The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) formerly known as Borivali National Park is a protected area with dense green cover in the metropolitan city of Mumbai. The park is famous for its rich and natural habitat with attractions like Kanheri Caves, Tiger and Lion Safari, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, Botanical Gardens, Boating activity in lakes, A Temple, Mini Train Ride and ample of open trails for trek lovers and nature walks.
During monsoons, the park blossoms extensively with lush green surroundings, fresh and moist air, shiny wet leafs, flowers, chirping birds, running streams and plenty of dew around offering a perfect experience to its visitors.
Wild Safari: The Tiger and Lions territory are heavily guarded by forest officials, and its a complete restricted area. There are four tigers in the park as on today and I saw three of them during my bus ride deep into the jungle. One of the tiger was relaxing in the open, just about 10 feet away from the bus. She was quietly observing the movements of her counterpart. The third one was at the extreme end and not much visible.
The two lions, one male and another female were in separate enclosures. They appeared to be too lazy under light drizzling weather.
Kanheri caves: Kanheri word is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Krishnagiri’ meaning Black Mountain. The caves were sculpted by Buddhist people who lived here in an era spanning from 1st century BC to 11th century AD.
There are more than 100 Buddhist caves found here – having a distinction of largest cave excavations from a single hill.
The top of the hill gives you a 360 degree surround view of the city.
Open skies with mountains and clouds in the backdrop is what I was relishing on a wet Saturday morning.
There are many monkeys around the caves. I saw some moving in queue from one cave to the other.
Gandhi Memorial: Dedicated to the Father of the Indian Nation, it presents spectacular views of the forest & the city. One can walk up through the stairs or even drive up through the forest road.
I was riding up on the rented bicycle through the narrow, zig zag roads taking pictures along the way. The return downhill ride was fast, thrilling and I narrowly escaped a crash on reaching the exit point. Cycle brakes were not the best ones to support such a downhill route.
Mini Train Ride: ‘Van Rani’ or the ‘Jungle Queen’ is a toy train facility and one of the oldest attractions of the park. The fun ride is of about 15 minutes. It passes over the Deer park, takes you along the foothills of Gandhi Memorial bisecting a bridge and a tunnel on the way and finally returns on a parallel track.
Cycling in the Borivali National Park: The park has its own bicycle rental facility. It charges 1.2 USD or 1 Euro for two hours along with a nominal security deposit. A visitor should carry a valid photo identity card, do a basic form fill up and start exploring the place at your convenience. Expecting high grade bikes will be a disappointment. But they are good enough for easy transit. Alternately, you can rent it from ‘Harry’s Bicycle Rental Shop’ which is half a kilometer from the main entrance. You will get a choice between MTB, Hybrid and they have cycles for children as well, contact: +91 9819439878.
The park authorities also permits you to bring your own cycles. There is an additional ticket for it which you need to buy from the counter. Weekends are busy days and there are high chances of you not getting a cycle easily due to limited number of units. They have a dedicated workshop if you wish to adapt it to your height and make other adjustments. While riding towards Kanheri caves, which is about 7 kms inside from the main entrance, I saw many people who lived inside the park. They are mostly dependent on tourist for income by selling food and refreshments.
During a halt, I met with Abhinav who was preparing to leave for school. He studies in class 4 while his parents run an open shop.
I was riding alone and managed to venture into adjoining areas along the route. Spotted a white bird and it flew away with my noisy arrival. Couldn’t identify which bird it was.
I had skipped the boating activity in this visit. Access to lakes were prohibited on account of safety reasons during monsoons.
Park operates between 07:30 am to 18:30 hrs, closed on Monday’s. Hiking shoes and rain wear is a must during monsoon visits. Portable charger if you are clicking pictures with a phone camera as there are no charging facilities. You will lose mobile network signal as you move further inside the park. Mosquito repellent creams can be a good safeguard. Beware of monkeys.
Souvenir shops are located at the exit gate opposite to the bicycle servicing garage. Prices are reasonable with limited collection of takeaways.
Borivali National Park is 10 minutes walking distance from Borivali Railway Station.
I was cycling in Borivali National Park in the monsoon season.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai