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Have you visited Sanjay Gandhi National park in Borivali yet ?
Kanheri Caves, which we visited in my previous hub, are situated deep inside Borivali National Park. BNP or SGNP, in short, itself requires separate attention due to its mere size and activities it offers to visitors.
It is said that 2 million visitors visit National Park and Kanheri caves every year. Its 40 square miles area, rich with thousands of plant species and home for few hundred animal and bird species. The historical caves can be reached by bus or your own vehicle and the road is quite well maintained.If you are enthusiastic, then an interesting option of hiring a bicycle is available at the entrance.
The park has a rich natural habitat and a wide range of birds and reptiles can be found here. Walking trails are particularly popular among the people here and many of them are organized by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the country’s leading conservation NGO. The BNHS walks also aim to educate the urban dwellers of the nature around them. You too can sign up for that. The details are available on this link here.
The looks of the national park have changed over time. In fact as far as my memory goes during my childhood, we had visited national park for a large variety of animals and it was a great experience to watch animals apart from the usual “Van-Raani” train’s joy-ride and boating experiences.
Over the period, the number of animals has gone down drastically, with only few lions and tigers left here. My last safari was the most pitiful experience with an ailing lioness whining with pain, while few tigers and their cubs confined to a very small cage.
For me it’s been a normal practice, to take my visiting relatives, friends to this place. All this while it was only the greenery which attracted us, but nothing more. But today I could see some of the old glory back with better facilities, new hoarding, maps and a plan to renovate and get those old glory days back. I felt really nice as we had lot of old memories associated with this place. This in fact is one of the most well preserved forests in Mumbai and the expanses are enormous.
I have seen thickness of these jungles during my travel to Ghodbandar and the greenery of those cascading mountains spanning from Borivali to Ghodbundar and towards Mulund makes you feel really happy. I had fallen in love with these mountains and this scenic road over a period of time with few unique spots being my most favourite.
The expanding metropolis and constant endeavour to create more concrete jungles has compromised lot of greenery of Mumbai and that is why these green mountains spanning over this landmass right in the centre of the city gives some amount of relief. Although there is some amount of trespassing even in this jungle.
Borivali National park is quite vast and one of the major activity centers in Northern Mumbai. A lot of Mumbaiites take their breath of fresh air at dawn as they jog, walk or run along in the depth of the forest towards Kanheri, starting right from the Western Express Highway Entrance.
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial
The Gandhi Memorial is one more attractive structure, at hill top, not very far from the entrance and gives birds’ eye view of the forest as well as the flourishing metropolis around. You would see Thick forest surrounded by tall glittering towers on the horizon.
The lake is a nice place to spend time at and many of the love birds find their privacy, which is quite difficult to find in Mumbai, over here. Pedal boating is a favorite activity here and can be a very nice picnic activity for a family.
As I said earlier although wild life has come down to minimum, one can take Safari ride in special buses and may get lucky with the site of lions and tigers in their natural habitat. It’s probably an hour's ride and they close strictly before 4 pm, so be there on time to avoid any disappointment.
Mini Train - Joy Ride
Another fun activity for family and kids is the joy ride in "Van-Raani" train, which is my favourite as well. You can get into this tiny train, which takes you around thickness of the green forest, through few of the tunnels and gives an orientation of the surroundings at its own pace. You can really relax, enjoy the fresh air, feel the forest, get scared at times by the monkeys, trying to grab the pop corns in your hands, see the excitement on the kid's faces and be a part of this joy ride going back to your own childhood.
The place is also good orientation towards local culture and the forest life. The tiny museum at the Safari ticket counter, exhibit few of the beautiful Waarli paintings (Waarli’s are supposed to be one of the nomadic tribes in the nearby region).
If you want to taste what the forest has to offer then the tangy taste of raw mango slices or thirst quenching cucumber slices and palm fruits (Taadgola in local language) are available all around. This is one of the ways to help local people as that’s their prudent way of earning a bread.