Tryst with nature
Camping at Ransai Lake (Outdoors)
We've been to Karnala so many times that when I tell the kids about another visit there, all I get are raised eyebrows. But I know this glamping experience is going to be different. One, because of the itinerary and, two, because we would be exploring the Ransai dam lake. So we head out one weekend, and turns out, I wasn't wrong, after all.
The Nature and Wildlife Retreat at Karnala is divided into two sections. You camp at Big Red Tent's (BRT) grounds. But the rendezvous with nature happens at Ransai village, where we are driven to (a 10-minute bumpy drive) in the late afternoon. The one-hour session, conducted by nature photographer and wildlife enthusiast Ritesh Kadam, is dedicated to the indigenous fishermen.
We meet the community settled here for years, who still fish in the traditional way. Ramdas, headman-cum-local-naturalist of sorts, takes us to the homes of fellow fishermen. He tells the kids about the extensive use of natural material in their lives (cobwebs are placed on wounds as antiseptic) and the number of snakes he has seen, from vipers to cobras and pythons. Hanging on to his words, the kids tour the village, watching its residents go about their daily routine, like cooking on a chulha.
Rocking gently by the bank of the lake are the traditional narrow oar-boats, which we hop on to. On reaching the opposite bank, the group indulges in exploring what BRT calls micro-fauna (fauna less than 1 mm in size). Kadam takes us for a walk by the bank where we look for different species of frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, moths and spiders.
By 7.30 pm, darkness descends completely and we head back to the camp ground. The staff is already setting up the barbecue and when its ready, we ravenously gorge on the delicious chicken, potato, paneer, corn and mushroom. It is pleasantly cool and after their fill, the kids help placing the BBQ sticks on the fire, while the adults stretch and watch the starry sky.
But we are not done. It is 9 pm and time for the forest walk. We walk in pitch darkness and Kadam gets us to silently listen to the night sounds, mostly of crickets and frogs. In hushed voices, we discuss snakes found in the vicinity, and the lifecycle of reptiles. There are two families with professional cameras and Kadam takes them through tips and techniques of night photography — where to use the flash and when not to disturb the night creatures, how to take shots without flash, etc. It is a 40-minute walk along a route that covers the hill trail and rocky patches, culminating at a height from where we can look at almost all of Karnala.
By 10 pm, we head back for dinner. But having stuffed ourselves with the BBQ spread, we can barely eat the daal-chawal, though it's delicious. We dig in anyway; the weather, the exercise, the great company and a hot meal, make a super combination. The kids crash out and miss the documentary film screening that is put up for us. Day two begins at 5 am. It is misty, cold and still dark. After tea, we set out again. We are back at Ransai lake, where we take the oar boats and are rowed to the high points where we watch the sunrise. Stunningly beautiful.
By 7.30, we are back on the banks, where Kadam takes us through a birding session. We spot terns, open-billed storks, kingfishers, beautiful bee-eaters, egrets, lapwings, cormorants and kites. As the sun rises slowly, we also watch butterflies (monarchs, blue tigers, the common feilar), moths, and dragon and damsel flies. We are all busy clicking, and Kadam shows us apps we can download that help identify species of birds and insects upon uploading their pictures.
We get back to hot chai and breakfast and settle down. When the sun is completely up, lunch is served. We don't want to go back.
Log on to bigredtent.in for upcoming trips on Dec 13, Dec 15 and 16
Where: Ransai Lake, Big Red Tent, Karnala
Best for: Boys and girls, eight years old and above
How to reach: Take the Mumbai-Goa highway from the Panvel roundabout, take a right towards Kalhe village after you cross Panorama Resort. On reaching the village, drive for 300m to reach the property. You can also board the Panvel local. Get off at Panvel station and take a rickshaw to Kalhe village. The organisers will meet you there.
Timings: Check-in is at 2 pm, on Saturday
Budget: Rs 3,500 per adult, '2,000 per child
Food: In plenty
Water: Bottled water
Rest Room facilities: Yes
Where else to go: You can trek up Karnala hill and soak in the view
Parent Poll: Loved the packed itinerary.
Kids' Poll: Loved the boat ride, fishing village tour, micro-fauna session, the meals
What's Good: The camp is led by a nature photographer and naturalist.
What's Not So Good: The ride to Ransai lake is awfully bumpy. If you or your kids are terrified of snakes, you may be spooked during the night trek
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