The Gir National Park is located among the low, undulating and excellently irrigated hills in the Junagadh district of Gujarat. It is famous for being the last existing natural home of the Asiatic lion, although it has a healthy population of other animal species too.
The Gir forest covers an area of 1150 square kilometers with 300 square kilometers forming the core area of the national park. The park receives a good annual rainfall averaging 1000mm. The temperatures at the park vary to extremes, as they do with most of the country too. In winters, the temperatures go down to as low as 6 degrees centigrade, while soaring up to a scorching 46 degrees in the summers.
The park is open to visitors from November to May but the best time for visiting the park, taking comfort and wildlife viewing into consideration, is December to March. The park offers many excellent drives through scenic areas. For the more impatient and less adventurous, the park authorities organize "lion shows" in the Dewaliya area, which are a sure-shot way of seeing the magnificent big cats. These "spectacles" for the public are hopefully soon going to be axed, as is proposed by the more thoughtful of the governing bodies, and a safari park instead is to replace them with an area of around 1000 acres being set aside with a higher population density of lions to enhance sighting chances.
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is the last and only home of the critically endangered Asiatic Lion. These lions are a smaller more compact version of their African version, and are best viewed at dawn or dusk when they are on the move. The major difference between the two is that the African Lion appears larger than the Indian Lion because of its large and luxuriant mane.
Leopard is considered to be one of the most beautiful and graceful animals in the jungle, also the most dangerous one. Popularly known as the Prince of Cats, this animal is the most adaptable from the family of predators, one the reason why it occupies a much larger spread of Gujarat forest cover, and in Gir National Park it has been found in all the varied habitats and vegetation types. The approximate population of 210 Leopards resides within the sanctuary area. .
Not leaving the water predators behind, Mash crocodiles are often seen along the Kamleshwar Dam Site. Another major attraction among the reptile population of Gir National Park are the numerous non-venomous Snakes such as the Indian Rock Python along with the four venomous varieties, which are Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Saw Scaled Viper, Russell's Viper.
There is a museum at Kanha National Park, depicting attributes and activities of the park and the tribal culture of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Vegetation in Gir can be looked at in four ways. The first is the Teak forest and nearly half of the protected area has this kind of a habitat. The main tree species that occupy this habitat are Khair, Sadad, Timru, Babul, Amla, Moledi, Dhavdo, Kadayo and Bahedo. The non-Teak forests, which comprise the remaining forest consists of tree species like the Khair, Dhavdo, Sadad, Timru, Amla, Moledi, Kadayo, Salai, Simal, Khakhro, Ber and Asundro.
A distinct belt of vegetation is found along the main rivers and streams. Species like the Jambu, Karanj, Umro, Vad, Kalam, Charal, Sirus and Amli are found here. These trees are mostly broad leaved and evergreen, giving the area a cool shade and the moisture content. Finally, Prosopis and Casuarina have been planted in the coastal border as part of the aforestation plan.
The best way to observe the big cats is, of course, in their natural surroundings, at dawn and dusk, when they are on the prowl. Wildlife viewing in the Girs is best done, by driving via jeep around the forest.
Even if Gir National Park is one of the hottest and most visited wildlife reserves within India still the period one should visit this park is during the months of Mid October-Mid June, and the best recommended time is December-April.
Do not disturb the animals during day time as most of the nocturnal animals sleep during day time.
Do not try to irritate the animals or make them angry by teasing them.
Take official guides along with you on the park trip.
Do not smoke inside the park.
Do not use flash or intrusive photography.
Picking of plants and insects is strictly prohibited.
Wear loose fitting and simple clothes that blend with the park surroundings.
For the safety of the visitors, walking and hiking within the vicinity of the park is not allowed.
Camping and picnicking is not allowed within the park.
Carry plenty of water along with you.