overwhelmed by hectic city life, Mumbaikars often head to their beloved Sanjay Gandhi National Park for a picnic or hike. But if
you feel the need to get even further from the heaving masses, a new night
programme launched by the park’s Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC) could well
be your answer.
just 30km north of the tony South Mumbai neighbourhood, the city’s 104sqkm
green lung is the only protected urban forest in the whole of India. And
nothing compares to the thrill of being in this jungle environment after dark.
programme begins at 7:30 pm, after the general visitors have left the park, with
a stargazing session at the Gandhi Smarak memorial on Pavilion Hill. Noted
stargazer Harit Papaiya introduces newbies to this nocturnal hobby, and on a clear
night you can expect to see Mars, Mercury,
Jupiter, Saturn and the Orion Nebula.
it is the 9:30 pm nature walk with Jagdish Vakale, an expert on the park’s flora
and fauna, that is the evening’s highlight. Learn about the park’s biodiversity
– home to more than 1,000 species of plants, 40 mammal species and 38 reptile
species – and look out for bear, deer, owlets, bats, scorpion and snakes. The
last reported wild tiger sighting was in 2003, but leopards can still
occasionally be seen.
an evening meal, stay in one of the seven tents listening to the sounds of the night.
The campsite volunteers will identify the sounds of animals on the prowl and
provide a wealth of information about forest life.
next morning before the park is overrun by weekend visitors, walk another nature
trail with Vakale to learn about indigenous plant such as kadamba and flame of the
forest, and bird species such as golden
orioles and racket-tailed drongos.
activities include the 13 hectare lion and tiger safari park; a mini train ride
along the hills of the Gandhi memorial into the Deer Park; boating and
crocodile-spotting on a lotus-filled lake; and painting lessons from an alumnus
of Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts, Mumbai’s premier art college. Plans are
also underway to introduce wildlife photography sessions and rock climbing at
the 2,400-year-old rock-cut Kanheri Caves later this year.
programme runs every Saturday until Sunday afternoon, though activities are
season dependent, and is designed for a minimum group size of 20 to 25. For
registration, contact Jagdish Vakale, Education Extension Officer at the NIC, on
93-20-267-527 or 022-28-847-800, or through NIC’s Facebook page.
Fernandes is the Mumbai Localite for