The period between my graduation and post-graduation left me in a limbo of sorts. Friendships had fallen apart, there wasn’t any job on the horizon and yet, I didn’t want to spend all my time curled up with my books, even if I loved them dearly. My newly adult self yearned for exploration and independence and some weekends, I’d venture out on my own. How difficult could it be? One beautiful Saturday morning, I joined a nature trail organised by SPROUTS at Maharashtra Nature Park, also known as Mahim Nature Park, located opposite Dharavi Bus Depot (3km from Sion/Mahim railway station). There was something about being in the midst of nature lovers and craning my eyes to spot birds and bees that made me shake off the burden of introversion. I made a few friends, learnt about several new species of flowers and butterflies, dared to participate in rope walking and other adventure sports and took home a bag full of photographs (amateur of course; I didn’t own a camera then) and memories. I even wrote about it for Mumbai Mirror. It has been six years since then and on my second visit to this oasis of greenery, I have with me a DSLR camera (Nikon D3300) and the air of an accomplished adult in lieu of the searching vulnerability of my teenage years.
The monsoons have been abundant this year and the vegetation has ripened to a deep shade of green. There are no other visitors on this Sunday and the silent paths between the woods echo our footsteps. After speaking briefly to the librarian and perusing the books and displays on the biodiversity of the park, we begin our trail.
A notice board says that the bee trail is a gift from the people of Ecuador to the people of Mumbai. We see a glistening green and black bee (possibly a Green Orchid) descend upon the flowers. The nectar attracts several spotted butterflies as well.
Blue Tiger butterflies (pictured above) abound in the park and every time we see one, we pause for a photograph.
Venturing deeper into the park, we come upon a grove of tall bamboo trees. Beyond lies the way to the back of the park, which overlooks the Mithi River.
A heart shaped clearing in a moss-covered pond catches our eye. Nearby, a couple of workers are enjoying their lunch under the awning of a tree.
The Mithi River reminds us of the bustling commercial enterprises beyond the park and its polluted water doesn’t surprise me. There have been umpteen articles in the media about the clogging of this ill-fated River but I remain hopeful that the government will clean it up soon.
In this backdrop of garbage and refuse, I capture an egret in flight. The reflection of its wings in the water leave me mesmerised.
We leave the riverside and plunge back in the woods to come face to face with this spectacular Spotted Black Crow butterfly.
Cattle egrets appear to have made Mumbai their home. In my childhood, they were migratory birds, departing at the onset of monsoon.
Too often, we forget to look up, looking in every direction but the sky. And what a pretty sight it is, when the sky is crisscrossed by foliage.
As we circle the route, we come across a large snake that slithers so fast that I’m unable to get a photograph. We also sidestep a pretty yellow and black caterpillar. The picture above looks like an herb garden to us.
I’m a little disappointed with the meagre sighting of birds but the butterflies more than make up for that. This one is a Tawny Coster.
After spending a pleasant two hours in the park, we decide to deal with our hunger pangs. This little hut with Warli paintings is right at the entrance.
About Maharashtra Nature Park
The plan for the 37 acre Mahim Nature Park was initiated in 1976 by Shanta Chatterji, a corporate lawyer and the chairperson of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Today, it is home to 580 species of plants, 123 species of birds, over 78 types of butterflies, 22 varieties of reptiles and amphibia and more than 30 species of spiders (source).
Address: Maharashtra Nature Park Society, Sion Link Road, Opp. Bus Depot, Dharavi, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400017
Phone: 2407 7641, 2407 9939 (It is better to call before individual visits)
Timings: 10 am to 5 pm (Sundays up to 3 pm)
Entrance fee: Rs 5 per head, unless part of a pre-booked tour
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