Gir – The day I startled a Lion

April 2013

How many people can truly claim to have startled a lion? Read on.The Gir forests are the last refuge of the Asian Lions. We had seen the majestic African Lions in Kenya last year. I was keen on seeing the Asian cousins. It seems rather strange, that even though I am was a resident Indian all my life, I should see the African kings before their Asian counterparts. I had always imagined it would be the other way round.

Marsh Crocodile at the reservoir

Marsh Crocodile at the reservoir

I reached Gir at around lunch time and checked into Sinh Sadan, a Government run guest house. This place used to be the hunting lodge of Kings of Junagad.

I was booked for an evening Safari. I was pleasantly to see that the ranger accompanying me  was a girl.  A  pleasant drive through the forest, took us to the reservoir created by damming the Hiran river. Taking in the panoramic views from the watch tower, we continued our quest to see the royal beasts.

A lioness feeds off the kill

A short while later we came across a lioness guarding a fresh kill. A cow had strayed from the settlement and had been brought down by a pride.  Knowing that the rest of the pride would be close, we decided to go look for them. At the turn, the driver slowed down to a stand still and whispered,” There he is…the LION”. I spun around, and at the same time the lion also turned towards us. I cannot tell you what it feels like, to turn around and find yourself staring into the face of a full grown lion, a few feet away from you, with no protective barrier in between. Believe me when I say this,  the lion was equally startled!!

As both of us regained our composure, he moved towards his group and we followed. A few more lionesses emerged from the thicket. Having already satiated their hunger, the eating session that followed was nothing like the feeding frenzy I had seen on TV. The beasts would go one at a time to the kill, grab a bite or two and return.

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