The problem with big world cities like Mumbai is people here are always in want of the sun, free space and the green they so ruefully cut out of their lives to build their industries and urban homes. That is why every small or big opportunity they can get to reconnect with the natural world, they do so with open arms. And thankfully, around Mumbai there are still a handful of places left that have preserved the crisp, fresh smelling scents the way nature intended them to be.
Karnala is one such destination – a weekend getaway from Mumbai rather than a proper holiday spot. It does not have that many nature trails where you can get lost in or that much history buried in its depths which need hours to excavate. But it does have the marvelous distinction of being just an hour away from Mumbai and far far away from maddening crowds, obnoxious odors and soulless skyscrapers.
It is more like a conserved patch of ecosystem miraculously saved from human infestation, thriving on the outskirts of the mega city and giving its dwellers a chance to recognize and feel the glory of nature.
Karnala is situated South of Mumbai about 10 Km from the New Mumbai suburb Panvel. It does present a visible jolt initially to see a beautiful canopy of green so close to the city. As soon as you leave Panvel, in fact, the air starts to feel fresher and soon chirping birds, frolicking squirrels, butterflies, even monkeys are seen swinging from tree to tree and welcoming you to their secret den.
Karnala Bird Santuary
Karnala is a protected habitat and it is thanks to the many birds found here and its distinction of being a bird sanctuary that it has still been able to retain its natural charm. The sanctuary itself is nothing to be intimated about and provides a fantastic way to encourage kids and adults to become acquainted with plants and birds. Although the sanctuary is bisected quite harshly by the Mumbai-Goa highway, it is still a permanent home to around 150 species of birds and 40 more of the migratory kind. The best time to visit this place for bird watching is after October till February, but if you are just happy seeing a bird or two and walking in their neighborhood, you are welcome to do so all the year round.
A view that is as stunning as the spread of lush greenery around here is the Karnala Peak. It is crested by a thumb-shaped pinnacle, which is actually a volcanic plug. Many come to Karnala with dreams to conquer this very peak. If you intend to do so too, start as early as possible to save yourself from the afternoon sun.
The slope is not a challenge for the fit. You can quite easily reach the Karnala fort in an hour. This fort is mostly in ruins but has a small temple you can visit. Take time to listen and you are sure to be drawn into the the conversation of screeching langur monkeys or the twittering birds. At the base of the pinnacle awaits the stunning view of the Sahyadri Mountain ranges and the Mumbai harbor.
While the mountain trek could be for everyone, the thumbs-up pinnacle should only be reserved for expert climbers. At one side the crest is a straight rock face, but at the other end there is scope for climbing if you have the necessary gear and the proficiency. But it is achievable and the sheer delight that comes from accomplishing such a feat is reason enough to do it.
Bed and Breakfast
The place has a couple of decent resorts and eating joints. You can also always carry your lunch with you for a picnic meal amidst the shade of the many trees. Do ensure though that you leave the place as clean and green as it was earlier.
A good idea is to reach the sanctuary in the early hours of the morning, trek, scale the pinnacle, watch birds, eat your packed snack or meal and return by evening. The 12 hours or so that you spend here, might just be the rejuvenating escape you needed to battle it out for the next busy week.
Image Credit Elroy Serrao, Ravi Vaidyanathan & Rajkumar 1220 via wikimedia commons