Friday, November 04, 2011

Advance bookings mean easy permits, hassle-free travel for tourists in Gir

Advance bookings mean easy permits, hassle-free travel for tourists in Gir
Times of India

It was a mixed bag for tourists as far as getting permits to the Gir lion sanctuary was concerned. Those who had planned their holidays well in advance found it easy to get the permits. But, many who reached late, had torrid time getting bookings for the lion safaris amidst heavy tourist inflow. Some of them even had to return disappointed.

With only 150 permits to be issued per day, officials had reserved about 60-70 permits for guests put up at Sinh Sadan, the official guest house of the forest department and those staying in various hotels.

Falguni Joshi, a resident of Satellite area in the city, said, "I had booked a package with a reputed club in Sasan. The hotel had already arranged for permits for us. As we reached, the photocopy of our identity card was sent to the forest department and the very next day, the permit was available right at out doorstep."

Similarly, Vinod Sharma, who had come all the way from New Delhi had booked at Sinh Sadan well in advance. "Things were very smooth. We informed the staff about the possible time of the safari and the permit was readily available."

Dhawal Patel, a computer engineering student from Ahmedabad, said, "I reached Sasan at 8 am and there were long queues. After waiting for nearly two-and-a- half hour, I saw one of my friend's father also standing in the queue. I handed him my form and he got two permits. Obviously, I had to go with him on the same route."

Besides Sasan, tourists had to wait for two to three hours to enter Devaliya interpretation zone, a cordoned safari. Ashok Kamath, a resident of Chennai, was in Sasan on Thursday. Kamath had no complaints of getting a permit but said that the hotel owners charged him more. "I had booked my stay in advance in a good hotel. However, the hotel charged us around Rs 3,000-Rs 3,500 for one jeep. But getting permits was fairly simple The charges for the official lion safari were around Rs 1,500-1700, but the hotels were charging us almost double. We were told that the forest staff was charging them extra for issuing permits," he said.

However, in-charge deputy conservator of forest Anshuman Sharma, refuted claims of overcharging. "We have about 50 per cent of the permits reserved for Sinh Sadan and the 18 other hotels registered with us. At the end of the day, these were scrutinized and everyone was given equal weightage in allotting the permits."

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