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Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Yes this is Mumbai too!

Posted by Shashank Shekhar on May 10, 2013

Vihar Lake at the Borivali National Park

Quick overview:

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) a.k.a the Borivali National Park is one of the most unique wildlife sanctuaries in the world. That’s because this beautiful preserve which is spread across a region of over 104 sq. kms falls right in the heart of Mumbai’s northern suburbs. SGNP is visited by millions of tourists every year and the most popular attractions here are the centuries old Kanheri Caves, the lion and tiger safari, boating at the lake and the toy train ride at the park.

The park is an ideal get-away for a family picnic and kids seem to love the swings, seesaws and the tree houses in the well-maintained children’s parks. You will have to set aside an entire day for a family visit to the park and getting there in your own personal vehicle will be an added advantage. Scroll down further for a detailed overview of the SGNP…

The toy train at SGNP

Boating at SGNP

A tree house for kids at the picnic spot at the Borivali National Park

Quick facts:

  • ●Park timings: 7 am to 6:30 pm (Those who overstay inside the park after 6:30 are fined Rs. 100/person)
  • ●SGNP is closed on Mondays. Park entry fees: Rs. 33/Adult.
  • ●Kanheri Caves: A shuttle bus runs roughly every 20 minutes to the caves from the entrance of the park. The bus charges Rs. 33/person one way and Rs. 66 for a return journey. But their schedules, at times, can be erratic and they can be unpredictable (I experienced that first hand). However, there are private vans available and they ferry you to the caves for the same fare. The last shuttle bus for the caves leaves at 1:30 pm and the last bus from the caves to the park entrance leaves at 4 pm.
  • ●Boating: Boating timings are between 9 am to 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm to 5 pm.  A paddle boat for two costs Rs. 68 for a 20 minutes ride and a boat for 4 costs Rs. 68 for a 15 minutes ride at the park.
  • ●Tiger & Lion Safari: Cost: Adults – Rs. 55 & Children – Rs. 22. Timings: 9 am – 12:30 pm & 2 pm – 4:30 pm. Video Camera Shooting Fee: Rs. 1050/day. Duration: Approx. 15-20 minutes.
  • Vanrani (Toy train): The train runs at regular intervals. Although there is a train time-table at display but I didn’t see anybody following that. Cost: Adults – Rs. 28 and Children – Rs. 22.
  • For more information on buses to and from Mumbai, click here.
  • Get to know how you can cover Mumbai in a single day here.
  • ●Note: Please carry your lunch as you will not find any food stalls inside the park’s premises. Drinking water is available near the children parks.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) – a forest in the heart of Mumbai!

Living in Mumbai, from time to time, can be quite unnerving even for the most seasoned mandarins of the lot. And thus once in a while a breath of fresh air becomes more of a necessity than just pleasure. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) – a real forest in the middle of the city – is therefore a great gift to the bustling city’s citizenry and the people on their part (and the government) have preserved this sanctuary with utmost love and care.

However, be advised, not to compare SGNP with other Indian national parks like the Jim Corbett or Ranthambore National Parks because then you’ll be disappointed as at the end of the day, SGNP’s unique feature also comes across as it’s weakness – the fact that it is confined within city limits. But that doesn’t stop the hordes of families who park themselves on the lush greens every day at the national park or the nature lovers, trekkers, photographers and the rest who often frequent the wilds in search of that perfect adventure.

SGNP has a rich natural habitat and a wide range of birds and reptiles can be found here. Walking trails are particularly popular among the people here and many of them are organized by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the country’s leading conservation NGO. The BNHS walks also aim to educate the urban dwellers of the nature around them and I’ve already signed up for a walk with them scheduled for later this month. You too can sign up for that. The details are available on this link here.

The Kanheri Caves

Chaityagriha at the Kanheri Caves

Lions loitering at the national park reserve

The Sanjay Gandhi Natioonal Park (SGNP)

National park

By the lakeside

A view of the Borivali National Park from the highest point

The Buddhist caves at Kanheri are a must visit for anyone headed to the park for the first time. These caves were built between the 1st century B.C to 9th century A.D. The monks belonging to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism were the ones who started excavations of these caves first. Apart for the magnificent Chaityagriha or Buddhist prayer hall, these caves also provide the highest vantage point for a commanding view of the entire forest area. It’s a great sight!

The toy trains, boating and the tiger and lion safari are mostly attractions for families and kids. Although I must add that the tiger and lion safari was highly disappointing. These big cats are kept freely in a restricted zone and visitors are stuffed in a caged bus and driven across the zone. The ride lasts about 15-20 minutes and all you see is a lion and two caged tigers (one white and one brown). Although at times visitors have been known to get very lucky and some have spotted more than a few lions loitering around on the streets.

In all, it’s the nature trails, the morning walks or just the fact that you are amid nature despite being just a few minutes away from one of the most maddening cities in the world that works as the real usp for the Borivali National Park. Whatever your poison be, it’s a great place to unwind.

Deers at the park

A great place for morning walks

 

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