Boat ride to Airoli's Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary is totally worth it
A spin on the much-awaited boat ride to Thane creek to witness the lush mangroves and majestic flamingoes, was a sight for sore eyes and a weary city soul at just Rs 300
The pink flamingoes as seen from the 24-seater boat, The ride which costs Rs 300 per head, moves slowly on the creek and doesn't make you feel unsafe. Pics/Sameer Markande
It's a happy coincidence that we signed up for the newly-launched boat ride to Airoli's Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary on World Wetland Day - February 2 marks the date the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. After all, the Mangrove Cell of the state forest department, which launched the ride, plans to promote the flora and fauna of Mumbai's wetlands through this flagship initiative. While the cell's pet project was slated to begin in May last year, technical glitches pushed it back by nine months. But, was it worth the wait? We hopped on board to find out.
Feast your eyes
Eager not to miss the first boat ride at 11.30 am, we reached the spot ahead of time, only to learn that cultural events and the accompanying entourage of government officials, resulted in an indefinite delay. With life jackets strapped on, we finally started sailing in the sturdy 24-seater boat - a ride costs Rs 300 per head - only around 1 pm. Hiring an entire private seven-seater speedboat will cost Rs 5,000.
The one-hour ride along the 10 km-thick mangrove cover starts from Airoli and goes up to Vashi. "People tend to think of mangroves as a textbook concept that is of no real value to them. But, the fact is that they maintain good water quality in rivers, and are feeding grounds for fish. We wanted to forge that connection, only then people would feel responsible towards it," said MM Pandit Rao, deputy conservator of forests, Mangrove Cell, who was present on the boat with us. Another official, who was manoeuvrering the boat, was our guide for the day, but the cell has trained a few locals at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to operate as guides, and boost employment. The creek stretches over 1,700 hectares and is lined with mangroves, covering around 900 hectares. The boat moves slowly, and at no point do you feel unsafe.
Don't disturb the flamingoes
While the ride was specially introduced for tourists to get an up-close view of the pink migratory birds that arrive in the city in November and remain till June, the seagulls were the first birds to greet us. "There are close to 135 species, including Raptors, Waders and Egrets that you'll be able to see through the year," Rao said of the winged creatures.
As we drifted further, the boat slackened pace for the flamingoes that weren't visible until the boat was at least 10 km deep into the creek. Of the six recognised flamingo species around the world, India is home to two - greater and lesser flamingoes. Both can be seen at Thane creek during the migratory season, said Rao. When the birds finally came in sight and began to fly, they created a carpet of pink in the sky. We suggest you carry binoculars, as you don't want to disturb them. "We always maintain a distance of minimum 50 metres, because if you disturb them, they consider the area unfit for habitation, and will never return," said Makrand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest.
There came a point when discarded rum bottles, garlands and plastic floating on water near the Vashi creek cruelly replaced the sight of the graceful gulls and majestic flamingoes. The Mangrove Cell is planning to install booms in the creek to block garbage. By the end, however, we were sufficiently exhilarated. For Rs 300, we couldn't have asked for more.
Species of birds to be spotted
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Take a boat ride to watch flamingos up close and personal in Mumbai!