from overgrazing and fuel-wood collection. Wildlife is scarce. Best time to visit: Nov.—Feb. Accommodation: 1 small resthouse Nearest town & Rail: Ranavar (5 miles) Air: Porbandar (14 miles/22 km)
Established in 1973 and covering a huge area of 1864 sq miles (4840 sq km) and more often known as the Little Rann of Kutch, this special sanctuary was set up for the Indian wild ass. The Rann is a flat saline wilderness with little vegetation. Other animals in the area include blackbuck, a few chinkara, wolf and desert cat. During the monsoon, part of the area becomes flooded and the wild ass move to elevated grass patches known as bets. Best time to visit: Jan.—June Accommodation: Desert Cowrsers, Camp Zainabad, Nr. Dasada 382751 (contact Ahmedabad 445068, 448699) Permission: Sanctuary Superintendent. Dhangadhra, Dist: Surendranagar, Gujarat Nearest town & Rail: Dhangadhra (14 miles) Air: Rajkot (87 miles/140 km); Ahmedabad (129 Miles/209 km)
Established in 1978 near the border with Rajasthan this sanctuary covers 69 sq miles of thorn forest and scrub over hilly terrain. Sloth bear, nilgai and leopard are seen. Best time to visit: Nov.—Mar. Accommodation: 2 resthouses Permission: Conservator of Forests, Gandhinagar, Gujarat 382016 Nearest town: Palanpur (17 miles/28 km) Rail: Iqbal garh (6 miles/10 km) Air: Ahmedabad (99 miles/160 km)
Established in 1981, this small bird sanctuary of wetland covers only 2.5 sq miles (6 sq km) Best time to visit: Nov.—Jan. Accommodation: large resthouse and an 80- room hotel run by the Gujarat Tourism Corporation Permission: Conservator of Forests, Pradarshan Ground, Jamnagar, Gujarat. Nearest town & Rail: Jamnagar (10 miles)
Marine N.P. & Sanctuary (Pirotan)
The sanctuary was established in 1980 with an area of 176 sq miles (457 sq. km). The national park was formed in 1982 with an additional area of 62 sq miles (162 sq km) as the core. Green-sea, leather-backed and olive ridley turtles along with other fascinating life can be seen. Best time to visit: Nov.—Jan. Accommodation: 2 guest houses (60 beds) Permission: Director, Marine N.P., Pradarshan Ground, Jamnagar, Gujarat. Nearest town & Rail: Jamnagar (4.5 miles)
Established in 1969 over 44 sq miles (115 sq km) of wetland to the southwest of Ahmedabad. The lake is extensive and during the winter it is home to migrant geese, ducks, flamingoes etc. Local waterbirds also come here to feed though not to breed. Best time to visit: Nov.—Feb. Accommodation: Forest Lodge Permission: Range Forest Officer, Nal Sarovar Sanctuary, PO Vekaria, Dist: Ahmedabad, Gujarat Nearest town: Viramgam (22 miles/35 km) Rail & Air: Ahmedabad (40 miles/64 km)
Established in 1969 to give full protection to the blackbuck in this dry and open (13 sq miles/34 sq km) scrubland. Highest concentration of blackbuck anywhere in India. Also a few wolves. Excellent viewing. Best time to visit: Nov.—May Accommodation: Kaliyar Bhawan Forest Lodge Permission: Range Forest Officer, NV.Pe, Vlaelavvaadadr, aPOr Valabhipur,Gujarat Nearest town: Vallabhipur (20 miles/32 km) Rail & Air: Bhavnagar (40 miles/64 km) Other sanctuaries in Gujarat include Hingolgarh (Rajkot Dist.), Narayan Sarovar (Kutch Dist.), Ratan Mahal (Panchmahals Dist.), Dhumkhal Sloth Bear Sanctuary (Bharuch Dist.), Vansda N.P. (Bulsar Dist.). For information contact: Conservator of Forests, Gaudhinagar , Gujarat 382016. You may also seek assistance from Tourist Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., HK House, Off Ashram Road, Ahmedabad 380009. Tel: 449683; Tlx: 0121-549 TCGL-IN.