Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Become a natural trailblazer
Winter is here, and that means, it's the best season to explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and say hello to its winged and four-legged residents
The constant grouse of Mumbai's troubled-by-concrete population is the abject lack of outlets to bond with nature. The options that you regularly see in the newspaper listings are ones that begin at odd hours on weekends and take you out of the city. But, what if you wanted to head out in the middle of the week? Or start at, say, 7.30 am and do just a quiet three-hour slow trek?
A pathway at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park; (right, inset) a little green bee-eater
To these questions, there's a 103-sq-km answer: Sanjay Gandhi National Park. And, getting on a trek here isn't that tough either. Especially, as there are seven trails to choose from depending on the time that you want to spend and level of difficulty.The most basic trail at the park, says Namrata Salunkhe, the education and extension officer at Nature Information Centre (NIC), is the Shilonda Trail. To and fro covers approximate three kilometers and takes around two hours. This route, which begins, near the tiger land safari, says Salunkhe, is suitable for children and the elderly.
All the trails are guided. Salunkhe says it's not possible to get on these alone. Getting a guide however is neither difficult nor expensive. A day ahead of the planned trek, call the SGNP number (listed below) and let them know when you'd like to start the trail and how many people. Charges start at R200 person for the easiest route. The guide costs a total of R500 for two hours. "Any additional time will cost you R250 per hour," adds Salunkhe. What this means is that you don't have to wait for an entire group to be organised to head for a trek. If one day you want to head to the greens, you can even book place for just one.
The December to February period, says Bilwada Kale, PR officer at Bombay Natural History Society, which conducts several guided trails at SGNP, is the best period to enjoy the park. The park enjoys a great variety of birdlife, along with trees, insects such as spiders and even scorpions. While BNHS conduct regular tours at SGNP (details of which are provided at their website), they also conduct customised guided tours on request and at a charge. Though the office remains open till 4.30 pm, it's best to start the trek by 7.30 am we are told. "The birds are active in the morning hours, so this is the best time to see them. Also, as the day progresses it gets hot and trekking might not be comfortable," adds Kale. So, what are you waiting for? Set a date a nature. Any date really.
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