India // Gujarat //

Gir National Park

The Asiatic lion, which, thanks to hunting, forest-clearance and poaching, has been extinct in the rest of India since the 1880s, survives in the wild in just 1150 square kilometres of the gently undulating Gir Forest. Gir National Park, accessed via Sasan Gir, lies 60km southeast of Junagadh and 45km northeast of Veraval, and boasts more than four hundred lions in its 260 square kilometres. The park also shelters around three hundred leopards, as well as sambar (large deer), chousingha (four-horned antelope), chinkara (gazelle), jackal, striped hyena and wild boar. The wildlife shares the land with Maldhari cattle-breeders, many of whom have been relocated outside the sanctuary. Those who remain are paid compensation by the government for the inevitable loss of their livestock to marauding lions. In 2008, it emerged that some tourists had been paying to watch lions devour tethered cattle in cruel – and illegal – “baitwalla shows”; if anyone approaches you about one of these shows, inform the park’s management team. Sightings of the lions aren’t guaranteed, although summer is the best time to spot them.