Even though I am a birder at heart, there’s something about crocodiles that has always enchanted me. I really can’t place a finger on it. They just happen to be an animal that I always look out for. Well, it was during my last visit to Gir Birding Lodge, in my opinion, the best birding lodge in the Gir forest. The lodge is an oasis of a place located right next to the entry to the Gir National Park, and my two interests managed to collide perfectly.
During a particularly lazy evening, when I didn’t have a lion safari in Gir National Park planned, I was chatting with the guide, Amit, at the lodge. When I mentioned my love of crocodiles to him, he offered to take me to the nearby Hiran Nadi for a little nature trail. Little did I realize that it would be a truly memorable experience.
We left the lodge on his motorbike, making our way down to the riverbank where villagers and visitors alike had gathered for what was either an evening stroll or a little sightseeing. As we walked along the edge of the river, everything bathed in the golden evening light, I made quick notes of what all birds we saw, from Common Moorhen and Oriental Darters to egrets, lapwings, and the like. It was while I was watching a small flock of Grey-headed Swamphens, that Amit lightly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed just a short distance off. Lying there was a huge crocodile, close enough for me to click even with my (by now) outdated phone. And the best part was it (I didn’t dare get close enough to find out if it was a he or she) was not in this stretch of river. Lying on the other bank were at least 3 huge crocodiles (that I could see), as well as a few smaller ones swimming in the river. Forgotten were the birds I had thought we had come to see. I even managed to miss a Yellow Bittern (a usually shy bird) that was out in the open thanks to these amazing reptiles.
After a point, I lost count of how many crocodiles we saw in total. But I can confidently say that this was an amazing density of them. I asked Amit how come there weren’t regular human-croc conflicts. He told me that although there was the odd case, most people knew enough to steer clear of basking crocodiles or to stay away from the river at night when they roamed more confidently. At the same time, the crocodiles were fairly tolerant (during the day at least), until, of course, someone got too close. Needless to say, my guide was perfectly experienced to get me close enough to see them clearly, but far enough to stay a safe distance.
Truly an unexpected but unforgettable spur-of-the-moment experience, one I’m sure would be unique to a place like Sasan Gir.