Drive to the Sahyadris
14 Jan 2017: Day 14 (Jamnagar – Bhavnagar, 273 km, 6 Hrs)
Our next stop was Velavadar, but our booking at the Forest Rest House was from 15 Jan, so we decided to stay at Bhavnagar for the night. Just before reaching Bhavnagar, we checked online and got a good deal at Hotel Basil Park where we reached by 1210 Hrs. This turned out to be a good move as the rooms were excellent giving us an opportunity to rejuvenate and prepare ourselves for the next phase of the journey. In the evening, we went out to the nearby shopping center and stocked up on our water and fruit supplies.
15 Jan 2017: Day 15 (Bhavnagar – Velavadar, 49 km, 1 Hr)
We checked out early morning and reached Velavadar at 0640 Hrs. It was still dark and the only company we had were some nightjars. It was only after sunrise that we finally got permission to enter the park.
Within a few minutes of entering the park we encountered a Hyena pair, but the eye contact lasted for split seconds before the pair vanished into the grassland.
Moving on, Anjana saw a bird sitting on the edge of the grassland. On closer views, it turned out to be a Lesser Florican.
In the next two hours, we sighted several Pallid Harriers, Montagu’s Harriers, Long-billed Pipits, Common Kestrels and Rufous-tailed Larks.
We also spotted several Stoliczka’s Bushchats at regular intervals in the grassland.
We then proceeded to the Forest Rest House, checked-in and had lunch before venturing back into the Grasslands. There was no other significant sighting in the evening except couple of Jungle cats prowling in the bushes.
16 Jan 2017: Day 16 (Velavadar – Valsad, 390 km, 8 Hr)
We went back into the Grasslands in the morning and were finally rewarded with a Grey Wolf sighting. But again, the wolf was very quick and within seconds, vanished into the grassland denying us an opportunity to even take a single picture.
Our booking at the FRH was for one more night, but as sightings were getting repetitive, we decided to move on. By 1300 hrs, we were on the road and kept driving till we found a decent highway hotel to halt for the night.
17 Jan 2017: Day 17 (Valsad – Goa, 736 km, 13 Hr)
We hit the road at 0615 hrs and continued our drive south. After a quick break at the Mumbai – Pune expressway food court, we kept driving all the way till Kolhapur and it was while having coffee at Idli & Kamats that we felt that Goa was within our reach. After confirming room availability, we were back on the road and after a thrilling ride across the Anmod ghats, reached Goa at 1915 Hrs.
Velavadar National Park: This is a small National Park divided into two parts by a road. The NW part is primarily a grassland and the SE part is a combination of scattered grasslands, thorn scrubs and a wetland. The wetland is basically a low lying area that is filled up with sea water during high tide.
Grey Wolf: Wolfs roam the entire park and can be seen anywhere. As they are crepuscular, best time for sighting is immediately after dawn and immediately before dusk.
Lesser Florican and Stoliczka’s Bushchat: We spotted both the birds in the NW grasslands.
Bird Guide: This National Park is pretty easy to navigate and has marked tracks that are easy to drive on. If your primary interest is birds, then just drive around and you can spot birds yourself. Still, if you need a guide then there are several experienced guides like Sikandar, Ayub, Vishal and Ramzan.
Hotel Basil Park: We spent one night at this property and found the rooms well furnished and spotlessly clean. The staff was cordial and helpful.
Phone: +91 278 3005 242
Kaliyar Bhavan Forest Rest House: The FRH is inside the National Park and offers basic accommodation at a nominal price. Booking process is a bit tedious and needs to be booked well in advance. To book:
1. Contact the Bhavnagar office at +91 278 242 6425. Confirm room availability and block the dates.
2. Prepare a DD in favor of “RFO Velavadar” payable at Bhavnagar.
3. Courier the DD at:
Assistant Conservator of Forests,
Blackbuck National Park,
Annex building, Block S-10
Bhavnagar – 364001
(We always use Speed Post as it is cheap and delivery to government establishments is pretty fast)
4. Call back and confirm receipt of DD and booking.
The Fountain Grand: While on our way to Goa, we stopped over at this hotel for the night. We found the rooms to be spacious, well maintained and the bathroom clean with 24 hour hot running water.
Phone: +91 260 237 3127
Address: GIDC Naka, Opp. Vallabh Ashram, NH-8, Killa-Pardi, Dist. Valsad
Please feel free to ask us any question about our time at the Blackbuck National Park. Also, stay tuned for details on the next leg of our road trip.