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Old 12th November 2007, 14:45   #1
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Default Mumbai-SasanGir-Mumbai in my FIAT Adventure Sport!

Hi! All,

After a detailed Rajasthan report, I am back with my trip to Sasan Gir, the famous Asiatic Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat
This was planned during the long holidays of Diwali (8th,9th,10th and 11th Nov 2007). Myself and one my friend decided to go for it
I did all my research on the internet and settled for a resort called Lion Safari Camp in Sasan, which boasted to be the best in Sasan Gir. Though there is a Taj resort as well, but its defunct as of now and is getting reopened in January 2008. There are other resorts such as Manelang Jungle Lodge, Gir Birding Lodge and Amidhara Resort (Seemed good from the Ads which they have posted on the way to Sasan Gir

Start of this great Journey!

We started at 11.30am from Thane (from my friends place). We had decided to drive till Vadodara and Start driving next morning to Sasan. The road from Mumbai till Surat is damn good. Barring some uneven pathces near Vasai-Virar. We covered the distance to Surat in 4 hours including a 1 hour lunch halt. Which means the drving time to Surat was 3 hours from Thane. Be aware about Gujarat 2 wheeler traffic . We have named them ďFIDAYINĒ, which means suicide squad. They are so irregular and unruly, they will get an award for this. Please lower your speed while inside Gujarat till Surat (after that the road will not allow you to drive faster anyways). From Surat, the road is nothing to speak about! The road is uneven with patch work. The road remains 4 laned though. The distance is approx. 130kms and you can expect to take 3 hours. While you are nearing Vadodara, you expect 45-60 minutes of standstill or 1st gear movement JAM due to diversions, as the road is being six laned. We took a 30 minute halt between Surat and Vadodara and reached the outskirts of Vadodara at 7.30pm (8 hours from our start time which includes 1 hour of halt due to traffic jam on the way). There we decided to move on till Ahmedabad, as had to sleep at night anyways. Apart from that, I had found out that the road from Ahmedabad to Rajkot is awesome and is four laned. So we moved to Ahmedabad and reached there at 8.30 and reached the hotel at 9pm. We took the NE1 and its great! Of course not as good as the Mumbai-Pune expressway, but its damn good! Unlike Mumbai-Pune expressway, its 2 laned but much lesser traffic. We stayed in a hotel called Pinnacle near Ellis Bridge Police Station. The hotel was damn good for its price. We paid 450/- for a non-ac room and 500/- for a double room. The hotel is worth every penny and it makes you feel like staying in a star hotel. It has slippers (chappal) in the room, tissue papers in the bath room. Hot and Cold water. TV with remote. Well designed and furnished rooms (though small). Clean Towel, very clean and good bedsheets and blankets. Good quality curtains. The deluxe room which was for 850/- was just like any other 3-4 star hotel room! Itís a must stay hotel while in transit in Ahmedabad. You can order food and the guy will get it from outside. The food he got was awesome! You can park your car inside the compound (though only 3 cars can be parked). You have the security guy 24 hours and you will get a car wash for paying a small tip!

We started the next morning at 7.30am. The road to Rajkot was superb with very less traffic. Though you can maintain 120kmph or more for a long long stretch, I decided to drive at 110-120kmph. Its 212 kms from Ahmedabad to Rajkot and we took about 2.30hours including a 20 minute breakfast halt. There were fuel stations in plenty on the way, but 99% of them do not accept credit cards. From Rajkot, we moved towards Junagarh. The distance is about 110kms and 50% is 4 laned. From a diversion point, the road is single towards Junagarh but its great! We reached in 1.30 minutes from Rajkot to Junagarh. By 11.30am we were crossing Junagarh. However, since there is no bypass in Junagarh, we took sometime to cross through the town. Junagarh has a zoological park and some good Jain and Islamic monuments. The road from Junagarh to SasanGir is single but quite good. You can drive at 100kmph as there is very less traffic. The distance is about 60kms from Junagarh, and you expect to cover it in less than 1 hour. We reached Sasan at 1pm (5.30 hours from Ahmedabad City). Had we driven little faster, the distance is doable in 5 hours including 1 halt of approx. 30-40 minutes. Total distance from my home in Kanjurmarg till the resort (which is little away from Sasan village) was recorded to be 924kms. Total time taken was 14.5 hours including 2 hours of halt. The average speed we got was 74kmph (for the driving time of 12.5 hours). By 1.30pm, we were in our rooms! Well, they were actually air-conditioned tents. The resort is Lion Safari Camp (CAMP ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA, CAMPS IN INDIA, WILDLIFE CAMPS INDIA,WILDERNESS CAMPS IN INDIA, DESERT CAMPS INDIA, BEACH CAMPS INDIA, CAMPS IN PUSHKAR), was good and on the bank of Hiran River. It has 20 A/C tents and very good staff. The package includes all food and 1 jeep safari into the sanctuary. The food was not very exciting though! You get both veg and non-veg food!

Due to Diwali rush, the hotel staff told us that there may be a possibility of not getting pass for 3pm trip (as there are limited no. of vehicles allowed inside the sanctuaryÖ.20 of them twice a day). We were lucky to get the pass and at 3.15 we went inside the park. You have to pay 600 (Entry fee) + 50 (guide charges) for the safari, which is not a part of the package.

Experience inside Gir

Its an open forest in 1420 sq km area and it has 315 lions, 300 leopards, 3000 sambars, 45,000 spotted deers, more than 300 crocodiles and thousands of birds of at least 300 different verities. Only 250 sq km area is open for Visitors and at least 7 prides are within this touristís area. There are 8 routes which is designed and strictly followed by the forest departments and the resorts. You have to be lucky to spot Lion along this route. Spotting a leopard is a matter of chance and extremely good luck!

The moment you enter, you see peacocks and peahens. You also spot Spotted Deers (common sighting), Owls, Different Birds, Crocodiles, and Sambar (we saw only once). There a captive antelope whose mother was killed, at the forest departmentís rest house. The best time to visit is April and May (if you want to sight lions) as water holes are dry and they are out in the open in search of water. Hence, our chance of sighting was rare, but we had to take chance. The forest was green with teak wood leaved fallen on the ground which had turned brown. The forest is amazingly quite and relatively cool though it was November afternoon. We were taken in an open green Maruti Gypsy which is specially designed for this purpose. All the vehicles are like that. We saw 7 lions with 1 male, 2 females, 4 cubs. The thing which surprised us was the forest guys were out in the open and were very close to these lions. They told us that their job is to spot the lions every day by tracking them on foot and check if they are alright. The lions are used to their dresses and they donít attack humans (At least there is no history as yet). The big male lion was approx 10 feet away from our vehicle.

We further moved but couldnít sight any more lions or leopards. It was a 2.30 hours trip for about 30kms inside the jungle. We decided to go again next morning to sight birds. Next morning, while we entered the jungle, we heard a distress signal by a spotted deer. Our guide told us, there must be a lion nearby and we halted to track the signal. Suddenly, the driver said, itís a leopard, and we saw him. It was majestic and was on a hunt. We tracked the great animal for about 15 minutes which accordingly to the driver and guide is a rare event. It never happened before with them, that they could track and see the leopard for so long and we were the luckiest! We thanked god for this luck! I suggest morning time is best to go, because you can spend more time in the forest and sighting of birds are also better. No lion sighting today for us, but we were content with the leopard!

One day 2 evening, the hotel had organized African dance, which is done by black African inhabitants in this part of Gujarat. They were brought to India by the earlier nawab as laborers and they have been living here ever since (for about 400 years now). They look like typical Africans and are Muslims. They marry within their community to protect their identity. It was fun in the evening at the resort.

Return to the Concrete Jungle called Mumbai

Next morning (11th Nov 2007), we started back towards Mumbai at 6.30am from the resort. Since, we didnít have time, we had earlier decided to do non-stop to Mumbai with me and my friend driving half half. This time we decided to take the Sasan-Amreli-Tarapur-Vadodara route to Mumbai. The road is good! The distance between Sasan-Vadodara is approx 450kms. Entire route is single lane with 10% of the road being bad! We reached Vadodara by 2 pm with 30 minutes breakfast halt. From Vadodara, we started again at 3.30pm. In this route, we had to come through the city, though we didnít get any traffic as it was Sunday. We reached Mumbai at 10.30pm. We did 850kms in 16 hours with 2.30 hours of halt. This means, we took 13.30 hours to cover a distance of 850kms averaging 63kmph. I will recommend, even it its non-stop driving, Mumbai-Ahemedabad-Rajkot-Junagarh-Sasan and back is a better route. You take lesser time, much lesser stress as 90% of the route is 4 laned including the great stretches between Mumbai-Surat, Vadodara-Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad-Rajkot

The Fiat Adventure behaved great. During the jam near Vadodar, I even took the vehicle off road to cross the standstill traffic and I understood how FIAT has made a great car which is unmathed in its category in India buut unfortunately discountinued (at least as of now). Since, most of the stretches I was driving at a speed more than 100kmph with a/c on, I was not expecting a great mileage. I got around 12.5 kmpl on the entire route. My speed was consistently 120kmph or more between Vadodara-Ahmedabad NE1, Ahmedabad Ė Rajkot it was 110-120kmph, Virar-Surat it was 110-120kmph and rest of the distance was around 100kmph. This mileage includes the 1 hour jam before Vadodara and 30 minutes jam of the Vadodara-Ahmedabad bypass. It also includes some 2nd-3rd gear driving inside Ahemedabad City, Junagarh, Vadodara and Sasan (totaling to about 50kms). While coming back, the speed was between 110-120kmps for about 70% of the distance between Amreli-Vadodara. Of the total distance of 1800kms, we would have driven 30% without a/c and balance with a/c. Frankly, I would have been happy, if I would have got around 13-13.5kmpl. This could have been possible, had I take the return route via Rajkot and Ahmedabad!

Last but not the least...we paid approx Rs. 500/- toll at different points for this trip! And finally, the trip is great fun, if you can make a night halt in stead of non-stop drive!

I hope you have a great trip with the details given by me above!

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Old 12th November 2007, 15:14   #2
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Nice description omar, but where are the pics? Pics do add more spice to the travelogue !!

Indeed you were very lucky to see lions, leopards etc in a single trip...
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Old 12th November 2007, 16:52   #3
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but usual koshun - where are the pics?

You remind me of the time we rode to sasan from amdavad. The forest roads in gujarat are typically very good and little traffic. Its a good place to ride, except the utter lack of hills/destinations
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