Nature's bounty amid ruins

Oct 17, 2013, 01:51 IST | Dhara Vora

The stone walls of the derelict Vasai fort guard myriad varieties of plants, insects and other flora that would delight the nature and photography buff. It's high time we paid more attention to this natural treasure trove, as Dhara Vora discovered while on a trail with the Bombay Natural History Society

For centuries, the Vasai or Bassein fort has exchanged hands among several rulers, which include the Arabs, Portuguese, Marathas and the British.

The fort’s origin goes back to before the 1400s, when it was in the hands of Arabs

When the rains had just about settled down we took a trip to the fort to discover the natural history of the location with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Among the several varieties of spiders in the fort

Guided by BNHS experts Prachi Galange and Vithoba Hegde, we discovered how these walls now support an ecosystem of several varieties of plants, beautiful tiny flowers, a variety of insects and spiders and birds. Hegde informed us that the area has a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and also houses orchids, which we saw climbing over several trees above us. Sadly, this treasure, guarded by the fort walls is prone to the forces of nature and vandals.

We spotted the Giant Wood Spider and the Spitting Spider. Spitting Spiders roll up leaves during the monsoon and lay eggs in them. All spiders are venomous

BNHS regularly conducts nature trails in and around the city.
Log on to: for more details

There are around 1,500 varieties of Dragonflies in India, seen here is the Blood Tail dragonfly. Dragonflies are great hunters and feed on mosquitoes and other insects that are pests. They can also fly backwards

Did you know?
If you would like to create a butterfly garden, plant the Leea Indica plant. It is known to attract butterflies.

Tiger Butterfly. There are several varieties of Tiger Butterflies such as Glassy, Blue Tiger, Dark Blue, Plain and Striped

How to get there
. Vasai falls on the Western Railway. Board a train from Dadar to Vasai and then hitch an auto or a bus to the fort.
. Driving distance from Dadar to Vasai Fort is approximately 63 kms if one takes the Western Express Highway.
. Those living near Thane or along the Central Railway line, take the Eastern Express highway and after crossing the Mulund Check Naka head towards Ghodbunder Road. It is approximately 44 kms by road from Thane.

A Hawk Moth caterpillar does a great camouflage. Pics/Nimes Dave and Dhara Vora.

Do's and Dont's
. Visit in groups as the area is deserted.
. Visit in the first half of the day when butterflies are
less active.
. Carry binoculars to spot birds. We spotted several weaver birds and their nests.
. BNHS offers several guidebooks on birds, insects and butterflies that will come helpful for identifying species.
. Do not litter. We spotted everything from cake boxes to beer bottles that reminded us of the pathetic condition of Mumbai’s forts.

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