Shilonda Trail: Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Mumbai is a city of contrasts. High rise, colonial art deco buildings, iconic heritage buildings, sprawling slums and centuries old caves with stunning sculptures. But perhaps the most glaring contrast is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Just a few minutes from the densely packed high rises of Kandivali and Borivali is a pristine forest boasting of myriad butterflies, reptiles, birds, trees and mammals including the leopard. The park has a 7 kilometre long road that winds up to the millennia old Buddhist caves of Kanheri. Most visitors stick to this road on cars, bicycles and foot. But there is precious little wildlife one can see from this road thanks to the tremendous human activity.
However, there are a few trails which go into the "real" jungle and where one can venture albeit with prior permission of the Forest Department. I decided to do the short and easy but famous "Shilonda Trail" on May Day. It happened to be Maharashtra Day as well and meant free entry to the park!
This is a short trail going in the deep forest off the road going to Kanheri Caves. On both sides there are open deciduous forest and in this season one can see through the foliage to some distance. While spotting mammals is difficult, birds, butterflies, insects and reptiles of various types can be seen and heard. We did see the pug marks of leopard and the droppings of deer. There was a curious pug mark that could have been of a leopard but our guide was not sure. Among the chattering of various birds we could identify those of the Purple Sunbird, Coppersmith Barbet and the Koel. But i could spot only the Indian Robin foraging on the road and the Asian Palm Swift overhead. I also spotted a tiny broken egg most likely of a reptile. The trail ends in the bone dry Dahisar River.