Gir is the home of the Maldharis, a term used for the many Hindu and Muslim pastoral
groups of the area. The Maldhars live in traditional settlements called nesses and
tend Jafrabadi buffalos, Gir cows and other livestock. Some of them also have camels,
sheep and goats. Among the best-known pastoral groups of Gir is the Sorathi Rabari.
Siddis are a community with African origins. Believed to have come from African
countries as mercenaries, slaves and labour, the Siddis grew to become powerful
generals, some of them even became rulers. In Gir, there are villages of the Siddis,
who are well known for their dances and other performances, and a major shrine for
PLACES OF INTEREST NEAR GIR
Veraval (36 km):
The fishing port of Veraval is known for
its dhow-building yard where massive hand-built seaworthy vessels are made. Once
a port of the Nawab of Junagadh, it has old gates and historic buildings.
Somnath (40 km):
Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlingas or
holy abodes of Lord Shiva. The main temple is an important pilgrimage for Hindus
and its riches were ransacked by invaders. The Prabhas Patan Museum has interesting
architectural fragments and sculptures from the ruined temples. Somnath also has
Lord Krishna's cenotaph and bathing ghats at Triveni Tirth, a medieval Sun Temple
, the historic Ahilya Temple , Bakhla Tirth where Krishna is said to have met his
end, and a cave temple.
It also has beaches and there are chances of seeing coastal birds like dunlin, curlew
sandpiper, black-headed, brown-headed, Pallas, yellow-legged and heuglin's gulls,
gull-billed, Caspian, lesser crested, common, little, whiskered and river tern,
ruff, ruddy turnstone, whimbrel, curlew, red-necked phalarope, etc.
Junagadh (63 km):
Historically, Junagadh is one of the most
interesting cities of Gujarat. Emperor Ashoka's rock edicts here date to the 3rd
century BC and there are also ancient Buddhist cave-sites dated to the Mauryan and
Gupta Fort. The Uparkot Fort of the Chudasama Rajputs rises from a hilltop and has
11th century monuments inside the imposing battlements. Mystic poet Narsinh Mehta
also lived in Junagadh and his monument is in the city. By the 19th century, the
Nawabs of Junagadh rose to become affluent rulers and during their reign palaces,
colleges, mosques, mausoleum complexes and a quaint railway station came up at Junagadh,
all of which are worth seeing specially the palace museum. The city museum has archaeological
finds and manuscripts.
While in Junagadh, visit Sakkarbagh Zoological Park that is captive-breeding Asiatic
lions and you could see ibises and other birds in the park.
Girnar (60 km):
This 3660-ft high hill rises on the outskirts
of Junagadh with temples on ridges and on the summit. The 12th century Jain Temples
are specially attractive with exquisite carvings.
Jetpur (90 km):
The textile town of Jetpur is known for
its block and screen printing workshops and is good for shopping.
Diu Island (95 km):
Diu Island was once ruled by the Portuguese
and is now a Union Territory. Popular as a beach destination, the island also has
a 16th century Portuguese Fort, the impressive St Paul's Church, Diu Museum and
old houses. Flamingos, storks and waders can be seen at the creeks of Diu.
Gondal (123 km):
A princely state known for
its progressive rulers, Gondal is a good place to stay in the luxurious comfort
of palatial rooms at a heritage hotel. Other highlights of Gondal are the Vintage
and Classic Car Collection of the Maharaja, the Maharaja's Royal Rail Saloons, the
Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy, Gaushala and Ashwapalak (breeding centre for Gir
cattle and Kathiawadi horses) and the Swaminarayan Temple.
For birders, Gondal is interesting as it has large water bodies where white pelican,
demmossile and common crane, black-headed, black and glossy ibises, comb duck, spotbilled
duck, spoonbill and other birds gather in large numbers. The royal family's grasslands
are good for prinias, larks, quails, francolins and other birds. Lesser florican
in most years breeds at these grasslands in August and harriers visit in winter.
Ibises and waders breed in Gondal.
Jamnagar (151 km):
The princely city of Jamnagar is dominated
by its many palaces. Known for its tie-and-dye (bandhini) fabrics and its temples,
Jamnagar also has a bird-rich lake where more than 75 species of birds have been
Jamnagar is also the headquarters of the Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park and
Wildlife Reserve, which protects 42 islands fringed by coral reefs and mangroves.
These islands and coastal areas are excellent for birding attracting large wintering
flocks of crab-plover, Kentish plover, ruddy turnstone, whimbrel, curlew, terek
and curlew sandpiper, Temnminck's stint and other waders. Many birds breed along
the Gulf of Kutch and at the islands including herons, darters, cormorants and terns.
During low tide, the coral reefs can be explored to see octopus, sea hare and other
mollusk, echinoderms like starfish, brittle star and sea urchin, sea cucumber, sea
slug, many species of crabs and other crustaceans, segmented and unsegmented worms
(including endemics), sea anemone, sea fans and other marine life.
Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary
near Jamnagar is also a good birding
site. Indian skimmer is often seen in winter and the first breeding site of great-crested
grebe south of the Himalaya was recorded here. Black-necked stork, glossy ibis and
other birds breed at Khijadiya and large flocks of ducks can be seen in winter.
The salt-works near Jamnagar are good for greater and lesser flamingo, great white
pelican and painted stork. Jamnagar is also the base to visit Ranjitsagar, Sasoi
Dam, Sinhan Dam and Khambaliya Dam, all four reservoirs are good for birding.
Rajkot (164 km):
The bustling city of Rajkot has the Watson
Museum, Gandhiji's childhood home, Rashtriya Shala working to revive rare weaves
and handicrafts, and public schools. The lakes around the city are good for waterfowl.
The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, Porbandar was the capital of
an important princely state and has many historic buildings.
The creeks of Porbandar attract large flocks of flamingos, waders and wagtails.
Spectacular flocks of wintering cranes can be seen at dams and wetlands near Porbandar.
Porbandar also has a lake that has been officially notified a bird sanctuary. It
is an excellent area for gulls and terns and one of the best places in Gujarat for
great crested tern in winter.
Off the Sasan - Porbandar Road is the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary which is also good
for birding and for reptiles.
Dwarka (225 km):
One of the Char-dham yatras (four holy
abodes) and one of the seven holiest cities of Hinduism, Dwarka has an important
Krishna Temple, an attractive 12th-13th century Rukmani Temple, Sankracharya's Math
and the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga.
Located on the coast, Dwarka is also good for birding and green sea turtles are
possible sightings on the beaches. Dolphins can be seen at Okha nearby especially
during the ferry crossing to Bet Dwarka.
Y Bhatia has recently photographed one of the few known breeding sites of Caspian
terns in India at Charakhra near Dwarka.