Tungareshwar Borivali National Park
Between Virar and Vasai is a dense plateau, named Tungareshwar. The way to this tabletop hill is via a forest region that is now a reserved sanctuary. My weekend exploration for an outdoor activity with the kids led me to Tungareshwar. A far-flung leg of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) connected to each other via a corridor, Tungareshwar is different from SGNP in that it has a larger proportion of evergreen trees.
A A young photographer goes trigger-happy
At 6.30 am we reach Dadar TT to meet the BNHS group that was to take us through a guided tour through Tungareshwar. It takes roughly an hour from Borivali via the Bombay-Ahmedabad Highway to reach Tungareshwar. As are all BNHS groups, the bunch travelling for the Tungareshwar trail is a mixed one. However, this time, the kids accompanying with their parents are all 9 years and above; they’re sporting trekking gear and are armed with binoculars and complex cameras.
The group attempts to spot and capture a bird
Tungareshwar takes me by surprise. The trail is wide and beaten. I learn why later: the Shiv temple here is famous, as is an ashram near the plateau top, thus making it a frequented route for people via vehicles. I also learn later that there is an off-beat route via Virar, which is uphill and long (12 km versus 7 km via Vasai).
The Tungareshwar trail
The sun is harsh, and the road is dusty. It is peak summer now, and the trees contrast each other — a large number of deciduous trees are bare-branched, while bright green leaves of the evergreens glisten in the sun. As we walk the well-trodden path we notice the butterflies, examine flower-decked trees, spot birds, and gaze at insect habitats.
We spot the Black Naped Monarch — a tiny blue-coloured bird, the Oriental Honey Buzzard swirling in the sky in search for a prey, Riverine Tern and the Greater Coucal among birds. We sight the Ghost tree, the Sand Paper tree, the teak tree, a few orchid-bearing trees, and more. We spot butterflies of all kinds (Leopard butterfly, the Blue Pansy and the Common Crow) as well as bees (Carpenter Bee) and ants.
The trail is popular with trekkers, especially in the monsoon. The dry riverbeds that run almost parallel to the trail, are full of rocks and boulders and bent-over trees. On the sides we spot dried trails left by waterfalls that will come alive with the rains. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be when it rains.
How to get there Road: Via Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway. Take a right from the Vasai highway towards Tungareshwar village.
Rail: Board a train to Vasai (Western line). Taxis and autos will take you to the trail. It’s an 8-km ride.
Charges Rs 750 per head. It’s best to trek with an informed group like BNHS. This includes the bus charge. While there is a forest patrol, there is no entry fee as of now.
Food A stall near the gate sells water, chips, and other such snacks. Best to carry supplies.
What is good The evergreen trees and simple walk make it ideal for children.
What’s not good In summer, it could be harsh. Monsoon and winter are a better time.
Restroom Using the restroom inside a small temple at the start of the trek might be a good idea.
Timings Avoid after dark.
>> Shiv Temple and the ashram inside the trail
>> St Sebastian, Vasai fort for its Portuguese architecture
>> Beaches like Rangaon, Kalamb and Arnala
Photos: Kareena Kapoor Khan, Kangana Ranaut at the Mumbai airport
Photos: Virat Kohli-MS Dhoni's bromance, Team India in LOL mode
Bollywood celebs show you colours for Navratri 2017
Birthday special: Chris Gayle and his multiple records in cricket
In Pictures: 17 dreaded on-screen villains of Bollywood