Mumbai is known by many as India’s concrete jungle because it is a modern metropolis that stands alongside nature parks and resources. One of the nature parks within this bustling Alpha world city is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, found on the northern part of Mumbai. With hundreds of thousands of local and foreign tourists checking out this huge park every year, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one of the most visited parks in the world. Its record number is over 2 million visitors in one year!
Formerly called Borivali National Park, the Sanjay Gandhi Park has a total land area of 104 square kilometers. It is located in the heart of the metropolis around the Borivali suburb, which makes it very easy to visit. Park guests especially love seeing and strolling along the park’s undulating greenery, valleys, forests, hills, and lakes, which are perfect for one’s relaxation and time for personal meditation. It offers a surprisingly blissful environment away from the chaotic streets, public markets and overcrowded communities of Mumbai.
The most impressive attraction within the park is the Kanheri caves. These are hand-sculpted caves on the side of rocky cliffs. Experts and scholars believe that the earliest caves were sculpted around the 1st century by Buddhist residents. The name Kanheri has a Sanskrit origin, ‘Krishnagiri’, which literary translates to ‘ Black Mountain’.
The National Park has amazing biodiversity. It is home to over 1,000 plant species, 251 species of birds, 50,000 insect species, and 40 species of mammals, with 150 butterfly species, 38 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians, and a wide variety of common and exotic fishes. Among the rare flowers are the Flame of the Forest, euphorbia, and Karvy, a flower that blooms every seven years.
Among the wild animals freely roaming inside the park are the Bonnet Macaque, leopards and spotted deer. Park guests will also be delighted to see a barking deer, porcupine, Indian hare, Indian flying fox, Sambar deer and Asian palm civet, among others. Meanwhile, there are also crocodiles, pythons, cobras, monitor lizards, and vipers.
The last sightings of wild Bengal tiger pug marks and droppings were in 2003. Park organizers were extremely excited about the possibility of having Bengal tigers in the area, but they were never found. The last recorded sightings were several decades ago and the tigers were quite old. Who knows what creatures lie hidden in the lush and prohibited areas of the park?
Meanwhile, bird lovers will get their fair share of excitement. There have been sightings of golden orioles, robins, hornbills, magpies, bulbuls, woodpeckers, racket-tailed drongos, minivets and a ton of migratory birds that include kingfishers, mynas, swifts, and herons.
For the adventurous tourists, there are a number of nature trails, treks and sites for rock climbing. Tourists are allowed to climb some faces along the Kanheri Caves.
The local government of Mumbai is doing its best to preserve Sanjay Gandhi National Park and all its resident animals, insects, plants, and flowers. Urbanization and the ever growing slum communities are serious threats to the park. Residential areas have now crept very near the boundaries of the park, dangerously putting humans within the reach of wild animals.