The extraordinary landscape of Gir is teeming with breathtaking wilderness encounters and stories galore, writes Kanchan.
- David Attenborough
Surrounded by the thick perfume of karonda and ruffling wind as our gypsy trundles its way through the forest tracks of Gir National Park, I cannot help but feel strangely free. Drinking in the sights and sounds, I am excited about my time in the wild.
Historically, the Asiatic lions inhabited much of the Middle East to northern India. At the turn of 20th century the only home left to them: Gir. Now on the IUCN Red List, these last remaining Asiatic lions coexist with the semi-nomadic Maldhari tribe in the Gir National Park.
But from my jeep right now, I can’t see the brutality of the situation. All I see is how half a dozen jeeps have reversed in synchronised moves to take a look at the Gadakbari pride. Everyone has their eyes on the mother and her sweet little cubs, most of them in deep slumber. And every time the lioness looks in our direction, I feel my heart thrumming. What I see is gripping and fiercely beautiful!
After the longest time of mostly being stationed in front of a desktop, eating hyper-processed foods, chugging caffeine to work more, I realise I have been hungry for landscapes. For being out in nature.
Most of us modern city folk tend to have this realisation every now and then. Work to the point where it gets a little too much and then dream about some soul-restoring vacation out in the wild while sitting in one’s cubicle. A temporary fix to a recurring problem.
But out in the wild, those problems seem inconsequential. Out in the wild, you realise how small you are. You somehow start to see the bigger problems - the ever-growing human population in comparison to the dwindling Asiatic lion population; the relentlessly increasing carbon emissions; the disappearing coral reefs; the felling of more forests to grow feed for livestock, the insatiable need to thoughtlessly cut, dig and wipe off everything that comes in our way. There comes the reality check.
“Big cat sightings on a safari are never a guarantee. But it’s not unusual to see lions walk past jeeps within a close proximity as they go about their daily business,” says our beaming naturalist Adil Arif.
It’s fascinating to see the details Adil picks out in the landscape: the fresh lion pugmarks, the massive termite mounds, a herd of lazing water buffaloes, the surrounding bael trees with their astonishing medicinal properties, a jackal ambling through the grassland, the fleeting flashes of coloured wings, the intricacy of spiderwebs. Nature is continually at play. And Adil’s energy is contagious. Telling us not simply about the big cats but also the trees, the birds and the seasonal shifts, he gives us a holistic picture of the Park.
With a prime position at the edge of the Gir National Park inside the teak forest, Aramness Gir promises to offer its guests with an unparalleled view of the jungle teeming with rich biodiversity and charismatic megafauna. The 18 square kilometre area that connects the lodge with the Park facilitates this one-of-a-kind wilderness experience. This spectacular teak forest with all its beauty and tranquillity also provides guests with the opportunity to witness and celebrate its abundant life.
Us modern city folk are such absurd creatures. We truly value any opportunity that comes with the promise of reconnecting with nature. But we want it at our own time and convenience. The other night, I found myself glued to my screen watching one episode after another of ‘Animal’ on Netflix.
Out in the wild, face to face with the lioness and her family, I understood you can’t build a deeper knowledge of the natural world through a cold glass screen.
Thinking back to what Adil had asked me prior to the safari, “Kanchan, what do you look forward to seeing?” I was not sure about my answer then. But only later, it became clear to me - I was just looking forward to being fully present for my time in the wild. And this experience was as good as it could get.