Gir National Park in Gujarat is the only place in the world to see Asiatic Lions in the wild. Despite this fact it is rarely visited by international tourists.
Prior to visiting myself, I found there was an absolute dearth of information online about arranging the lion safaris. I hope this post will help to fill the void!
Now how you set about arranging a lion safari is likely to very much depend on your budget. If you have deep pockets the easiest way to arrange the a safari is to book one through your hotel. Of course you will pay through the teeth for this, but if you’re in India for a relaxing two week holiday, this is probably you best bet.
The rest of us have the fun and games of getting a permit on the cheap. Read on to find out how:
So the fact is there are only 30 jeeps allowed in the park at any one time. And only 15 of these are available for booking on the day of the safari. Each jeep can accommodate up to 6 people.
There are three safari times: early morning 6am, mid morning 9am or afternoon 3pm. The early morning slot is by far the best in terms of sightings, but also the most competitive to get a permit for.
Permit: 4,800 rupees (international tourist) and 800 rupees (domestic tourist). Only one permit is required for each jeep (up to 6 people)
Jeep: 1300 rupees (per jeep)
Guide fee: 250 rupees (per jeep)
Camera fee: 1200 rupees (per camera)
Getting the permit
As previously mentioned there are only 15 jeeps per time slot available on the day. This means in order to get a permit you have to be one of the first 15 people in the queue. For the early morning slot this means getting to the gate for around 3am. Yes, that’s right – 3am!
We arrived just before 3am and there was already one man queueing, and another joined shortly after us. Around 4am hotel staff, who have been sent to get their guests permits, joined the queue. Make sure you’re there before 4am at the latest, as there’s quite a few of them.
Although it may sound tough. Getting up at 2am to sit by a park gate wasn’t too bad. We had a good chat with others in the queue. One man bought us a chai, and another offered to share his jeep with us. The man in question was actually queuing for his family of 5. When we explained that we would not all fit, he said ‘it’s okay, the kids will sit on our laps’. The “kids” were actually teenagers – classic India!
Anyway, back to the permit. At 5.30am the gates open and the lucky 15 at the front of the queue are allowed in. It’s all a bit chaotic, but like with most things in India it somehow works. You fill in the forms. Pay the money. Meet your driver. Then sit down for a chai while waiting for 6am to roll around when you finally start your safari. Easy peasy.
▪️The cost of the permit is for whole jeep. So the more people who can club together the cheaper it is. Try to get the full 6 if you can. This is particularly relevant for international tourists who have a particularly steep permit fee.
▪️Only one person needs to queue for the permit. So if one enthusiastic person fancies doing the job, they can go alone. Although it is recommended all the people wanting their names on the permit come down for 5.30am when the gates open.
▪️Don’t worry if you’ve seen Indian “queueing” elsewhere and are wondering how on earth you’ll get a permit. It’s actually all rather orderly in Gir. If you’re one of the first 15 there, that seems to be respected and you will get a permit. There’s no argy bargy like at Ranthambore!
▪️Make sure you take your passport and visa. Plus the cash. And you’ll be all set.
▪️Wear warm clothes. Even if it’s hot during the day the jeeps are incredibly breezy and set off before sunrise, making the whole thing surprisingly chilly.
It may all seem like a bit of hassle, but it’s definitely worth to see these beautiful animals in the wild.