I shut myself away this birthday. Switched off my phone, took a couple of days off and went off to Sasan Gir with mom and dad. Dad gifted me this trip to me for my birthday this year. We drove past the Junagadh and dad talked me through the lanes. It was the place where he started his career, his first job. It must have been some life I can imagine. The city looks like a small portion of the walled city of Ahmedabad. With rather quaint looking restaurants that serve good non-vegetarian food according to dad.
Something must have moved dad, for he allowed me to drive till Gir. I was not sure if it were my feet that were trembling with pleasure and nervousness or the bumps that were shaking the care. The rather dry forest has an extremely warm and inviting vibe. There is something mystic about it that holds you back. It seems to have withstood many storms and fought forests fires to save the Asiatic pride.
The Taj property is located by the river. The wild slowly starts growing on you. Most people discourage you about Gir by saying that the lions are rather tamed. But I strongly disagree. The lions by nature are a rather lazy breed. Truly living up to their reputation of being the king of the jungle this 12 year old male slept through while jeeps passed by taking pictures of it.
This was the first of the Asiatic lions that we spotted around 9am. Looks like he had had a good breakfast. The real rockstar of the trip though were the driver (Yusufbhai), the guide (Hitesh) and the tracker(Muraadbhai) who know the forest and these beauties really well. It would have been absolutely impossible to spot the next two birds without my heroes of Sasan.
The NightJar is a nocturnal bird and is usually very hard to photograph in the night as it keeps flying. But those who know their hangout trees, like our amazing Hitesh and Yusufbhai park the car as if we had arrived at a local dhabaa. Truly, they knew the next tree pretty much as if it was a local hangout.
This is the Brown fish Owl found in a few Asian forests. We sort of fell in love with and drove by to say good morning and a bye in the evening as well. Next up is our amazing thick-knees. Mum took about 10 minutes to figure out where they were. I wish we had studied the word ‘camouflage’ like this.
This is what we managed to capture in the first safari. It was a very rewarding experience but as dad puts it we are very greedy. Hence we had decided to go back for a second safari in the afternoon. Most people I met at the hotel seemed to be complaining about the sun. For some reason the sun or the dust did not seem to dampen my spirits.
So while the sun tried to frustrate the hell out of us, somewhere deep down all us in the jeep felt that there was something more waiting for us in the wild. Well while the wild will always remain the wild and the thrill will never seem to cease, at times one needs to bow down to the experts. The trackers as they are called have been guarding the Asiatic lions and in some way making a few bucks by giving the details of the sightings to the guides. So thanks to our supremely well connected driver Yusufbhai we got to see the following group during their siesta.
So while they look pretty peaceful, the rather hot-blooded male sleeping on the right was not too happy with the ruffling of the leaves and look at his next pose.
Dad has a better shot of this fellow, as the tracker got some great shots for him. Isnt this rather handsome looking Asiatic young male too adorable to be taken home? Oh! Wait the treat is yet to come. So as we had to wait patiently to reach this spot, we had to drive rather fast back to the gates as one needs to be out of the forests by 6:30 or so. But looked like the forests were too pleased with me, and so came the surprise of the day. This gorgeous leopard.
Spotted by dad from a rather speedily moving jeep, this too everyone by surprise. I was not sure if I should have stared at him or should I take shots. In this moment of trying to capture this rather rarely seen beast, I must have lost my wits to use manual focus and trying and get the perfect picture. It felt like a perfect finish to a good meal. It was truly a great experience. The chef at the hotel make a lovely cake over dinner. It felt like the most warm birthday spent amongt in the wild surrounded by those who share the passion for exploring these hidden treasures.
(For better resolution of these pictures do visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/cinnmist)