Located within Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has the distinction of being the only wildlife preserve located in a metropolitan anywhere in the world. The national park is spread over 104 sq km, and is popular among wildlife and nature enthusiasts. It is also the most visited national park in all of Asia, with close to two million people visit the park annually. The park was earlier known as Borivali National Park and was renamed in 1990 after Congress leader and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay.
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The park attracts lots of wildlife, nature enthusiasts and those seeking adventure who flock to the park to trek and to observe the wildlife. Ashok Van and Gaumukh are the trails commonly used by the trekkers. The View Point trail is the most ambitious which takes you to the highest point in the park and offers a panoramic view of Mumbai and Tulsi, Vihar and Powai lakes. Shilonda Trail (4 km), Malad Trail (5 km) and Yeoor Trail (6 km) are other popular trails.
Though home to a wide variety of wildlife, the lion and tiger safari which lasts about 20 minutes attracts the most number of visitors. Private vehicles are not allowed and all safaris are organized by the forest authorities . Barking deer, Hanuman langur and Indian flying fox, birds like jungle owlets, golden orioles among many others can be spotted here. Migratory birds also flock to the park during season. The best time to visit the national park to spot birds is between October to April. However, August to November is the best time to spot butterflies.
The 2400-year-old Kanheri Caves, located within the park, is yet another popular tourist attraction. The 109 caves were used by Buddhist monks between the 2nd and 9th centuries as viharas (monasteries) and chaityas (temples).
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In case you’re looking forward to a stay within the national park premises, you can pick one of the four rest houses and two camp sheds.These rest houses and camps are managed by the national park authorities and you can all them to book your accommodation in advance. The booking time is from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. Remember to carry enough food and water supplies for your trip to SGNP as there aren’t any places to eat inside the park.
Photograph courtesy: Preshit Deorukhkar/Creative Commons
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