Meeting Blackbucks, the sweetest ones, in Velavadar, Gujarat
As far as sanctuaries go, Velavadar in Gujarat is the sweetest one. It is home to Blackbucks, beautiful members of the deer family. But don’t let the gentle beauty of Blackbucks fool you. They always take home the silver medal in running events, clocking speeds
upto 80 kmph (50 miles per hour). Only the Cheetah pips them to the post. Velavadar has the highest concentration of the endangered Blackbuck anywhere.
Mature male Blackbucks, distinguished by horns and a darker skin
A male Blackbuck chasing a female. Will he get her? I happened to call upon the Blackbucks during their peak fawning period of March - April (the other being September - October), and such sights were quite common.
Two male Blackbucks locking horns, possibly over the right to win a female. When the males are not mating, they are locking horns to get the women for themselves. More than a pair were spotted fighting by me. Each male
has its territories, but we know how politics works. But do they really need to spar? It seemed there were more than enough females going around for all. But then again, men will be men.
A female black buck fleeing; I could have looked at Blackbucks for hours. Even they would not stop looking at me - curious about the Martian in their land. But a single step in their direction, and they would flee.
The open grasslands of Velavadar suits the blackbucks just fine. They have a life span of up to 15 years, can be 120 cm long with shoulder heights of 73-83 cm and weigh between 32-42 kilos. Since there are no big cats here, all animals are relatively safe here
and their tribe is only increasing.
A group of female Blackbucks and Antelopes fleeing as I got closer.
Ajay Jain is a travel writer and photographer and shares his stories on www.kunzum.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com
A bit about Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar, Gujarat
If you are planning to go to Velavadar, here is some useful information for you.
* Distance from Ahmedabad: 200 kms (125 miles).
* Distances from other places: Bhavanagar (52 kms), Palitana (110 kms), Lothal (125 kms), Alang (107 kms). Do check these for sure, I have taken these from official brochure.
* Safaris: You have to take your own vehicle, the park does not have any. Or ask your hotel to arrange one. Guides are usually available for a nominal fee, but some of them go off for farm work during low season. The official at the entrance will help you call
them on their mobiles.
* When can you visit: The park is open from sunrise to sunset. It closes from June 16 - October 15 for the rainy season.
* Where to stay:
(a) The best option is The Blackbuck Lodge, a wonderful property a mile from the park gate. Contact them at www.blackbucklodge.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / +91.9228000496 / +91.9825161212 / +91.79.40020901 / +91.9824019877.
(b) Alternately, you can stay the Forest Department Guest House within the park. They have 4 rooms. Contact for booking:
Assistant Conservator of Forests, Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar-Bhal, F-10, Annexe, M.S. Building, Bhavnagar;
+91.278.2426425. The Range Forest Officer at the park can be contacted at +91.278.2920222. Room charges are Rs. 1,500 (US$ 75 for foreigners) for air-conditioned rooms; Rs. 500 (US$ 50) for non-AC; Dormitory per person: Rs. 50 (US$ 10); Tent (per
tent): Rs. 200 (US$ 20)
The only other stay options are at towns close by.
* Entry Fee (brackets give fee for non-Indians in US$, but paid in Rupee equivalent):
Adult: Rs. 20 (US$ 5) Children (3-12 years): Rs. 10 (US$ 5)
Students on Educational Tour: Rs. 10 (US$ 5) Vehicle Fee (for upto 6 persons): Rs. 200 (US$ 20)
Vehicle Fee (for upto 15 persons): Rs. 500 (US$ 50)
Vehicle Fee (for capacity upto 60): Rs. 1750 (US$ 175)
Guide Fee: Rs. 50 (US$ 10) for first 4 hours; Rs. 20 (US$ 5) for every subsequent hour. But you can pay more if it pleases you.
The fee is for a full day and you can go in and out as you like.