We've been in Bombay for just over 2 years now, and live almost next door to the Borivali (a.k.a. Sanjay Gandhi) National Park. Like everyone else, we had taken for granted what was closest to us. So finally one Saturday we decided to pay a visit to the city's green lung. We went on a Saturday afternoon in January. There wasn't much we were expecting to see or do and assumed we would be back home for lunch.
As soon as you take the turn into the Park from the main road, you feel a sense of calm. Weekends are usually crowded, but that just means that these people are not glued to their TVs or in crowded shopping malls. It is sad to see that unscrupulous builders have encroached upon this forest land. High rises can be seen on the fringes of the Park - the same places that have complained of being terrorized by the Park's wild leopards.
As we drove further inside the Park, we spotted a herd of Spotted deer. It was an unexpected sight so close to the main gate. We stopped and got off from the car, careful to not get too close and invade their privacy. They happily chewed on, mildly amused at the small crowd slowly gathering around them. Not far from here, we ran into a bunch of langurs. We stopped again but dared not step out of the car. Instead, we rolled up our windows. We've been in such situations. No food was given out, but expecting some, a few younger ones clamored up the car, trying to peek in - just to make sure they weren't being cheated. The older ones just watched from the sidelines.
The road led to the Kanheri Caves. I had grossly underestimated this place. I hadn't even bothered to look it up before the visit. Expecting just a small cave, I was now confronted with 109 caves! We would have to return the next morning for this. So it was that I woke up at 7am on a Sunday. The caves were worth it. They have been maintained well by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and there are some restoration works currently underway. The higher you climb, the better the view gets. The rocks might get slippery during the rains making it difficult to climb, so December and January are the best time to visit here. Most of the caves are devoid of any ornamentation and are basic living quarters, as one would expect in a Buddhist monastery. However, some of them have beautiful carvings and murals. We didn't see all 109 caves but we did make it to the top and had an out-of-Bombay experience. Just a few minutes away was the chaos of Bombay but standing here, we felt it may as well have been a few hours away.
Nevertheless, it is a great place to spend a weekend at. Take your camera, picnic baskets, bicycles, or just go in for a long walk. BNHS and others organize small group tours - from butterfly and bird watching to rappelling and trekking. A weekend well spent.