Blackbuck National Park at Velavadar is situated in the Bhavnagar District of Gujarat state in India. It is spread over an area of 34.08 km², which was primarily a “vidi” (grassland) of the Maharaja of the princely state of Bhavnagar. On the northern side, it is surrounded by wastelands and agricultural fields. The National park has been classified as 4B Gujarat-Rajwada biotic province of a semi-arid bio-geographical zone.
The western region of India has a lot of national parks and the Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park is unique amongst them. It is situated in the grassland of Saurashtra, known as Bhil, just 65 kilometers from Bhavnagar. It is one of the last existing stretches of comparatively quiet meadows for Blackbuck, Wolf, and Lesser Florican. This 34.08 sq km area is spread between two seasonal rivers of the Gulf of Cambay.
The origins of the Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park has a rich history behind it. The royal family of Bhavnagar used this area as their private grazing ground and as a hunting reserve. Blackbucks shared alluvial plains with large herds of livestock and were hunted with the help of trained cheetahs. In the post-independence era, various diseases along with gun firing, plowing, and gathering of animals devastated wildlife including the blackbuck population.
Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park was rescued from catastrophe when local environmentalists came forward to protect it. At the same time, the royal family stopped the practice of leasing land for the purpose of grazing and cutting grass. It was declared as a sanctuary in the year 1969 and finally, it got the status of a national park in the year 1976.
Blackbucks are an integral part of the park. They are about two thousand in number; One can easily catch a shy blackbuck, which is constantly moving in the grasslands.
There is a lot in Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park for tourists. Male blackbucks have strange horned spirals, which usually are 60 cm in length. When a group of blackbuck passes through tall grassland, it hides their bodies and only horns are visible. A crowd of horns rolling over the waving grass seems almost surreal, and watching blackbucks leap and peek across the plains, followed by a light-headed sprint is a wonderful experience.
In addition to the presence of a large number of blackbucks in Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park, many other mammals can be seen. These include Jackal and Jungle Cat.
A visit to Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park is incomplete without watching birds chirping and flying. The rare Lesser Florican is one of the many birds that come at the beginning of monsoon for breeding. During the cold winter months, hunting birds gather in large numbers.
The Blackbuck (Velavadar) National Park is the perfect resting place for Lesser Florican, McQueen’s Vader, Pallid Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Short-Toe Eagle, Steppie Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Black-Shoulder Kite, Lagger Falcon, Red-Naked Falcon. Short-eared owls can also be found here.
Gray Francolin, Rock Bush Quail, Savannah Nightjar, Indian Nightjar, Sirkar Malkoha, Blue-checked Bee-eater, Southern Gray Shrike, Crested Lark, Rufus-tailed Lark, Rufus-tailed Shrike, Desert Wheatier, Variable Vetier, Large Gray Bubbler, Black-headed bunting, red-headed bunting are seen in open areas.
Other mammals such as Jungle Cat, Nilgai (Blue Bull, Indian Desert Gerbil, Black-napped Hare, wild boar are also found in large numbers throughout the year.
Flatland, dry grasses, and herds of antelopes have always attracted visitors to this park which has a unique grassland ecosystem running a successful conservation program of the Blackbuck, the Wolf, and the Lesser Florican (a bustard) among others. Among the avifauna family, Sandgrouse and larks are seen in fair numbers.
Though the park is open most of the year, it remains strictly closed in monsoon from 15 June to 15 October: this is breeding season for blackbuck and very important species like the lesser florican, the smallest bustard. The period from late October to the end of March is recommended for visitors. The best time to visit is from December to March as many species of migratory, including three species of harriers, the lesser florican, eagles, and waders, migrate back.
Bhavnagar Airport is connected with the international airports of Mumbai and Ahmedabad by daily flight frequency. The closest international airport is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at 153 km by road. The closest railway station is in the town of Dhola, which is about 50 km from the park. The ancient town of Vallabhi is about 30 km away.