As flow of tourists to Sasan Gir the last adobe of Asiatic lions continues to rise,the state Forest Department has decided to convert Ambardi vidi (grassland) into a safari park at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore.
This will be the second such safari zone to be developed after Devalia Park near Sasan.
The new interpretation zone will come up at Dhari village in Amreli district, said Principal Conservator of Forest Pradeep Khanna.
Forest department officials said a pride will be shifted to this reserved forest spread over 4,000 hectares,where tourists can see the big cats in their natural environment.
Fencing work has been completed and construction of tourist facilities is underway,Khanna said,adding the place will have all the facilities to make it a complete tourist spot.
Officials hope that developing a new safari will help them handle the increasing tourists flow in a better way with Sasan,the main centre of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary,reaching the saturation point in terms of infrastructure development.
This year,over four lakh tourists visited the sanctuary,which is four times more than the total flow registered last year.
Officials say that Khusboo Gujarat ki tourism publicity campaign featuring actor Amitabh Bachchan coupled with improved infrastructure like roads and hotels has transformed Sasan into a hotspot for tourists.
Hospitality sectors wait over
A new interpretation zone is something that even the hospitality industry has been waiting for.
Industry insiders say that at times many people go back without enjoying safari due to overflow of tourists. And the zone,they believe,will bring this to an end.
Till 2010,there was lack of good accommodation,good infrastructure and dinning facilities,so people were reluctant to visit Sasan. But over the last two years,more than 10 new hotels have come up, said Mukesh Mehta,president of Sasan-Gir Hotel Association.
However,he added,many guests,who pay thousands of rupees and stay here for days to visit the sanctuary,cannot get the safari permit.
At present,the forest department issues 90 safari permits every day for three shifts.
Mehta further said that they are planning to introduce canters,besides gypsies,for safaris in order to accommodate more tourists.
A canter can accommodate around 40 tourists,this is equivalent to 10 permits. So by allowing six visits of canter,three in the morning and three in the afternoon,we can accommodate 240 guests in a day. This will also reduce the load of 60 gypsies. The cost of the visit will also come down drastically, he added.