Archive for September 2017

Karnala Bird Sanctuary: a birdwatcher's paradise

Karnala Bird Sanctuary is the most easily accessible oasis for nature lovers of Mumbai

Karnala Bird Sanctuary - closest from Mumbai
Karnala Bird Sanctuary
We, the city dwellers, often travel great distances to find that perfect spot of peace and tranquility but we often overlook what’s right in front of us. For the people of Mumbai, the giant skyscrapers and densely-populated streets makes one want to travel to other states and countries in search of fresh air while forgetting the abundance of natural wealth that we have around us. One such forgotten gem is the Karnala Bird Sanctuary.

Karnala is situated 60-80 km from Mumbai depending on where you live in the city; if you live in Navi Mumbai, it’s even closer. Earlier this year, we had a fantastic one-day excursion to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary.

We started the trip by 6.30 am and despite a leisurely breakfast stop on the way; we reached the place by 9 am. In fact, if you’re carrying your own food or don't bother to stop on the way, you can easily reach the place by 8 am.

There’s a ₹35 entry fee and professional cameras are charged ₹100 while mobile cameras are free. And while it may sound like a joke, while I was there, I had seen Nat Geo photographers setting up their cameras on a tripod and waiting for that perfect shot of the birds. Yes, this place is that good! There’s also a designated parking area where you can park your two or four wheeler by paying ₹25 and ₹50.  The parking area is right next to the entry gate and it’s advisable to park here instead parking on the tiny two-lane highway and blocking the way just to save some money. Yes, I’ve seen people doing it. Also, once you reach there, you’ll realize that the entry of the bird sanctuary is on blind left turn and if you park your vehicle anywhere outside, it’s not just an inconvenience but also a hazard for the oncoming traffic.

Karnala is the perfect picnic destination for people of all ages. As you start walking from the main gate, on your see you’ll find slides, swings and other stuff you’re likely find in any garden to keep your kids excited. About three hundred meters up the hill is the base which is the starting point for a number of trails including the famous Karnala Fort trail. All the trails are nicely marked even amateurs can hike up on their own. At the base, there’s also a tiny canteen and you can fuel up before or after the trek. On negative part over here are a number of cages which houses birds. Why you cage up birds at a bird sanctuary? Really defeats the entire purpose of having a sanctuary. If someone’s lazy enough to not explore the sanctuary, it’s their loss. Caging up various species of birds so that people can identify them is cruel, in my opinion.

Karnala Fort hiking trails
Take a hike
Take on any of the marked trails and go crazy exploring the entire place. The sign boards with birds’ names and photos that are found in that part of the sanctuary is a real boon for the regular folks who’re not pros are recognizing these exotic birds. Just be careful of the monkey. While walking through the territories dominated by monkeys, make minimal movement and noise; we (two of us) were largely outnumbered by these angry monkeys and their body language suggested that we weren’t invited in their territory. Though it was only a 100mt stretch where we were surrounded by ferocious monkeys, it took all of our courage to walk out of it without flinching or running back. But apart from it, we had a memorable time spotting all the beautiful birds and sitting by the stream just breathing in the fresh air and chilling in the lap of the nature.

Kingfisher Bird
Kingfisher! No, it's not the one you're used to seeing at your local joint.
 For less than ₹500 including fuel, you can have an exciting day for the whole family.

Do’s: Carry a powerful binocular. If you have a telescopic lens with your DSLR, definitely bring it, worth it. And carry at least 1.5-2 ltr of water per person if you’re going to climb all the way to the top.

Don’ts: Park on the highway or feed the monkeys. And no matter what happens, DO NOT LITTER! If you can carry a pack of chips up to the fort, you can bring an empty pack down as well.

Secret tip: Try to start as early in the morning as possible. By 11am, you will see a lot of noisy, family crowd; or worse, school picnic and it’ll ruin your entire trip.

Also read about this place every a motorcycle is worshiped.
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