I am a traveler/backpacker, writer/editor, amateur photographer, yoga enthusiast, and music aficionado living and working in Mumbai, India. Read about my travels in India and elsewhere at https://nomadicrhythms.wordpress.com/
Published March 16th 2013
Escape from the chaos of Mumbai to the tranquility of SGNP
Located on the northern borders of the city of Mumbai is a great big patch of lush green, called the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). It holds the distinction of being one of the few national parks in a metropolitan city as well as one of the most visited national parks in the world, with a visitor count touching 2 million a year. It is home to a great variety of rare trees and plants, birds and animals alongside the more than 2000-year old Buddhist caves numbering over a hundred.
SGNP, as it is commonly known, covers an area of about 104 square kilometers. It borders Thane district in the north, Aarey Milk Colony in the south, Borivli in the west, and Mulund in the east, the main entrance being at Borivli. All these areas come under the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The park is well-connected to the rest of the city. The National Highway 8 passes by the main entrance of the park. It is a short walk/rickshaw ride from the nearest train station, Borivli, which has trains going to Churchgate every few minutes. Even the international and domestic airports are a few kilometers to the south.
The Kanheri caves, a group of more than a 100 caves about 7 kilometers from the main gate are also a big crowd puller, mainly on weekends; they are closed to the public on Mondays. They are old Buddhist caves with mostly well preserved carvings that are over 2000 years old. They date back to between 1st century BCE and 9th century CE and still have Buddhist monks visiting and conducting prayer sessions in the main cave every now and then. It is a great space for photography enthusiasts.
This park has a variety of other options too for those looking at visiting. There are a few walking and hiking trails, like Shilonda, Gaumukh and Yeoor trails, through the forest which go close to and into the core jungle areas, to a number of streams and two big lakes. These lakes are one of the main sources of water for Mumbai. There are also a few opportunities for those interested in freestyle rock climbing. With its many resident and migratory bird species, this park is a bird-watchers' delight! You can go to the recreational area which includes a mini zoo, a play area, a tiger and lion safari and a "toy train" ride; this is a big hit with families, especially those with small kids.
This big patch of green not only helps us city folks breathe a bit easy but also give some much-needed quiet from the chaos of city life. For travelers, even a short trip to this oasis of green gives much-needed respite from the noise and crowds that they are constantly bombarded with in the city. Its Mumbai's own little weekend getaway that you can enjoy without ever leaving the city!