A morning with butterflies !!

My usual weekday starts with a journey to my office in Andheri through heavily clogged road. Irrespective of mode of transport it takes at least an hour and sometimes double for simple or no reasons. Weekends offer some respite from the ordeal when we can take rest, but sleeping late is not the only best thing u can do on weekends, there are many other things for rejuvenation. One of such spot for a day break is Ovalekar wadi butterfly park. Here you have an option of replacing the pollution with fresh air and the vehicles by beautiful butterflies. Sounds amazing? It has much more to offer than you may imagine.

This little known place is hardly 15 Km from Thane. If you are travelling from Eastern express highway, once you leave the toll naka for ghodbunder road and after you cross hypercity, keep an eye on a left for Owala village. From this left the park is around a kilometer. As soon as you take this left on ghodbunder road the landscape starts changing, the hills belonging to the Sanjay Gandhi National park can be seen in the backdrop. The concrete jungle is hardly a kilometer but you feel like you are far from the hustle bustle of city.

These Wadis are basically the place where a family has a house along with trees which they use as a source of income. Traditionally wadis have more of fruit baring trees like mango, cashew, coconut etc. with a view of selling those fruits and earn living. Regionally the trees change but the concept remains the same. The Owalekar wadi also looks similar but it is specially altered to invite butterflies without a commercial angle to it.

Mr Rajendra Ovalekar, the owner and the person who conceived this place is a great source of inspiration. His family owns this 2 acre wadi which once upon a time they used for farming, early 20th century they also used this place to host weddings and as a resort for day picnics. There are some signs like dilapidated wedding stage, lawn, big umbrella like structure, a small swimming pool which indicates of the earlier usage of this place. However, now Mr. Rajendra Ovalekar has transformed this place into a home for butterflies. The passion and conviction of this man is visible when you talk to him about the park, infact love for the cause can be felt when you interact with all the members of Owalekar family. It all started with Rajendra attending a seminar at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the butterfly species he saw in the photographs shown in seminar, almost all of them could be sited in his wadi. Since then he has never looked back, and today after 12 years of hard work his dream has taken shape. The butterfly guru of India Mr Isaac Kehimkar of BNHS also offers invaluable guidance for making the place better.

It was our 2nd trip here, we had already been there in summer and knew the itinerary of the tour at the wadi, last time one of the visitor present there suggested us to visit again during Sept-Nov to see maximum species of butterflies and so we planned to go back there. The wadi is open to visitors only on Sunday morning and the guided tour starts around 8:30 AM.

We reached the place at 8 AM and were among the early birds who got to interact with Mr Rajendra as he was placing rotten fruits in different parts of the park. Butterflies have very good smelling power and the smell of rotten fruit attracts them, even the perfumes used by visitors may keep them away from you so it is advised not to overuse perfume. Later during the guided tour we could actually see one butterfly sipping the nector off the rotten fruit. The session started with a peek into the life of butterflies. Mr Rajendra addressed the crowd and explained the lifecycle of butterflies. After brief description the field trip started, during field trip he took whole group to different corners of the park and showed different butterflies, one after another the whole group was introduced to beautiful butterflies. The guided round is a good educational retreat for the curious minds of all ages. There are more than 100 species of butterflies which can be spotted here, all have their preferences of trees on which they live, lay eggs or eat. Mr Rajendra has studied all this peculiarly and accordingly has planted trees and climbers in his park. Some of the trees or climbers which were not available in India and are imported from other countries.

The guided walk through the park goes on for around 2 hours and most of the crowd leaves the park post tour. Due to large group size during the guided tour you may not be able to see best of butterflies which are shy and keep away from the crowd. After the whole group dispersed, we spent another 3 hours in park and got to see few more beautiful butterflies. The blue oak leaf butterfly was the best one we spotted this time around; It looks like a dry leaf when closes its wings and has a beautiful blue pattern when wings are open. Following are some of the butterflies we spotted in the park.

• Blue Oak leaf
• Plain tiger butterfly caterpillar
• Common castor pupa
• Lime butterfly caterpillar
• Blue tiger butterfly
• Common crow
• Common mormon
• Black Raja
• Common grass yellow
• Great egg butterfly
• Stripe tiger
• Red spot tiger
• Tail J
• Common barron butterfly
• Plain tiger butterfly
• Peacock pansy
• Bush brown butterfly
• Common castor
• Chocolate pansy
• Brown king crow
• White orange tip
• Common jezebel
• Skipper butterfly
• Common evening brown
• Lime blue butterfly

As this is a privately owned park there is an entry fees which may feel high but its worth. There are no snack joints or hotels nearby however the Owalekars have taken care of this part as well.

Tips :
1.For shutterbugs its advised to stay back after the large groups leave if you need quiet atmosphere and good snaps.
2. If you are visiting in summer make sure you carry good amount of water with you.
3. Best time to visit : Sep – Nov

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