Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Borivali National Park, Bombay

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.

The famed lion/tiger safari on the other hand was a big let down. The ticket counters didn't open on time, the buses were small and noisy, filled with even louder passengers. The ticket for the 15 minute tour is Rs50 for adults and Rs25 for children. The tour takes you to 2 enclosures - one that has a solitary white tiger, and the other a pair of Royal Bengals. They looked depressed as any confined animal would be. The tour continued to the area which is the domain of an old lion. He was asleep and only managed to only open his eye to acknowledge the loud chatter coming from the bus. Been there, done that - now move on. End of tour. The tour could have been so  much better if only the bureaucrats would take away the red tape surrounding the Park. People would pay more to see healthier and happier animals. Have provisions for serious wildlifers to go on a separate tour with a naturalist or forest guide. Provide the enclosed animals with adequate stimulation. Educate people on how to behave in a National Park. So much potential going to waste.
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. 

1 comment:

  1. A very informative post with beautiful pictures. The Kanheri caves is very famous among visitors and the lush green environment provides a very soothing aura. For more details check National park Borivali timing