Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Sanjay Gandhi National Park:

During my school days I used to look forward to school picnics. It used to be fun-filled day out with school friends and teachers. The picnic spots would be a place far away from the city in a big open space filled with gardens and swings. All day long we would, take long, long walks through the green-cool pathways, eat the cold, home-packed food, play and run till we were exhausted and tired.

We have out-grown those picnics. With many air-conditioned malls mushrooming into our city, the idea of picnicking in the hot sun and dust is alien to our kids. The culture of picnicking on open space is dying .In a city like Mumbai where fresh air and green open spaces are rapidly being obliterated by clouds of pollution and jungles of concrete; you will be delighted to find that there still exists an expanse of green that is truly precious.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, or as commonly known, the Borivili National Park is a miraculously preserved natural oasis in the heart of an urban sprawl, this park is very much within the city limits, yet far removed from its crowds and clamor.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is situated between the Eastern and Western Express Highways and can be accessed from Thane, Mulund, Borivili and other places, though its headquarters are on the Borivili side. Suburban trains are the most frequent and popular means of reaching the park and can be boarded from Mumbai Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Central Railway) and Mumbai Central (Western Railway), the nearest rail terminuses, which are about 40 km. and 36 km. respectively from the park. The destination would be Borivili, the nearest railway station from where the park entrance is less than 2 km. away. There is a bus route no 188 which ply regularly.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is an outdoor museum that preserves and nurtures the varied flora and fauna of the area. This rich and diverse forest is home to more than 1000 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 251 species of birds - migratory, and water birds, 38 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians besides a large variety of fish, insects and other life forms.

The many splendors of this lush green inner-city jungle will never cease to amaze you. Here, as you walk through miles of peaceful forest and commune with nature, you get a preview, up close and personal, of the remarkable bio-diversity of the region. The multi-hued panorama of colors splashed against a clear blue sky is a visual paradise that you know you can escape to whenever the heart desires.
The undulating green lands of the Borivili National Park are just the kind of surroundings to which one would love to retreat for some moments of quiet introspection or meditation. The great panoramic views of hills, valleys, lakes and open expanses can actually have a therapeutic effect on mind, body and soul. Rising from an elevation less than about 30 Mts. above mean sea level, the terrain park culminates in a series of peaks dispersed throughout the park - the highest, near the Kanheri Caves, being 468 Mts. Archeologically speaking, the Kanheri Caves is located well within the park area and it is a major point of interest, presenting an accessible and interesting glimpse of the history and the culture of Buddhist India.

Apart from the many natural marvels and sights at the Borivili National Park, you will find several other attractions as well.

You could also have a close encounter with Tigers in a ‘Tiger Safari’. Tigers, the largest of all wild cats, are known worldwide as magnificent hunters and symbols of grace and beauty within the animal kingdom. They even have cultural significance in many of the Asian lands where they are found, and are frequently a source of inspiration for art, music and poetry. However, the sad part is that they are also a critically endangered species as a result of rampant poaching and exploitation by humans. The second threat causing the majestic tiger population to dwindle is habitat loss and degradation due to enormous human population pressures.

Here, at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a special area has been developed as home for India's national animal. You can take a special vehicle that drives you through the tiger's domain and experience the rare thrill of seeing the lord of the jungle in tooth and claw.

This project is situated within an area of 20 hectares in the Krishnagiri Sub-forest zone at Magathane S. No. 34. The region has a thick forest cover comprising of Teak, Bamboo, Ain, Khair, Kusum and other species of trees which constitute an ideal habitat for tigers. The area has been developed keeping in mind the natural habitats and habits of Tigers, with ample tall grasses, lakes, ponds and islands. This 20 hectare plot of land is surrounded by a 5 meter high and 2200 meter long protective fencing. Buses have been provided for tourists and roads of 2-km length have been constructed. The tigers have a special cage/shelter for having their meals and sleeping at night. Two watch towers have been provided for the safety of the tourists. In all, 6 tigers have been brought together for this project from all over India, out of which there are 2 White Indian Tigers. Just near the ticket windows, a Tiger Information Cell provides you with details about the present situation of tigers with easy reference, so that you can learn everything you want to about these fascinating beasts.

The Sanctuary timings are : 09.00 hrs to 17.30 hrs
Rates : as decided by the Government from time to time.
The Tiger Safari is closed on Mondays
Rates per trip:
Adult : Rs. 30.00 .
Child (age between 5 and 12 years of age): Rs. 15.00.
Child below 5 years: Free.

However there are certain instructions to be followed by tourist such as:
You are expected to maintain silence and discipline while touring the grounds, not to lean out from the windows of the bus nor throw leftovers, papers, and carry bags out of the bus. Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited inside the premises of the safari.

There is also a Lion Safari which is one of the main attractions to the National Park which has been drawing people to the park ever since it was started.

Its timings are morning session : 09.00 to 13.00 hrs and evening session: 14.20 to 17.20 hrs.
Rates (per trip)
Adult : Rs. 30.00 .
Children: Rs. 15.00
Child below 5 years: Free.
Lion Safari is closed on Monday.
Buses are available at an interval of 20 min.

Then of course, there's the Vanrani, the mini train which is such a favorite with young visitors. The fun train ride of about 15 minutes takes you along the foothills of the Gandhi Memorial, traverses a couple of bridges and tunnels and passes over the Deer Park.

Besides, you can also visit the Gandhi Smarak, indulge in some boating in the lotus filled lake, or enjoy the gardens and children's park.

Timings :
Morning session : 09.00 to 13.00 hrs.
Evening session: 14.20 to 17.20 hrs.
Trains are available at an interval of 20 min.

On the vast tracts of land around Manpada, there is ‘Nature Interpretation Centre’ which were at one time privately owned. This has been acquired in 1976 by the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Where 6 stone quarries once devastated this pristine forestland, today a Nature Interpretation Centre utilizing about 165 acres of land; involves itself in all activities concerning nature conservation and other related projects.

This Center is set up to play a supportive role and encourages better interaction with students and other like-minded people who are genuinely interested in interacting with nature, learning from it, and bringing about a systematic change in the environment around Thane. The forest department, with school and college students, social groups, and others, has already begun growing more trees and has slowly brought the entire area under tree cover.

In addition there is a medicinal plant garden, to give you an idea of how nature cures.

Each Nature Interpretation Center is complete with toilets and water facilities, viewing galleries, and nature trails. Some schools in Thane visit the centre and under the forest officer’s guidance and advice are taken for a trek in to the forest and the children are taught at an early age the importance of interacting with nature. They are taught about our dependence and our inter dependence on the forest cover that nature has provided, and the importance of preserving it. They are further taught that the forest trees, plants and all other living creatures in the forest have lives of their own which are to be respected.

The vast expanse of the Yeoor Hills is within the precincts of the National Park, on the Thane side. The raw jungle, tempered by the forest department, is a vibrant canvas displaying nature in its true colors. Here, in the very lap of nature, you'll find the Yeoor Hills Waterfall a perfect place to spend a day with family and friends. A well beaten path created out of nothing by the forest department takes you to the source of the waterfall, which on an enchanting rainy day is concealed by a blanket of mist. The loud chirping of birds and a fresh, invigorating air surround you - reminding you of a time long ago, when nature was still untainted by the hand of man.

There are also cottages and camping facilities to really enjoy the wonders of the forest at close quarters. There is facility for the rest houses. There are two bamboo cottages available for the camping situated in the interiors of the forest, which can hold approximately 100 people.

A visit to Borivili Park makes you forget the tough life of Mumbai as you serenely walk through its calm woods.


Debosmita Roy said...
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Debosmita Roy said...

Such a informative post with superb pictures. Thank you for sharing the Sanjay Gandhi National park timing which is very important to plan the visit. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

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.... a name given by Portuguese sailor Francis Almeida, in 1508 ....“Bounce back Mumbai” it is called by the locals, it is a city that has been through a lot in the recent past – floods, bomb blasts, riots – and come out stronger each time.

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