Spread across almost 87 sq. km., the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a protected area in Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra in India. This beautiful green cover of land located at the hear of the busiest cities in India and the commercial capital of the country was established in the year 1969 with its headquarters in Borivali. The grand flora, fauna and avifauna of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park draws around 20 lakh visitors every year who not only come to witness the wildlife of the place but they also enjoy a visit to the 2400 years old Kanhari caves, that is present in the rolling cliffs that lies withing the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. It is hard to believe that a sprawling area of forest cover is located at the heart of one of the busiest cities in the World viz. Mumbai. The earlier name of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park was the Borivali National Park and the National park serves as one of the very popular tourist spots not only for the local people of Mumbai and Maharashtra but also for tourists who come from all across the World to Mumbai. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park cover almost about 20% of the geographical area of Mumbai and it is a perfect place to enjoy greenery, rock cliffs, wildlife, caves and a number of other tourist attractions that are present not just inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park but across the vicinity as well.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in Asia and also it is one of the largest National Parks in the World that is located within the city limits like the Banerghatta National Park in Bangalore. Sanjay Gandhi National Park is home to around 254 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 1300 species of plants and about 78 species of reptiles and amphibians, 150 species of butterflies as well. Few of the flagship mammal species of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are leopards, deers, flying fox, boars and the various beautiful butterfly species and also the birds like sunbirds, kingfishers, etc. There are two large artificial lakes inside the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, that serve as prime spot for migratory birds and sighting them is a good option here. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park occupies most of the Northern area of Mumbai and to its west lies the places of Goregaon, Malad, Borivali, etc. To the east of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are the suburbs of Mulund and the Aarey milk society and IIT Bombay campus is present to its South.
When it comes to the history of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, it was earlier named as the Borivali National Park due to the presence of the suburbs of Borivali of Mumbai in Maharashtra and later it was renamed as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. But as per records, the history of this National Park dates to almost 4th century BC wherein in ancient India, Sapoora and Kalyan were two ports in the vicinity of this forest reserve that traded with the ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. The 45 km land route between the two points was particularly across this forest area. The Kanheri cave that is present within the area of this National Park, was an important learning center cum place of pilgrimage for the Buddhist monks and this cave was chiseled out of a massive basaltic rock formation. When it comes to tourism at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, as mentioned earlier, it is one of the most visited National Parks in Asia and approximately 2 million visitors come to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Mumbai in Maharashtra. The Krishnagiri Upavan that is spread across an area of 5.5 sq. km. within the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is an easily accessible recreational area inside the premises of the park.
Among the several attractions inside the Krishnagiri Upavan, the notable ones to be explored are the mini zoo, crocodile park and the lion and tiger safari that can be witnessed by going through the natural habitat of these animals at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A narrow-gauge train travels across the primary tourist zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park that showcases the rich biodiversity of the forest to the guests. Also there are boating facilities made available to guests at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in two person paddle boats and also there are two watchtowers inside the park premises that offer panoramic view of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The Kanhari caves serves as a very popular tourist attraction at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and this is special during the time of Maha Shivaratri. Nature treks and trails across the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is also quite popular and one very nice adventure sport activity that has come up at the place is that of rock climbing as the Kanhari caves offer a great opportunity for rock climbers. Also the place is good for morning walks as you breathe in the fresh air in the morning as the air quality across the city gets poor during the day.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one among the six National Parks in the Indian State of Maharashtra and also it is the one that is located within the city limits of Mumbai and this Sanjay Gandhi National Park has been formed as an amalgamation of the forest land and agricultural land across the years. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a perfect destination for families who want to enjoy nature amidst the bustling city centre and there are many activities to be enjoyed within the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park that keeps both the adults and the kids entertained. The total area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai is divided into three areas namely the tourist area, core area and the buffer area and in the tourist area there are several trek trails that allows guests to explore the beauty of nature all across the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. There are also two temples that are located inside the park namely the Trimurti Digambar Jain temple and the Shiva temple near the Kanhari caves at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The highlight of the park is the Vanrani or the Queen of Forests toy train that takes the visitors on a scenic 20 minute ride across the tourist zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and visitors get to enjoy the bounties of nature of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on this train ride.
The two lakes that are inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park namely the Virar and Tulsi lakes were dug out keeping in mind the water supply needs of the city of Mumbai but now apart from this it serves as a great tourist spot for guests coming to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and guests can have the perfect opportunity to go for paddle boat rides on this lake wearing their lifejackets and learn about the various wildlife of the place. The butterfly park at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is also a very attractive destination for the guests as well. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a place that is having incredible flora, fauna and avifauna and it is considered to be one of the most visited National Parks in Asia and the place holds great significance in terms of its historical relevance that dates back to almost 2000 years. The adventure activities that one gets to witness at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are endless and the long walks across the cold and dense forests of the place is an ideal way to escape from the noise and pollution of the financial capital of India of Mumbai. Even though it might not be large as the other National parks of the country, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is having a unique charm that leaves you wanting for more here.
The lion safari at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a major tourist attraction of the park and this concept was started as a way to promote ecotourism at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. This safari experience is a twenty-minute nature walk across the fenced area of the forest that offers close up views of the lions and tigers and there are around 20 lions and 4 tigers at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Another way of witnessing the diverse area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is on cycle rides and the park authorities introduced this mode of exploration to beat the air pollution and these cycles can be rented out at nominal prices and the cycle route is allowed in the tourist zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park up to the Kanheri cave area. To access the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, the place is located at the Northern part of Mumbai and there are local trains that ply to Borivali from Churchgate that takes about an hour’s duration. There are private autorickshaw services that take guests from the Borivali station to the gate of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A very nice time to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is during the monsoon when the scenic beauty of the park emerges and the rocks and hills of the place witness the rush of waters from the top that allows various waterfalls to emerge in the monsoon season that makes the atmosphere of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park much more attractive.
Once more popular trail at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the Upper Kanheri trail and there are several trails for the trekking enthusiasts that cover the nook and corner of the park. One noteworthy trail is the Upper Kanheri trail that starts from the main gate of the park and goes on to the peak of the Kanheri caves. This amazing trek trail takes about 45 minutes to an hour and the amazing landscapes around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park get visible to guests who can have the opportunity to spot the birds, reptiles and butterflies of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park along this trail. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park also offers guests an option to explore the area of the park in caged bus that traverses across 30 acres of forest land and the ride lasts about half and hour and visitors to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park can have the opportunity to sight the deers, monkeys and bird species in the natural habitat of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Coming to another popular trek trail at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, it is the Gaumukh trail or the bamboo hut trail. This trek trail within the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is however a long one and it is very famous for all the bird lovers coming to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the trek ends at the highest point of the park at 1000feet above MSL. The end point of this trail is located at the top of the Kanheri caves at a point called as the Gaumukh point and hence the name Gaumukh trail. Another popular trek route at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the highest point trail via Ashok Van and this common trail passes through the ‘Ashok Van tail’ that is a part of the thick part of the forest trail with the huge Ashoka trees and while traversing across this trail, visitors have the opportunity to cross the rocky cliffs and streams. And true to its name, the end point of this trek trail at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is located at one of the highest points in the city of Mumbai where one gets to have the panoramic view of the city along with the 3 lakes of Virar, Tulsi, and Powai Lakes.
Another trail is that of the Shikorla trail and the base of this trek trail reaches the foothills of the Kanheri caves and leads to the north. This trek trail inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is almost 4km long and it is a very nice way to sight the abundance of flora, fauna and avifauna of the park in Mumbai. The Malad trail is towards the western edge of the park and this is where one can find the various vegetation of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and these are the dry deciduous vegetation to be seen that comprise of tall trees like teak, red silk cotton, bamboo, palash, etc. and the trek trail ends at Malad. Few of the other nature trails to be explored in your visit to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are the Kashimira trail and the Nagla block trail and the Yeoor trail. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park remains open across the week and it is closed on Mondays and so you will need to plan accordingly because in case you plan to go all the way and find the park is closed it is not a good option and so not plan your visit on a Monday to avoid any inconvenience. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a must visit on your travel to Mumbai and this National Park is also called as the lungs of Mumbai as this forest cover provides the oxygen to the population of the city.
Another very important place of interest within the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the Gandhi Tekdi memorial that is a tribute to the Father of the Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This is a beautiful place located within the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and you can walk or even drive down here to present yourself with some of the very beautiful views of the forest and the beautiful city of Mumbai as well. The walkway is across the forest that leads you to the Gandhi Tekdi memorial at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and this walk is a nice way to spot the bird species and also the various flora of the park as well and this memorial is located close to the main gate of the park. Another very popular activity that can be enjoyed at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is that of star gazing. As one can understand, human beings have always been fascinated by the objects in space and especially in a city like Mumbai owing to the air pollution, observing the stars and planets with a naked eye is not a very easy task and to achieve this at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, visitors can have the perfect opportunity to witness star gazing. To achieve this the NIC of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park has installed powerful telescopes and this is a wonderful experience and visitors can have the opportunity to spot and learn about the objects of the planetary system.
The session is organized in the evenings and visitors have the rare opportunity to sight the planets of the solar system here. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a park that is endowed with vast biodiversity, and this is influenced by the elements of the Sahyadri hills. The most dominant habitat type across the place is the forest habitat and around 1300 species of flowering plants are to be found here at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Much of the forest area of the park is comprised of mixed-deciduous forests and this is much evident on the hilly slopes and also the lowlands. However, towards the upper slopes of the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, where there are secluded and narrow valleys and the stream beds the forest type comprises of mostly semi-evergreen and deciduous as well. Bamboo is quite well spread in the lower areas and the teak and bamboo forest, and this is where much of the bird life of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is present.
When it comes to the mammal species of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, you will be able to spot a small herd of spotted deer on your visit here and also a sambhar or a darting barking deer along with black napped hares running across the park. Few guests also have the opportunity of being face to face with the leopards at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park as well. Other mammal species to be spotted are the porcupine, palm civet, stripped hyena, four horned antelope, mouse deer, monkey species that include the rhesus macaque, bonnet macaque and the completely vegetarian Hanuman Langurs (leaf monkey). The Indian flying fox is the biggest of the 17 bat species that are known to be found at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Mumbai in Maharashtra. The various bird species to be found at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are tiny Tickell’s flower pecker, various species of sunbirds, white bellied sea eagle, paradise flycatcher, tragopans, kingfishers, woodpeckers, barbets, parakeets, racket tailed drongos, blue flycatcher, whistling thrush, etc.
Coming to the reptile species of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park then there are crocodile species to be spotted at the Tulsi lake and also the other reptile species to be spotted are the monitor lizards, pythons, cobra, Russel viper, bamboo pit viper and also the Ceylonese cat snake. Apart from these large reptile species various smaller reptiles also add to the glory of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and these include crabs to spiders, including the giant wood spider, black wood spider, etc. The several insect species to be found inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are silk cotton bugs, beetles, mantis, etc. The various butterfly species to be found are the blue Mormons, blue oak leaf, night jezebels, egg fly, etc. When it comes to the rules to be followed inside the premises of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, avoid flashing light on the animals, Don’t throw any objects towards the animals, avoid any camera flash, do not carry any weapons inside the park premises, do not play loud music, no smoking and drinking inside the park premises, do not feed the animals and strictly no littering inside the park or dumping of plastic waste inside the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The Kanheri Caves at Sanjay Gandhi National Park that serves as a premier tourist attraction in the place was known to be a major settlement of the Buddhist community and it was a great center of learning in the 10th century AD and it was once one of the very big Buddhist Universities in Western India. The cave no. 3 inside the Kanheri Caves is one of the most impressive caves and it contains a large number of intact carvings that include two inspiring Buddha statues and it is one of the biggest prayer hall in India. Another very grand activity to be engaged on your visit at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the campground that is located inside the park area and the place offers tents, pine hits and guest houses. Also at the campground there are five permanent safari tents that provide a comfortable night’s stay and also guests are protected from the wildlife present at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The tents at the campground, comes with a comfortable bedding, blankets, a porch, picnic spot, etc. Community bathrooms are available on site and various activities like hike and treks can be booked along with your stay here.
One thing very nice about the management of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is that they have adopted various measures to keep the premises of the park neat and clean and of utmost important, they have kept the park plastic free and to achieve this they have ensured that they take a refundable deposit from guests and they are allowed to bring in plastic water bottles and food items inside the park and this way the guests can carry back the thrash and collect their refundable deposit from the counter. Bags are searched and frisked to ensure that no objectionable items are being brought inside the park. Also if any guest is caught venturing off the park’s main road or the designated areas of the road, a fine of INR 25000 is imposed as well. Another thing to be mentioned to guests to plan their visit at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is that the option od food menu is limited and there is a small canteen inside the premises of the park that serves basic vegetarian cuisine to guests. There are however small stalls where guest can buy snacks and water bottles. The best time to experience the park in a calm way is to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the weekdays as it gets very crowded in the weekends especially Sundays when the locals try to spend their time with the family.