After watching “Avatar” the famous Hollywood movie, I became great fan of nature’s beauty and always find reason to explore natural place all over the world, but in my financial capacity right now I have explored one in my vicinity, the thought of the place itself fill my lungs with fresh air and my mind with peace and serenity. Sanjay Gandhi national park located in Borivali is a good place to visit, to hang out with friends, family, and loved ones is. It’s not only loved by me but also by nearby locals. Statistics reveals more than 2 million tourist visit this place every year. Sanjay Gandhi national park covers a huge area of around 104 kilometer square and is considered as one of the world largest park, in reality its protected forest, converted to park. It is dense forested park and counter much of the city pollution and hence tagged has “lungs of city”. The lush green forested area has impressive historic, geographical, ecological and artistic significance.
So get ready to visit this beautiful place with me right away. One can take a suburban train to Borivali and take an auto to national park; your fare won’t go above 100 Rupees. The park opens at 7am morning and closes at 5.30 pm, closing time seems quite early but you know it is better if everyone is out before it gets dark, this place is known to be inhabited by varied wildlife, and it’s not good idea to become dinner of Lions and leopards, Hehe…, what you say? Well to being with lets enter the park, there is counter where we have to purchase our tickets, the rates are absolutely nominal and if we come with a vehicle we have a allotted parking arena for which we have to pay as well. Now we have many options I will give details of all but in end we will go by walk. And if you feel like why should we walk? Answer is my way is highway; jokes apart, it is because I love to observe and when I slowly walk through this gorgeous lush green place the entire experience seep with in me and take me to different world. Moving ahead, as I have mentioned we can roam around in bus no. 11 i.e. on foot, by walk. As pedestrians we can see the rich variety of flora and fauna. Tall trees like Kadamba, Teak, Karanj, Shisham and many more are found here. A famous flower named Karvi which covers the forest floor in lavender blush; can be witnessed after every eight years. It is also home for variety of wildlife, one can see leopards (we can see them when we are in safari), and spotted deer’s if we are lucky we can spot one, Mouse Deer, Langurs and Sambhar one with huge entangled horns. The gorgeous trees with their broad barks is habitat for variety of birds like woodpeckers, swifts, peacocks, sunbirds, kingfisher, golden orioles, wild owls, bulbuls , herons, parrots , little sparrows and what not. Now comes the fearsome part, ”actually for me it is fearsome” the park is home for Reptiles like Crocodiles, Pythons, Cobras, Monitor Lizard, and if you have run out of your luck you may face one. As we move further we touch on to more of its hilly area and among these hill’s lie’s two beautiful water bodies namely Vihar and Tulsi lakes, they are filled with clear water and the entire atmosphere around is filled with cool soothing breeze. Be aware don’t jump in waters; it could be inhabited by reptiles I mentioned before. These lakes are also source of water to nearby cities. Even in hot summer if one enter this part he will have refreshing experience. This region is known to receive heavy rainfalls compared to rest of the city during rainy seasons. In winters temperature doesn’t go above 15 degrees and one can experience joyful tolerable winter season here, in winters it also become home additionally to migratory birds both land and water kinds. While walking; things we can do along are running, boating and photography.
Next option is cycling, for this we have to rent cycle at entrance itself and go around the park exploring while cycling, few areas are protected and special permission is required to enter those areas, well its good option for someone who loves cycling and who like to exercise.
Hiking up to Kanheri caves is my favorite second option, if one is coming for first time in park these caves are must watch. It is 7 km from the start, there are local buses, vans or cycles which can bring us here depending on what option we opted, tucked within lush greenery these caves are very old, dating as back has first century. As we talk about these caves let me reveal the history of this park. In ancient India, this forest was a land route to reach ancient ports Sopara (today’s Thane) and Kalyan. Historians have recorded that locals here use to trade with people from Greece and Mesopotamia, amazing isn’t, so we have been socializing from quiet ancient time. Coming back to kanheri caves it is located right in the center of park. There are many carvings on the walls of the caves which depict ancient culture and archeology. This place was associated with Buddhist philosophers and it was popular education center for aspiring students. The caves are huge and cool within. Standing outside in front of the caves, gives a feeling of timelessness. A huge Buddha statue sculpted out of ballistic rock stands here and attracts much of the tourist. The entire set up; in midst of scenic environment is worth capturing in camera.
Other than homing holy Buddhist shrine the park is also a home of Digambara school of Jainism. Though I never went inside, I have heard it has beautiful deities. This religious spot is mostly visited by Jain saints.
A half day walk takes us to topmost point. Standing at the top is beautiful view of below Kanheri caves and the beautiful skyline of the city of Mumbai. If we spot the watch tower at the top, we can have clear view of Vihar and Tulsi Lake.
If greenery and historical sites does not excite you then the wildlife will defiantly do the job. Also any one keen to see lions and tigers can go on a safari. It starts at 9 am in morning, the lion and tiger safari in park is a 20 minute ride through a 30 acre fenced forest area in one of the parks green lushes. While in safari one can safely view wild lions and tigers in their natural habitat and you are well protected in your jeeps or buses.
Before we explore next place we might be feeling thirsty and hungry, the good news is there are no restaurants, there is a souvenir shop and a small snack barat the entrance, one better bring their water bottles and packed lunch boxes with their favorite items or snacks and thereby take a complete picnic experience. The garbage has to be disposed properly in mentioned dustbins.
There is tribe called Shilonda that resides here, Shilonda Trial is protected area, and one needs a special permission to enter. If we somehow manage to enter this area we will find ourselves in most beautiful region, during monsoons a shallow stream flows here. Sitting beside stream one can have your lunch boxes opened and enjoy the meal amidst nature.
Now I will take you to place where we can feel butterflies not in our stomach but in air. Nagla block trial is a paradise for butterfly lovers. It is rich in its flora and fauna and is in its best scenic beauty during monsoons. This place can be reached by hiking.
Hiking, hiking and hiking quiet tiring right, so let’s move to another avenue, the Van Rani Toy trains ride. It is much loved by small children and few adults “me included”. The Van rani takes the tourist on scenic circuit around the park. This beautiful slowly moving jungle queen toy train has 25 seating capacity, it passes through various bridges and tunnels, and move by part of jungle inhabited by deer’s and we can experience the train ride for short but enjoyable duration of 15 minutes.
Overall this park is famous for school picnics, boating, photographing, meditating, site seeing, wildlife Safari, bird watching and much more. Well I am feeling much refreshed in spirit but exhausted in terms of body after a wonderful day at Sanjay Gandhi National park. Hopefully your experience was same as mine, and if you are excited to visit the park and experience it in person than don’t delay and make sure to add it up in your holidaying list. While I am planning to have my dinner and good night rest, you plan out your visit to Sanjay Gandhi National Park keeping following things in your mind, if you are person who prefers quietness then plan your visit on weekdays and if you are going with your family, children, parents and friends and you would like to have many more other families around, then plan the visit accordingly in weekends, in weekends park is very crowded. So here on I take your permission for leave. I wish you all a wonderful trip to Sanjay Gandhi National park, Mumbai.
There is another park in mumbai- Mahim Nature Park, which is equally elegant and one must visit while in Mumbai.
Author: Nisha Kanwar