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Re: [birdsofbombay] Re: the roller-coaster that was Gir--- the land where lions roar

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  • prajakta savarkar shinde
    Wow...beautiful photos, and a great trip report! On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM, Dr.Sangeeta Dhanuka
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 14, 2012
      Wow...beautiful photos, and a great trip report!

      On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM, Dr.Sangeeta Dhanuka <
      drsangeeta.dhanuka@...> wrote:

      > **
      > Let this festive season ROAR for you.....and what better than lions to roar
      > with!!!
      > Below is the blog of our trip and here are the pics
      > https://picasaweb.google.com/108359053909554531885/Gir#
      > I am just back from a week long visit to the Gir National Park, the land of
      > lions. We were a team of 4 - Dev Anand Paul, Vaithiya Nathan, Sanjivani
      > Vaze and me. This trip was one hell of a roller-coaster, right from the
      > planning to the safaris. The planning began in July, between Dev and me,
      > who till then were only facebook friends, knowing each other through a
      > common friend. The plan was to visit Bera to see leopards, as I am yet to
      > see a leopard after 15 yrs of wildlife trips. A lot of gathering info and
      > talking to people and we decided to drop it, for reasons we were not
      > comfortable with. What then? At that time the SC had banned all tiger
      > safaris and nobody knew when they would start if at all. Nov first week is
      > too early for birding trips as well.....where can we go then? I was
      > speaking to some friends for suggestions and then somebody said Gir. Dev
      > jumped at the suggestion and bingo, we were on the Indian Railways website.
      > Only 4 seats available!!!! Hell with it we thought, lets block our tickets
      > and we can then ask others if anyone wants to join. Later, Vaithi (Dev's
      > friend) and Sanjivani (a co-birder from Mumbai) agreed to join, but both
      > had to finally travel sleeper 3 tier for one way of the journey.
      > Next started the hunt for lodging, boarding and safari bookings. Some
      > friends helped and passed on contact details of the forest rest house 'Sinh
      > Sadan', supposedly the best place to stay if you want to be sure
      > u don't miss the safaris. Yes, only 30 vehicles are let in for a safari at
      > Gir and the ones who stay at Sinh Sadan stand a better chance. Called up
      > Sinh Sadan - 'Madam, we take bookings only 15 days in advance. If you want
      > to come on 5th Nov, call up after 20th Oct'. We didn't do anything in Aug,
      > Sept and until 12th Oct. I called up on 12th, to be given more and more
      > phone nos and after 10 calls to various nos, I was told that no bookings
      > will be accepted till 25th Dec as ministers had blocked
      > all accommodation due to elections!!!! How we finally managed a economical
      > hotel booking is another long story in itself which I will skip here.
      > The day arrived.....3rd Nov. Dev and Vaithi flew in from Chennai and we
      > started our journey from Mumbai together. The journey ensured we got very
      > familiar and comfortable with each other's company. 4th noon we arrived,
      > very skeptical of how the hotel would be. We were lucky, it turned out to
      > be good. 6 pm in the evening we were informed that we didn't get lucky with
      > the advance bookings and one of us has to spend the night in the queue to
      > get the morning safari bookings. At Gir, the tourist himself has to go for
      > the current bookings. It was decided that someone from the hotel would
      > stand at night and Dev and Vaithi would go at 4.30 am to replace him and we
      > would rotate turns between the 4 of us for the remaining bookings on all
      > days. Not a good omen to begin with.....nevertheless.... Suddenly at 8 pm
      > we were told, the bookings for day one had been done. What, where, how we
      > don't know and we were all raring to go.
      > 1st safari : 6.30 am, 5th Nov: We were all under the impression that lion
      > sightings are much easier than tiger sightings, more-so as we have been
      > reading for yrs that Gir is overpopulated with lions. Its cold and we set
      > out, all excited. Soon we see the elusive jungle cat which stays in front
      > of us for a good 2-3 mins. The excitement further builds and we are
      > convinced lady luck is on our side.We drive on and after sometime come upon
      > a tracker who is informing the gypsies about a lioness lying close by.
      > Vow....the first adrenalin rush. We too go in, only to see the belly. I
      > don't even make the effort of picking up my camera, but we are amused to
      > see people in other gypsies falling over each other to click a pic, some
      > even with their ipads!!! We decide to back out immediately. The tracker
      > then tells us, there is a lion too some metres away and we are up again.
      > Alas, again just a belly. He then raises his head to give us a glimpse for
      > a second and the action is over. Nothing more during the safari. The guide
      > tells us we should take a 9.30 rather than 6.30 safari next day for better
      > sightings and we decide to give it a try. We are then told we could do some
      > birding for the noon at the river side. Not knowing the spot we are
      > dependent on the driver and the guide and we agree for a pre-decided
      > amount, only to realize our folly later, on reaching the spot. Anyway, we
      > console ourselves saying we have become wiser now and won't fall into the
      > trap again
      > 2nd safari: 3.30 pm 5th Nov: A new pair of driver and guide.This fellow
      > seemed to be far better and we were more hopeful. Nothing till 5 pm :( and
      > we are casting dejected glances at each other, Dev trying to cheer us up by
      > 'opening the bar' as he would call it - the chocolate bar. At 5 pm we see
      > the guide tell us reassuringly that we will see a lion and in 5 mins we
      > do!!!! But only the back is visible. No good. Then the lion turns its head
      > and we manage our first few shots of the lion, against a green background.
      > Vaithi says, 'Ah at least we have got the passing marks now'. By now it is
      > loud and clear to us that sighting a lion is in fact more difficult than a
      > tiger sighting. At least a tiger does not sleep for 18 hrs a day and you
      > might chance upon it walking about in the forest. Not so with the lions.
      > 3rd safari: 9.30 am 6th Nov: Nothing to write about. Forget lions, we did
      > not see anything. There were loud alarm calls very close by indicating a
      > leopard was around us. We waited for a few mins and then the driver and
      > guide decided it was not worth waiting, for reasons known to them. For the
      > rest of the safari, neither they both spoke nor we. By 11 am we were
      > looking forward to the safari getting over. But we decided one thing for
      > sure. No more 9.30 am safaris, 6.30 am it would be
      > 4th safari: 3.30 pm 6th Nov : Another new pair of driver and guide. The
      > driver looked to be a very motivated chap and something about him told us
      > he was the man we needed. He told us just one thing.....have patience and
      > trust me. We had no choices anyways. It was 5.30 pm, we had just 30 mins
      > before we had to start back and we thought another safari lost. Then he
      > said, 'now I will show you what I promised'. In 10 mins we were upon a
      > lioness. Click, click, click, click. This man knew the movements of the
      > animals and kept himself well informed we realized. And then she got up
      > and walked towards us. She then came and sat barely a few feet from us. I
      > sat down on the floor of the gypsy to make eye contact with her :). She sat
      > about 5 m from me. I wanted to jump out of the gypsy and hug her as my eyes
      > locked with hers. The tigress proved lucky for us and we saw another female
      > and male some metres ahead. That evening we came back on cloud nine and
      > Vaithi said, ' from pass class we have moved to B+ grade'. We told the
      > driver, u r our lucky man. Can't u join us for the remaining 5? He said
      > 'Madam, u try talking in the booking office but they don't easily accept
      > it'. I tried doing that, but they said 'we can give u the same guide but
      > not the same driver. We will try'. Fair enough, lets wait and watch
      > 5th safari : 6.30 am 7th Nov. Just a drive. Only saw a few peacocks.
      > 6th safari: 3.30 pm 7th Nov: Once again, nothing to write.
      > 7th safari.:6.30 am, 8th Nov. We only clicked some bulbuls and bee-eaters.
      > We were at the restaurant having lunch when our favorite driver walked in
      > to ask how it has been going. We said ' forget lions, even birds and
      > other animals have forsaken us after the safari with you'. He said ' how
      > many more to go?' . '2 we said'. Ok he said, let me use my good offices to
      > see if I can join u again.
      > 3.30 pm 8th Nov, 8th safari: We step out of the hotel to see our driver
      > waiting with the gypsy. Suddenly we are all gleeful. 'Madam, now the Gir
      > pride is at stake. I will not let u all go back dejected like this. My
      > promise.I have seen a lioness with 4 cubs in the morning. I know the
      > territory and I think I know where she will move in the evening. But once
      > again, patience and leave the rest to me' . 5 pm, he starts driving with
      > single minded focus and we are holding onto the edges of the gypsy. He
      > stops and we see a pride of 6 lions/lionesses.Click, click,click ,click for
      > 30 mins. Apparently, one female of the pride had 4 tiny cubs too. We
      > waited, but by then the news of this pride of 6 had spread and there were
      > gypsies lined up. No chance the cubs would b brought out. And then one of
      > the pride came a little forward. Again, I was squatting on the floor of the
      > gypsy, for that eye level shot And then news came of a male lion on the
      > road, a few kms ahead. Quietly and without showing any visible excitement,
      > we moved away from the pride, to be the first ones to reach the spot. We
      > did!!! And there he was. Once again I was on the floor of the gypsy.
      > Checked the distance reading on my lens....7 metres. Vow!!!! This
      > close..... I waited for him to look at me. And then it came.....the moment,
      > as our eyes locked. Time was running out and this was my last image. 8
      > safaris done, one more to go. We convinced our driver to join us again next
      > morning for our final safari. Vaithi now promoted us to A+ grade.
      > final safari: 6.30 am, 9th Nov: The lion was still there where we left him
      > last night. He then walked for a good 15-20 min. Then he vanished into
      > the forest. We completed our route and were returning when he was found
      > again, at a different spot, in beautiful light and giving some stunning
      > poses and expressions. The hair looked liked threads of gold. And the
      > moment we soooo wanted to capture. The giant yawn...... Thus ended our
      > roller-coaster trip to Gir.
      > Once again, here are the pics
      > https://picasaweb.google.com/108359053909554531885/Gir#
      > --
      > regards,
      > Dr.Sangeeta Dhanuka
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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