a community serious about adventuring
India as a whole is a very inexpensive place to travel, especially for Indians, but when it comes to foreigners, different travel expectations apply. This is evident mostly in the cost of things. For a resident of India to visit the Taj Mahal it is Rupees 20, but for a foreigner it’s Rupees 750; one US dollars is roughly 48 Rupeees.
In the western province of Gujarat, to see the rare Asiatic Lions of Sasan Gir National Park and wildlife sanctuary welcomes new price discrepancies. Here, the gap between Indian and Foreign pricing is so vast, foreign visitors can’t help but think, does Sasan Gir even want the common backpacker to visit their park? How would Indian foreigners visiting Canada feel about such pricing disparity? A trip to the National Parks of Canada is the same price for all visitors, other than children and senior citizens. If pricing were $10 dollars for Canadians and $100 for Foreigners, Canada would be chastised the world over and surely its tourism industry would suffer.
The Sasan Gir Safari Tour is Rupees 1000 for Indians and Rupees 3500 for foreigners. Okay, that’s not too bad. But here is where things get more interesting. If you should happen to have zero luck and not see a lion (can happen when a large kill has happened and the pride/and or lions won’t need to feed again for a few days spending their time in lounging to digest) then you can visit the nearby Devaliya reserve (14 km away from Sasan Gir Village). Here you are guaranteed to see the lions. It isn’t quite like seeing a lion in its most natural state, as the compound is enclosed, but the lions are not feed by ground keepers and still hunt for food. After two safari attempts, lion luck wasn’t on our side so we thought that a visit to Devaliya should make us happier. However, we were disheartened yet again.
Pricing to enter Devaliya for Indians was Rupees 110, and for Foreigners Rupees 1500. That seemed all too big of a price difference and we were very quick to turn back to the village of Sasan. Were we to expect anything extra from the tour? A chance to hold a lion cub, feed it, maybe play around with it and a ball of yarn. No. It was the government price we were assured, not making us feel any better. We walked away from Devaliya feeling helpless and misjudged as a traveller. It would seem as though Sasan Gir is catered toward the luxury vacationer. The ones who come for a week on a pre-packaged plan and pricing won’t matter as much. But for the budget traveller, Sasan Gir should recognize its other potential audiences.
Since its establishment in 1965 (lions numbered around 160), the lion population has been bouncing back successfully and a 2010 census put lion numbers at approximately 400. Sasan Gir is thought to be one of the most protected ecosystems in Asia due to its successful support by activists, NGOs and government.
Although we didn’t spot any lions, the experience here is a special one. A three hour safari ride in India is a heck of a lot kinder on the pockets than Africa, but having said that you are more likely to spot African lions as their numbers are somewhere in the lions (there are only 400 and something Asiatic lions left in the world) making the occasion unique in this simple regard. However, the blatant ripping off sours things. The Sasan Gir National Park should be put in a pricing category alongside the Kerala houseboats – known for being one of the most expensive activities to do in India.