The best things in life are often chanced upon. They make their way into your life serendipitously when you expect them the least. The same thing happened to me a few weeks back when we had planned to spend a day in Velavadar. It was supposed to be a halt on our return journey from SasanGir to Ahemdabad in Gujarat. After having sighted Asiatic lions in Gir, I was done for the year. What more could I have asked for after sighting a lioness with her cubs? That sighting was amazing & nothing could top that experience. I wasn’t up for another national park. And I certainly didn’t need another safari.
But as it turned out, I was partially wrong.
Seemingly trivial things sometimes transform into experiences of a lifetime.
All my doubts vanished into thin air when I took the jeep Safari to Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar which is also called the Savanna of India. Flatlands, sprawling fields of golden grass & many flocks of birds welcomed us when we entered the national park. I have seen a few forests/ national parks in India, but this was something else. This isn’t your usual forest where visibility remains highly compromised and you have to rely on other senses for a rendezvous with an animal.
In the grasslands, nothing blocks your views. You get upgraded to a 360 vision. And with that, the possibilities of spotting & sighting rare animals and migratory birds become quite high.
To observe the animal activity of early mornings & that of later afternoons, we planned two safaris. Other than being able to enjoy gorgeous Sunset and Sunrise, we managed to expand our circle to other species & came back home with memories of…a lifetime (if I may).
Day 1: Chilly winter evenings & the Sunset
Our first safari began in the afternoon and ended right after the sunset. In these 3 hours, we visited the wetlands, grasslands, the spots popular for the rare wolf sightings, sighted pods of pelicans, a colony of painted storks, many ducks, a few eagles, some Nilgai & my favourite antelope – the beautiful Blackbuck.
Often when safaris begin, I offer a silent prayer to the gods and wish for just one sighting of the famous animal/ bird of that place. Just one sighting – in any form and shape. A glimpse would do too. But as the sighting happens, another emotion takes over. And then I offer another prayer – how about a shot of this animal dancing? Just let me have one more sighting where I can watch the male & female together. You know how greed works! Sometimes the gods oblige & sometimes they do what they do the best – they dispose. Here in the Blackbuck National Park, I needed no such prayers. Why? Because I got binoculars this time. So, if the animal was around, I would have spotted it (thanks to Physics). And animals were around. Not just animals but also birds – of all feathers, plumage & beaks!
After a few kilometres, we spotted the antelope of this national park – the Indian antelope with long, ringed horns. The animal not only has gorgeous horns but also beautiful eyes. When I saw them running around in the grasslands, I kept looking. I hadn’t seen anything as innocent as this in a long time. Unlike sambhar & spotted deer, the Blackbucks maintain their distance & won’t come near you. They would look at you from a distance & prefer to stay in large groups.
By the way, fun fact – did you know that Blackbuck was the favourite meal/ the hunt of the now-extinct (Indian) Asiatic Cheetah? Native to India & Nepal, even Blackbuck numbers are seriously declining. Blackbuck is already extinct in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In India, you can see them only in protected areas now.
The Sunset that evening was a bonus. The sky, air & landscape looked so gorgeous around that time that everyone in our jeep preferred silence, even my talkative mother. 🙂
Day 2: Biting cold mornings & a warm Sunrise
After an amazing evening safari, I had high hopes for the next day’s early morning safari.
“The two experiences – a lion safari in Gir & a safari in the Blackbuck National Park were completely different from each other. Comparing these two was like comparing apples and oranges”, my corporate trained persona told to my adventurous self.
I got excited & woke up earlier than usual the next morning. Why? I was excited to greet & meet the Blackbucks.
The weather didn’t share my feeling though. It was a freezing cold morning. I had to layer up a little more, cover my ears, hands & head. Only my eyes were visible. Good enough for the safari, I thought. And off we went!
As the jeep started, we started getting colder. The kind of cold when you become a ball instead of a person because you are trying to keep it together. In such inhospitable weather, it’s difficult to look around to spot animals or birds. I started losing hope. But the grasslands were friendly. After an hour of roaming around in the cold, we found something. A few jeeps were gathered there, and there was pin-drop silence. Oh yes, pin drop! The wolf can sense the sound waves from a great distance. Hence, everybody was keeping it hushed. And there! A wolf was jumping around at a far corner. Let me just say that there might be only 5 or 7 events in 2021 that made me as happy as spotting a wolf did. This visit had surpassed all my expectations. I was happy, really happy. By then, the Sun was shining & it was time to say goodbye to the grasslands.
On our way out, we met a group of blackbucks who were crossing the road with a vigour that you generally see in kids. May be that’s the secret to happiness – jump like a child.
If I had to take one thing away from this trip, I won’t be able to choose. Because there are at least three things that this trip taught me:
Good things can happen at places where you least expect them to happen.
A bad start is just a bad start. It has no bearing on the end.
True happiness lies in leaps and jumps.