Gir Sanctuary

Wildlife and us have never been able to see eye to eye. Sridhar’s satirical take on one such trip.

Hello  friends hope life has been treating you well .

The family was all excited and ready to see wildlife but for me. See the fact is I am yet to see even a wild ant leave alone an animal. Vidhya and I had been to the Jim Corbett sanctuary and we roamed and criss- crossed the sanctuary but to no avail.   We heard calls of the barking deer and also managed to stay quiet for close to an hour crouching on the back of the Maruti Gypsy on a cold November morning expecting  the tiger to show up and have its breakfast right before our weary eyes. All we got to see was the pug marks of the elusive tiger and with lots of loving devotion took its photo too. What were we thinking!  And to top it, our forest guide grandly announced “there… behind the clump of trees can you spot the herd of wild elephants?” We turned around with great expectations and oh! the clump of trees was at a good distance away.  We earnestly squinted our eyes to mere slits and still…no luck. Then we heard another booming voice behind us “ sir did you notice flapping of the ears?” That was the final straw on the elephant’s back. I turned around and told him that I am not yet been able to spot an elephant leave alone its ear!! We returned back empty handed and I muttered that I will not step into a sanctuary again. Now are you guys getting the drift???

Cut to the current era, we laid plans to visit the Gir Sanctuary -Gujarat, the last haunt of the Asiatic Lions, with truckloads of apprehension.

The drive was uneventful but for a vital observation. Google Maps for a long drive is  strictly to be avoided in my opinion. What it did was that it displayed the shortest possible route which need not be the brightest choice. In couple of occasions Vidhya had to step out of the car and shift a cycle or two in order to allow our car to pass through. The approach roads to some of the villages were so narrow. So we drove and drove for a good 875 kms from Mumbai with a overnight stopover at Surat.  We reached Gir at about 8 pm. Safari arrangements for the next day were made and we retired for the night. I prayed to all the Lion Gods to shower their blessings on us .

The alarm blazed away at 3 AM and we got up with a start and it took couple of minutes to re- orient ourselves. We clambered on the back of a Maruti Gypsy and made our way to the Sanctuary . After getting the mandatory permissions to enter the Sanctuary off we went roaring into the dawn leaving behind a pall of dust. Okay okay… we sauntered into the dawn with our hands tightly gripping the rails on the Gypsy. There were 3 vehicles ahead of us. The guide from the lead vehicle pointed at something.  We followed that hand into the wilderness. I noticed that the inhabitants of all the vehicles also are following that hand. What obedience!!  After a lot of finger- on- the- lips exercise, we were told that a leopard has been spotted relaxing on the grass. We dutifully follow the pointed figure which traversed beyond trees and some more trees, then on the grass and next to an anthill and then the collective aaahhh! Those who are sight challenged like me still went Where?? Where?? The forest guide was all excited and frantically pointed at the anthill. I gave up and slumped back on my seat and wonder was I in the same sanctuary as he was?? The cavalcade moved on.

We saw a group of black buck grazing on the dry grassland. Were we impressed? No way! After all we were here to see the King. Our Gypsy rumbled along like a tank and took a left here, a right there, dived into a culvert dragging its hopeful passengers through the forest maze. We stopped to talk with villagers who claimed to have spotted lions last night on their way home. We looked at them with envy and we wondered how lucky they were!! Bah!

One hour later, Corbett repeats itself. I was seething behind the maroon muffler which was  wrapped around my neck.  We came back to the base camp and sat under a tree nursing our bruised expectations. A forest official informed the not-so-lucky ones like us that there is a small sanctuary nearby which houses some lions and if we are interested we can hop on to the bus which would take us around. I recoiled at this very idea. It sounded like a consolation prize. The family was totally for it and we boarded the bus. Shortly, the bus stopped and the driver pointed out two lions which were taking their siesta under a tree. They looked totally bored and did not even move one hair of their mane. There were lots of shouting and the cameras went berserk. I did not have the heart to take a snap. Rather I felt sorry for those lions. I thought maybe they are chained to the tree! My kid was squealing with delight for this was his first sight of a lion and he might have wondered why his dad is so glum in spite of spotting them. I reluctantly took couple of snaps and murmured to Vidhya that the lions almost said “say cheese” to me.

Sleeping Beauties

We came back to Mumbai without any hassle.  A week later a friend of mine called up to say he had been to Gir and could spot so many lions that they were looking forward to seeing some black buck for a change. I was done with sanctuaries and wild life.

But a year later, I was again on the back of another Maruti Gypsy holding on to my Corbett hat in Parambikulam Tiger Sanctuary , Kerala! And we saw a……

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