Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Driving through Gir Forest National Park

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It wasn’t until the end of two magical days that I realized we had created a bit of history. Okay, that wasn’t quite a moon landing. But it was still a feat. A feat that may not be truly appreciated until half a century later, when internal combustion engine cars will only be seen in museums and everything our children and grandchildren drive will be powered by electricity. ‘electricity.

So what did we do?

I was the first to drive an electric vehicle in the famous Gir Forest National Park, the final resting place of the Asiatic lion. (drum roll please!) Now this might seem like an obvious thing to do and in the future all cars in national parks will be electric, but no one had done that before, and for the moment I savor the moment of being the first. And what a moment it was!

Fear of an accusation

I was in the lap of luxury that is the Audi e-tron. As well as being Gir’s first electric car, it’s a cocoon of opulence, the kind you wouldn’t expect in a thick jungle. The Gir Forest is not the e-tron’s natural habitat and is not a place to be stuck with a dead battery. Forget finding an outlet, there are no power lines here and the only thing on a charge might be a hungry lion! So it’s a good thing that the e-tron’s big 95kWh battery is good for over 320km on a single charge. Even so, I couldn’t help but glance at the rangefinder every five minutes. Range anxiety is kind of hard-wired into my brain.

The real adventure started even before I got to Gir. What was supposed to be a simple drive from Ahmedabad to Sasan Gir turned out to be a hassle simply because I couldn’t find a working charger in Rajkot halfway. Fortunately, the e-tron’s massive battery offers good range for long road trips, and driving like my grandma to save battery has also helped. I traveled to Fern Gir Resort, my home for the next two days, with about 40 km to go.

Being the first to drive an electric vehicle in the Gir forest was the experience of a lifetime

The next day was dawn, because that’s when the big cats are most active. It was a magical feeling gliding silently through the forest, with only the creaking noise of the e-tron’s massive tires over the muddy tracks audible. I spotted spotted deer, a common sight in Gir that I never got tired of. But it was the lions that I was looking forward to.

Electric dreams

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long. Fern’s naturalist and Forest Department guide, warned by trackers, knew exactly where to go. They took me straight to a bull feasting on a killed buffalo. What an unforgettable sighting of my first lion!

I used the e-tron’s sunroof to great effect, poking my head out of it for a view of the hungry lion ring at breakfast. It was a bloody spectacle, but such is the law of the jungle.

The lion is the emblem of Gir, the star attraction. But there are plenty of other wildlife to see. It was captivating to see Nilgai, wild boar, lots of deer, a crocodile sunbathing on a rock, and hundreds of species of birds that are part of the ecosystem. But the day couldn’t end without another meeting with the lion.

Just when I thought I would end the day disappointed, I hit the jackpot. A lioness and her cubs are lounging a few feet away from me, completely unaware of the e-tron. All her attention was on her newborn babies, whom she licked and fondled with passion. It was the kind of photo-op that wildlife photographers often look forward to for years.

During the two days that I spent in Gir, I saw no less than 11 lions. What made this safari even more special was the e-tron which, in addition to giving us the pleasure of driving the first electric vehicle in Gir, gave us the satisfaction of driving something that does not disturb the wildlife or pollute virgin forests. It’s time for all national parks to find an electrified alternative to those rickety old gypsies.

The opinions expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, February 6, 2022

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Hormazd Sorabjee is one of India’s most experienced and well-regarded automotive journalists, and is the editor of Autocar India.
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