Beauty of the Forest is revealed by the fauna it hosts. When we started to Gir from Ahmadabad as part of our West India Tour, only one animal came to our mind - the Asiatic Lion. It is justifiable too. But as we crossed Junagarh, the birds of Gir were the first to welcome us. The Birdman of India, Salim Ali once said that if not for Lions, Gir would have a Birds' sanctuary. It is a paradise for birdwatchers.
Gir is the last natural haven for the majestic Asiatic Lions. An early morning jungle safari is a must to appreciate the beauty and understand the importance of these big cats to the Gir ecosystem. In our trip, we made three sightings - a lioness crossing the forest road, a couple of lions resting near a waterhole and a pride feasting on their overnight kill. The magnanimity of the Lions was realised by the way they ignored the visitors. In a sense, the Giants knew that with a flick of their toes or a tiny growl, they can make us disappear into the forest. Puny humans..!
|The perfect camouflage|
The other big cats living in the jungle are the leopards. They are unpredictable, agile, lonely and often shy. Perfectly camouflaged in the savannas of Gir, they are the most dangerous. Along with lions, they play the most important role of creating a sustainable equilibrium with the herbivores like Sambar, Nilgai and Spotted deer.
|A Maldhari herder|
Gir is blessed with a wonderful society which worships the nature. It is with their participation, we have a trifold increase in the Lion population. With the support from Gujarat Forest Department, their Eco Development Committees have reduced the biotic pressure and established a mutual dependence with lions. They understand the Lions as much as the lions understand them.
The final breathtaking experience we had in Gir was the night walk into the jungle. It made me realise the importance of conquering fears to enjoy the nature. Today I had the company of my friends and guards while venturing inside the forest, but it may not be the case always. So courage is the basic minimum required to experience the beauty of the forest. And in our battle against fear, darkness of night is the true ally. In dark, our instincts are sharpened and the journey is focused. With our mobiles turned off, we could listen to the silence of the forest, call of owls and sounds of crickets. The star filled sky was another wonderful sight we miss in cities. In front of the beauty of nature, everything else looks insignificant, and Wilderness is the true nature of our beloved Earth.