The Blackbuck Lodge offers visits to croplands, villages and pastoral settlements of the Bhal grasslands. One of the most colourful communities here is the Bharvad, known for their distinctive colourful clothes and chunky jewelry. Both the men and the women of the Bharvad group sport colourful attire. They are shepherds, herding sheep and goats but also other livestock.
About an hour by road from The Blackbuck Lodge, the historical city of Bhavnagar was once the headquarters of a prosperous princely state. Palaces and grand old buildings from the 1800s and early-1900s stand testimony to its importance. One of Bhavnagar’s main attractions is the Barton Museum, built in 1895 AD, exhibits a fine collection of coins and currency, arms and armour, and farming implements. The first floor of the museum is the Gandhi smriti with a picture gallery portraying the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji went to college in Bhavnagar and his marksheets are exhibited in the museum.
In Bhavnagar, Victoria Park is a scrub jungle that once provided the royal family with game. It is now a preserve and offers pleasant walks during which a variety of birds like the paradise and fantail flycatcher, tree pie, drongo, golden backed woodpecker, golden oriel, iora, quails, francolins, shikra hawk etc. can be seen. Blue bull and jackal are seen in good numbers, and some visitors have even seen hyena, jungle cat and hare. Monitor lizards are prolific as are snakes like the cobra, krait, saw scaled viper, checkered keelback, rat snake etc. There is marsh here as well, attracting ducks, ibises and storks in good numbers specially during the winter months. Near Victoria park is Gaurishankar lake, created as a reservoir in the 1800s and named for Gaurishankar Oza, which is a birding paradise during the cold months when winter migrants gather here in good numbers. Pelicans, cranes and ducks are interesting winter visitors. During other months the lakeshore is the nesting ground for plovers, river terns and herons.
About 40km from Bhavnagar, Alang is one of the world’s largest ship breaking zones. The reason for this specialization is the tides that beach ships inland. The zone is divided into individual ship scrapping yards, with labour working on breaking dead ships, the yard owners earning from salvaged metal. There is a large market here selling furniture, appliances, crockery and other products salvaged from the ships.
About one-and-a-half hour to two hour drive from The Blackbuck Lodge, Palitana is known for the stupendous Jain complex of Shetrunjaya hill. The Shetrunjaya temple complex is specially sacred to Jains as lord Adinatha visited the hill several times, and his son is said to have built the first temple on the pinnacle. Thereafter temple building never stopped, and despite marauding Islamic invasions, there are still more than 860 temples on the hill built between the 11th and the 19th centuries. The temples are set in nine enclosures, strung along two ridges of the hill, with a great view from the summit 600 meters over the town of river Shetrunjaya and the surrounding countryside. The Gulf coast of Cambay can be seen on clear days. Of special interest among the numerous temples in the complex are the 16th century Ramaji Gandharia temple, the 18th century Bhulavani, the 19th century Hathipol, the 16th century Adishwara temple, the 19th century Vallabhi and Motisah temples and the 16th century Adinath temple. You can see fine architecture, intricate marble carvings, jewelled statues and massed domes of the temples. The temple complex is one of the most revered of Jain pilgrim places and the atmosphere of devotion is awe-inspiring. Priests, pilgrims and visitors cannot stay on the summit, leaving it clean and deserted after dusk.
The princely town of Palitana, bisected by the river, has a few colonial period buildings still standing as reminders of the former rulers. There are Jain museums and art galleries in town, as well as a good market for embroideries and handicrafts. Weighing scales and utensils are made in Palitana town.
En route to Palitana from the lodge, Sihor has the 17th century fortress of the Gohil Rajputs with some intricate wood carvings and halls filled with murals portraying court scenes, battles, processions, religious themes. The terrace has views over the town to the granite hills of Sihor. Visit the Brahma kund, a 12th century stepped tank, surrounded by 108 sculptures of various Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism. Near the kund are a number of holy temples. Artisans work in cottage industries on metal ware-brass, bronze, copper utensils are made at Sihor.
About one-and-a-half hour drive from The Blackbuck Lodge, Lothal is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation also called Harappan Civilisation. The remains of the city that thrived more than 4000 years ago reveal highly sophisticated town planning, sewerage systems and knowledge of hydraulics. There is a site museum with interesting artifacts and utensils.