The 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade took a trip to the Sassan-Gir, in the Saurashtra District of Gujarat. Gir is famed as the only home of the Asiatic Lion, of which only 411 remain. The National Park is surrounded by an Animal Sanctuary which is home to numerous indigenous species.
The trip took place from the 14th to the 17th of December and was organized by Sundarvan, a Nature Discovery Centre in Ahmedabad. Gir is eight hours away from Ahmedabad and is surrounded by many water bodies, including Kamleshwar Dam which hosts a large crocodile population.
The first day was eventful, with a short trek to a Crocodile Breeding Centre, where they breed crocodiles and then release them into the wild as well as take care of injured or ill animals. The Orientation, which is right next to the Crocodile Breeding Centre. There, they explain Gir’s geography and topography as well as how the park functions.
The next day, there was a Safari into the Sanctuary. There were many lions, many who had just hunted or had given birth to cubs as well as other species; spotted deer, plum-headed parakeets, etc. The guides were very helpful and informative, talking about everything from the history of the Park to the behavior of animals to how the various plants and trees grew. It was a very interesting experience for all most of who had never seen wild animals so close.
The next day, there was a long trek through a village where jaggery was made. Jaggery plays an important part in Gujarati cuisine; it is used to sweeten curries as well as desserts or just eaten with roti. There was an enormous jaggery field and the adjoining field was filled with jaggery husks. There was a small factory that made jaggery out of the juice of the plants as well as jaggery juice. The owners of the farm made a fresh batch of jaggery juice for everyone, a sweet treat which is often unhygienic in the cities.
Next came the “bat show”, not exactly a show, but more of an information session about the bats of Gir. Bats are considered to be bloodsucking parasites, when in fact they are the opposite. They eat only fruits and the carnivorous ones eat either mosquitoes or other insects. There were two gigantic trees which were host to a minimum of ten thousands bats each. When disturbed, which happens quite often, they fly into the air, obscuring the sky from view. In a village where there is livestock and agriculture, the bats have enough food to sustain themselves, but the pollution from machines and vehicles harms them and their delicate wings.
After nearly being gored by over-excited bulls, the group headed back to the resort to see a Dhamaal Dance by the Sidi community of Gir. The Sidis are natively African who came to India, mainly Gujarat, centuries ago as slaves or on their own accord for a better life. They have preserved their African roots by performing a tribal dance where they imitate wild animals and break coconuts on their heads. They soon got everyone to join in; a true round-the-fire dance party.
The next day, they visited the Devalia Interpretation Centre where the preservation of the park and animals is further explained as well as the preservation of the flora and fauna. Then, in mid-afternoon, they visited the famous Somnath temple, which is located on the water. The temple has millions of visitors each year, from all over the world. The temple is home to numerous idols and statues and is the income of the small village that borders it.
The next day was the last day and there was one last stop to Hingolgadh fort, where there was a traditional Gujarati lunch and a climb on the rocks to the fort. The fort was built in the 1665 on top of the older fort and is situated 1000 ft above sea level. All the antiques, including clocks, personal items and cutlery are all preserved within the fort which also holds a small bird sanctuary.
Soon, the group was back home, exhausted but happy. Special thanks to Jadeja sir of Sundarvan as well as all the helpers and teachers who came along. The trip was exhausting, but lots of fun and left everyone wishing for more.
Photos by Harsimran Kaur Anand