The sprawling Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Nature Park in Panvel is home to over 222 species of birds. If you are a nature lover – this place is paradise! It’s a different feeling altogether watching the birds in their natural habitats calling out to each other, amidst a variety of trees and shrubs that we city dwellers rarely see. Karnala Bird Sanctuary makes for a pleasant retreat, and is a wonderful spot for a one day picnic close to the city.
Karnala Fort and Sanctuary is located off the Mumbai-Pune national highway, 12 kms from Panvel. Turn on Google Navigation and you shall have no problem if you are driving down. It’s a 90-120 minute drive one way, depending on the traffic. Otherwise, take a bus or an auto from Panvel station, though this may add to your travel time.
There are two ways of approaching the Karnala Bird Sanctuary Experience. If you are a nature lover, stay on ground and follow the three demarcated nature trails that the sanctuary recommends. You can easily spend 3-4 hours observing the birds, admiring the flora, and avoiding the monkeys at a leisurely pace. The trails are fairly simple to explore If you are an adventure junkie, start ascending the mountain towards the Karnala Fort – roughly a 2 hour trek one way. The trek is fairly easy, but requires some basic fitness ability. The now dilapidated fort was built roughly in the 1400s and was used as an observatory by Shivaji’s troops. At this height you can spot eagles and falcons especially during nesting season.
Try and stay on the demarcated trails that the sanctuary recommends, in order to avoid getting lost. The trails are not clearly drawn out, and they are fairly secluded with no staff around so tread cautiously and don’t stray from the group. There are two food and beverage stalls inside the park, but those are best avoided unless you want to attract the overhead monkeys. The food is local Maharashtrian home fare and I intend to try a thali or some snacks on the next visit if there are no monkeys dangling from branches above. Tons of water, dry snacks, and sunscreen are your BFFs during the trek.
If you plan to stay on the bird trails then ensure you have binoculars with you – it’ll just make the entire process of spotting birds a whole lot easier. Phone cameras and regular DSLRs are just not cut out for bird photography, so a good camera with zoom lens and you’ll walk out with some stunning bird shots in their natural habitats.
Winter (November- February) is the best time to visit Karnala – in summers the heat is unbearable, and during monsoons the trekking path may get a bit dangerous. If you’re looking to become one with nature, without having to travel too far for it, then Karnala may be your best bet.
Address – Karnala Bird Sanctuary, NH 66, Karnala, Maharashtra 410206.
(The original article was published on the website LBB, Mumbai. You can read it here.