Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gir, Sasan Gir Gujarat.

Uri Goleman asked me to meet him in Gir so we could discuss some future business together. It was very difficult for me to short out my visit on such a short notice but it all got arranged courtsy Railways Tatkal ticketing system. I asked Omhari at Hoshangabad to book my return ticket and I printed it in Ahmedabad. My journey from Gir to Tala I completed in three different class in the same train.
Initially I was not sure about my programme so Uri found some Mr Kamlesh from Rajkot to guide him in Gir. Uri came with his another friend Mr Thomas, a Photoshop expert. I reached Sasan on 6th evening but couldn't find Uri at Sinh Sadan. At about 11pm Uri knocked on my door. We discussed the morning plan and decided to go to jungle together.
Had a nice morning. I felt other people were not feeling very easy with my presence in the jeep. I was not at all in a position to help them so I decided to become a spectator.
After morning game drive Uri told me that Kamlesh says that it wont be possible for me to go along with them for day outing. I simply said "thats fine with me."
I booked my jeep and got the permit. I had two safaris by myself on 7th afternoon and 8th morning. Saw few lions but nothing for photo.

Uri came back on 8th afternoon. First I thought I wont join them but later I changed my mind. They saw nothing in last 24 hours. No photo opportunty of any sort. Uri claimed a Sunbird photo as a reward.

It was so secretive plan and the destination that I had no idea where they went for one night. Sleeping on ground was rough, as Uri said. Thomas was also not very happy by loosing a day. Uri said that we are finish with Kamlesh?? I didn't ask much on this but they revealed it later on. He does not have any knowledge about the photographers needs and neither of a foreign tourist. Asking them to drink normal water was too much for Uri.

I was shocked to see the behaviour and working modus operandi of forest guards and trackers there. It is very important for a tourist to know the local language or have interpretor or Fixer as they are called in Gir. This helps in making their trip successful. Lions are very docile animal and can be herded by a single man with the help of a stick. I have seen this happening. I was an outsider amongst our group there so our jeep was always moved away from the spot hence I never had an opportunity to photograph this drama. One evening we met two Dr brothers from Ahmedabad who were complaining about the trackers bahaviour. Some other Indian gentleman's jeep was taken off route to show him the Lion and he was asked to get down from the jeep to photograph Lion on foot and these two brothers were denied the opportunity. Their complaint was that everyone should have equal opportunities in the park. No favours to any particular tourist. I agree.

I felt very happy in myself. Minimum there is one person who knows the local language and still ignored by the local people in the jungle because they did not had proper connections there. These connections are made on the basis of how much money you can shell out of your pocket or to whom you know in the department.
I have never seen any other National Park in the country where money plays such a vital role in sightings. Many people left the park disappointed. It is a part of the game. It could have been more justified if everyone gets the same treatment/deal in the jungle. People with privileges in the jungle annoys tourist more than anything else.
I saw more people complaining about the system here than anywhere else.
The rules are very ridiculous for sharing the jeep with foreigners. I had to pay the camera charges same as foreigners. Many people dont agree with camera charges at tourist destinations. Every Camera used by visitors, big or small helps in publicity. People dont charge for showing their photo of the destinations then why camera fee is charged to them. Charging camera fee is really mean thing to do with that kind of Entry fee structure. We pay to enter our National Parks which are run on Tax Payers Money.
After my visit to this place I checked two photoagencies for Lion Photos, just to check the demand of Asiatic Lion photos. I was surprised to know that there were hardly any photos of Asiatic Lions. This is only because there is no demand of these photos in the market or destination is not popular amongst the foreign photographer. Every photographer visiting any place dont look for fixers. They visit destinations with a hope of getting some photographic opportunities through legal means as a general tourist.
After seeing the Lion herded by trackers I can not suggest this place to any of my photographer friends. Majority of them are true wildlifers who prefers to wait for opportunities in the jungle. Most of the photographs I see from Gir are very much touristic shots.( I learnt this word in 1989 while working with one of Indias top photographer. This was his comment after seeing a tigress with her three cubs sitting next to her.) Lion photography is difficult. You dont get a chance to observe the subject. People walking around jeeps distract their attention. I did not see them in relax mood. Even three female and 5 cubs sighting did not produce any extra ordinary picture.
Drivers drive their jeeps too close to follow them. Any animal would not like to have a vehicle full of shouting tourist at his bum end. I photographed this. Lion was not at all calm. He wanted to get off the road as early as possible but poor chap was again cornered by Tracker on motorbike. I think these lions have always accepted man as their master. At one time, when there were only few lions left, this must have been the way to locate them.

I did not found Sasan as a very popular tourist destination for foreigners. Food is the one problem. All the restaurant I tried were serving very oily-spicy hot food with very limited choice. I survived on Biscuits, fruits, Curd and Roti. All the Tourists do not go to stay at top end lodges.


Imtiaz said...

I was eagerly waiting for your trip report and pics from GIR... But sad to hear the state of affairs @ GIR....

KK Mishra of Manhan said...

very nice effort towards writing regarding nature conservation, I need your contribution for in form of article/features. Thanks

mydreamworld said...

hi i am hiren bagda and i lives 75 km away from sasan and whatever your wrought is right at some points only. about charging for the camera, see this place is not visited by many people like other conservatin are so they have very low income from touring the people so they dont have any other choice. i think you went place called 'DEVADIYa' if thats case then it is disappointing because that palce is like a big cage. the real thing is not that for a true experience you have to go with some guy who is well about area around sasan also sasan is not about seeing only LION, there is many place too see in sasan. if next time you plan to come then i would like to be your guide to change your thinking.