Islands of greenery and tranquility

 

Mumbai – a city donning many identities – India’s commercial capital, Maharashtra’s capital, seat of Bollywood, fertile ground for budding cricketers and India’s biggest urban sprawl. The first images coming to one’s mind at the mention of Mumbai region are packed local trains, ever-increasing number of high-rises, proliferating slums, bumper-to-bumper traffic, commotion and over two crore people constantly running the rat race to reach somewhere!

 In this madness, there are islands of greenery and tranquillity – difficult to digest, isn’t it! But beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and it reveals to those who have the time and inclination to experience it. So join me on a quick tour of the wilderness around Mumbai, whether you are a nature lover or otherwise, because the company of Mother Nature has a lot to offer to a variety of people including those who are sensitive, workaholic, tired, bored, poetic, book lovers, fitness freaks as well as those interested in Yog and spirituality. One understands this after experiencing nature first hand. Borivli’s National Park is the brightest feather in Mumbai’s cap. This vast mosaic of forested hills and dales spread over 104 sq km and occupying about 20% of Mumbai’s landmass, is the green lung of the city. It is accessible from Borivli and Thane. It primarily consists of semi-evergreen forest, interspersed with evergreen patches and mangroves along the Vasai creek. The forest stretching from Borivli to Thane and Goregaon to Naigaon has dominant tree species such as Teak, Mango, Jamun, Hedu, Silk Cotton, Coral Tree, Flame of the Forest, Kadamb, Jackfruit, Kuda, Hirda, Kusumb, Ghost Tree and Bamboo. Just a few metres inside the main gate of the park and one gets the feel of the serenity and refreshing cool forest breezes in sharp contrast to the noisy honking and heat of the highway outside. A walk along the road to Kanheri Caves situated inside the park or along any of the forest trails invariably involves sights or sounds of our avian friends such as Golden Oriole, Black-hooded Oriole, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Red-vented Bulbul, Magpie Robin, Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Grey Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Peafowl, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Shikra, Purple Sunbird and Grey Junglefowl. Along some forest trails like Shilondha, one is likely to come across animals such as Spotted Deer, Mongoose, Hanuman Langur, Bonnet Macaque, Stripped Squirrel and possibly Sambar Deer. Leopard pug marks are also often seen along such trails as tell tale signs of the king of Borivli’s jungles. The view from the Kanheri Mountain is amazingly picturesque as one sees the thickly forested undulating mountains and valleys and it is hard to believe that one is in the midst of a crowded mega polis. BNHS regularly takes out nature walks to these jungles and other wilderness areas around Mumbai. Its Conservation Education Centre (CEC) located on the Goregaon end of the Park has the perfect ambience for nature walks combined with interesting indoor group activities related to nature education. Similar rejuvenating experience is also possible inside Aarey Milk Colony, particularly along the lesser frequented inner roads towards Aarey Daily or New Zealand Hostel. The open forest here is complimented by acres of lush green grasslands maintained as cattle feed. The nearby Vihar Lake, which lies between Aarey Colony and Borivli Park, is another quiet getaway to just sit gazing at the water surface and the forested mountains behind. One is likely to see water birds such as Open-billed Stork, Spot-billed Duck, Common Cormorant and the various species of egrets and herons. The Tulshi Lake further north, tucked away deep inside the jungle is mostly inaccessible to the average tourist, while the Powai Lake a little to the south manages to retain a fraction of its earlier charm, after all the urbanization along its shores. Apart from these central locations, the Mumbai region has several other green islands such as Mumbai University campus at Kalina, Malabar Hill, Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi, Parsik Hills from Mumbra to Belapur, Kharghar Hills, remaining patches of Uran wetlands, Karnala Sanctuary near Panvel, Uttan-Gorai Hills, Tungareshwar Sanctuary near Vasai and Nilje Lake near Dombivli. Moreover, the mangroves and mudflats still surviving in areas such as Vikroli, Thane, Mulund, Shivdi-Mahul, Charkop, Gorai, Dahisar, Malad and Ghodbunder are a birder’s delight with gulls, terns, herons, egrets, cormorants and kingfishers and flamingos and other waders in some areas.

 

 Let us hope to meet again in one of these jungles and happy trekking till then!

 

ATUL SATHE

Communication Manager - BNHS 

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