At very few places in the world you will find a forest which has survived urban development and continues to thrive in the middle of the city. Sanjay Gandhi National Park more often referred as ‘Borivali National Park’ is a blessing for a metropolis city of Mumbai which is clogged with humans, residential towers, vehicles, commercial establishments and more humans. A protected territory by state forest department of Maharashtra Government, Sanjay Gandhi National Park spreads over a huge area with plenty of places to visit inside for locals and tourists alike.
Every visitor uses the SGNP facilities for a different purpose. History and archaeology students devote time researching and copying drawings of the stone sculptures in Kanheri caves which are over 2000 years old. Trekkers and rock climbers find it a good place for polishing their core techniques. While some like to reach the top of Kanheri mountain peak and enjoy a 360 degree surround view of the city and relax. The forest attracts bird lovers as the park is host to a wide variety of native and migratory species of birds. And those who are interested in wildlife, there are tigers, leopards, lions, deers, reptiles, butterfly gardens and a natural biodiversity to experience in the city forest.
SGNP also organizes guided nature walks which gets listed on their website, social media and ticketing platforms. And for families and children, there are fun activities like paddle boating, mini train ride and play area. Typically, in the morning the place is extensively used by fitness enthusiasts for walking, running, yoga and cycling. Even couples liberally use the park geography for romance and moments of mystery. And very often schools, colleges, conservationists and private tour operators organize fun trips and focused tours for their set of audiences. And lastly, armed with cameras photographers are regularly seen exposing natures secret.
This was my second visit to the park, the previous one being in the monsoon season of 2018. I went for cycling in SGNP on a Sunday afternoon but couldn’t find a cycle at the official rental station as 100% of their inventory was leased out. So I rented a bicycle from ‘Harry’s Bicycle Rental Shop’. Located half a kilometer from the main entrance, Harry’s bike rental shop has decent fleet of single speed bikes – MTB and Hybrid’s of local brands for adults and kids. I came across this cycle rental service on instagram @harrybicyclerental
On my two wheels, I embarked on a nature trail and pedalled along the tar roads feeling the wilderness of the green forest. About 5 kms inside, I saw monkeys and spotted deers. They are sensitive to noise and shy of humans but thankfully the deers trusted the calmness and ventured out from the bushes giving me and a few others a pretty sight.
With the afternoon summer heat activating my skin pores, I could feel the moisture in my shirt resulting into a planned lunch break. My meal was organic and fresh… straight from the local farms. Things I munched on – a banana, watermelon, orange, corn salad and a cucumber. The local villagers who live in the forest put up their stalls and I usually like to support neighborhood businesses. A Starbucks or a McD would struggle to entice travelers here, so better consume fresh.
In the second leg of my trip, I saw many cyclists exploring the park. Some were international tourists, and there were many groups of youngsters and families all cycling at their pace.
While cycling in SGNP, you will experience a mixed terrain with small elevations and downhills at regular intervals. On single speed bikes, you need strong legs to keep yourself moving forward. First time riders might find it difficult to maneuver through the rough zig-zag trails.
The park goes dry and rustic during summers but owing to its dense green cover, the temperatures are marginally less warm compared to the other parts of the city. The streams which are full with flowing water in rains, gets shallow and stagnant during sunny days.
To feel the fresh and cool breeze, I cycled towards the boating area. The lake was busy with tourists enjoying rides in colorful boats. I spent some time doing mobile photography.
My two hour trip ended with a glass full of fresh sugarcane juice and I left with wonderful memories to cherish until the next visit for a cycling trip in Borivali National Park.
Park operates between 07:30 am to 18:30 hrs and closed on Monday’s. Entry fee is INR 64/- and outside cycles are allowed with an additional fee of INR 22/-
Carry caps, sunshades, water, sunscreens, portable charger and a camera. Beware of notorious monkeys.
A souvenir shop is located at the exit gate. Merchandise is good with reasonable pricing and limited collection for shopping.
Bus service is available once you enter the park and it takes you directly to Kanheri Caves. One can also use the Buggy cars for reaching the entry point of tiger safari and other attractions.
Borivali National Park is 10 minutes walking distance from Borivali Railway Station.
Enjoy the photo album:
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai