My dear friend Sujit and his family had come to Navi Mumbai to meet us on a short visit. He is a bird lover and so I wanted to include a bird sanctuary in his tour Itinerary. This is why visiting Karnala Bird Sanctuary was added to his hectic tour schedule.
My family has also not visited this place before, though I had visited it when I was in college. So, my family and Sujit’s family left for this place one fine Friday morning. There are also numerous buses, cabs, and auto-rickshaws that ply this route frequently. However, we took private transport to enjoy a peaceful and relaxed ride.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary
The Karnala bird sanctuary is located in Panvel Taluka of Raigad district just outside Mumbai. One of the popular destinations for bird lovers is just off Mumbai Pune national highway.
This sanctuary was closed for 2 months from April 15 after the pandemic lockdown. Recently it was opened and it had more than 1200 visitors during the weekend.
This Sanctuary has about 222 species of birds including many rare birds according to the internet. 161 are resident birds few are winter migratory birds few are vagrant birds.
This amazing sanctuary is also home to Blue-capped rock thrush, Indian Pitta, Indian Pond Heron, Crested Serpent Eagle, Spotted dove, Ashy Minivet three-toed Kingfisher, Heart spotted Woodpecker, Common Iora, Golden-fronted leafbird, Greater Coucal, Bronzed Drongo, Common Tailorbird, Brown Cheeked Fulvetta, Indian Peafowl, Baya weaver, Jungle Babbler, Little Swift, Asian Palm Swift and more.
At least 8 species endemic to the Western Ghats are found here. These include Small Sunbird, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Trogon, Grey fronted green pigeon, Malabar Lark, Vigor’s Sunbird, and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, and more.
If this is not enough, this sanctuary also has 114 species of butterflies.
The kids were very excited to
The last time I had come here with my friends, my lunch plate was grabbed away by a pair of monkeys. This time I warned Sujit and co to be more careful. We did ultimately find a good place free of monkeys and langurs and gobbled down yummy sandwiches, Puris, and pastries.
A tiny play area, bridges, brooks, and walkways around the place made the kids in our party really enjoyed the visit. This was also an occasion for them to move out in the open after months of pandemic-induced lockdown.
We were there from sunrise to sunset and also frequented the snack corners towards the end of the trip.
Trekking to the Karnala Fort on a hill inside the Karnala Bird Sanctuary is another attraction for many people visiting here.
This strategic Fort was constructed in 1400 by Devagiri Yadavas. Later the Gujarat sultans captured it. The next ruler to seize the fort was Chatrapathi Shivaji. The fort changed more hands – from Aurangazeb to the Peshwas and finally the British took control of this fort.
This fort was of strategic importance in the olden days as it gave grand views of Bor pass which connected the coast of Konkan with interiors of Deccan plateau. It was also a part of an important trade route.
There are two options available for the adventurous trekkers – hiking to the top or walking on natural trails inside the park.
The first option is a bit difficult, especially for beginners. It is a 1- 2 hours trek from the base. The fort is about 1500 feet. One has to encounter slippery rocks on the way to the top during the rains. Leopards are also said to be found here.
The first 30 minutes of the trek is steep. Beyond that, the trek eases.
But, at the last bent, the trek again becomes steeper. However, it can be crossed by holding the railings on the sides.
Some things to view in the fort are the Bhavani temple, Pandu tower, and a still existing fresh water cistern. One can view other forts such as Prabalgad, Manikgad, Chanderi fort, Sankshi fort, and Dronagiri fort from the top.
We did not choose the trek option due to our young kids. Sujit and I decided that we would surely trek next time.
There are numerous resorts and hotels near the Karnala Bird Sanctuary for outstation tourists. Some popular ones are Hotel Grande 5, OYO flagship Hotel Phoenix, Hotel Panchratna, and hotel Nimantran. One can also choose from the two Government Rest houses inside the sanctuary
How to reach
Mumbai’ Chatrapathi Shivaji airport is the nearest Airport, some 60 km away. From there you can reach Karnala Bird Sanctuary by road.
The nearest railhead to this destination for bird watchers is Panvel. The remaining 12 km to the Sanctuary can be covered by plentifully available auto-rickshaws or buses.
Buses leave the Panvel bus stand at intervals of 30 minutes. They are in service from 5.00 in the morning to 8.00 pm in the evening. Buses going towards Alibaug, Pen, and Murud have a stop at this place. Do note – the entrance ticket is 35 rupees per head. The parking is 100/- While you can visit Karnala in all seasons except summer – March-June, the best time to visit the bird sanctuary is between October and April.