Spent a night atop the watchtower near the Kamleshwar dam where the howl of the jackals signals the beginning of the dark phase. The Chital's punctuate the silence of the night with innumerable alarm calls. The water in the lake makes rippling sounds, of crocodiles on the prowl. The first rays of the sun are greeted with the deep roar of a male Lion some distance away. Welcome to Gir, the natural treasure of the state of Gujarat.
Gir exhibits great variation in topography, including flat,
gently undulating to hilly tracts; and elevation ranges between 152m at
Vasadhol to 530m above the sea level at Nandivela hills.
The Gir forest area is extremely rugged and hilly. Slopes are generally moderate, hills are of volcanic origin and the soil varies from one area to another. While most of the soil is generally black, the other types one may come across will be red, yellowish, white clay and sandy. Each soil type supports a different kind of plant life and hence the wildlife too differs based on vegetation types.
Out of the three prominent seasons of summer, winter and
monsoon, the longest stretching is the summer, in which the average
minimum and maximum temperature ranges between 10ºC to nearly 45ºC.
April and May are the hottest months. The erratic monsoon is eagerly
awaited, with its active period between middle of June and September. The
maximum rainfall in the area is recorded around 1,866 mm and the minimum
recorded being 199mm.
The water always remains a critical factor in the well being of the forest. At times the waterholes are required to be replenished through water tankers from outside at great expense. Around 350 of such waterholes are maintained by the park staff.
Gir has seven main rivers. They are Datardi, Shingoda,
Macchundri, Saraswati, Raval, Ardak, and Hiran of which only Hiran has
perennial flow, the rest being seasonal. Many of these seasonal streams
have permanent waterholes, called 'Ghunas' and 'Virdas', which provide
precious water to animals and birds. Gir also has four dams and that has
made possible to store water in large reservoirs.
Hiran River is the main lifeline of Western Gir. It originates from Kansa hills of Gir, and flows close to Sasan, Dadhia, Rajasthali, Gidadiya ness and close to Talala village. It meets Sarasvati and Kapila rivers near Prabhas Patan to reach the Arabian Sea. Sarasvati originates from Dipada-No-Dungar in Gir to meet Hiran hillocks of Dhali Bakini Dungari near Chanchai hills. It crosses Gir near Kardapan, Mandvi, Kodila, Ghodavadi and near Una Navabundar and meets the Arabian Sea.
Shingoda River originates from the Chasa hillocks and Kadi Vadli hillocks and crosses Gir near Buntel, Chhodavadi, Jamwala and Kansaria-No-Ness. It meets the Arabian Sea near Kodinar. The Dataedi river passes close to the Jamwala ness to meet at Jamwal, while the river Raval originates from Dhundhia hills of Gir, goes to Una and near Manekpor, meets the Arabian Sea.
Vegetation in Gir can be looked at in four ways. The first
is the Teak forest and nearly half of the protected area has this kind of
a habitat. The main tree species that occupy this habitat are Khair,
Sadad, Timru, Babul, Amla, Moledi, Dhavdo, Kadayo and Bahedo.
The non-Teak forests, which comprise the remaining forest consists of tree species like the Khair, Dhavdo, Sadad, Timru, Amla, Moledi, Kadayo, Salai, Simal, Khakhro, Ber and Asundro.
A distinct belt of vegetation is found along the main rivers and streams. Species like the Jambu, Karanj, Umro, Vad, Kalam, Charal, Sirus and Amli are found here. These trees are mostly broad leaved and evergreen, giving the area a cool shade and the moisture content. Finally, Prosopis and Casuarina have been planted in the coastal border as part of the aforestation plan.
Modad, Kakad, Kalam, Garmalo, Limdo, Apto, Dudhlo, Siras, and Dhraman are trees that form the top part of the forest. The understory is formed by Mindhol, Bordi, Kanthar, Hingori, Karamda and Antedi. Ground cover has herbaceous growth of Desmodium, Tephrosia, Indigofera and Vernonia.
Grasses mostly include Bhagoru, Ratad, Zinjavo, Saniyar and Kagadiyu. Important 'Lianas' (woody climbers) include Khervelio Baval, and Malvelo. Around Gir there are some grasslands, locally known as 'Vidis'. Reserve Vidis have better palatable grass species and are well protected.
The moist, shady riverine habitats show presence of more evergreen type of trees like Kalam, Sajad, Karanj, Jambu, Amli, Umbro, to name a few.