Mumbai boast of a reserved forest, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) which is one of the biggest national park within a metropolitan city limits and also one of the most visited national parks in world. Thane, the neighboring city shares SGNP with Mumbai; Yeoor, owala, chenna, Nagla etc which are some of the prominent forest covers of SGNP falling in Thane. On one Sunday we thought of experiencing some wildlife and zeroed in on Nagla and Chenna zones.
Nagla and Chenna form a very important corridor for animals to travel from SGNP to other sanctuaries around like Tansa, Tungareshwar and other forest areas in Thane. In year 2003 it shot to fame when an adult Tigress was spotted within the Nagla block unexpectedly. It was after 80 years the region was hosting a tiger, previously the last tiger was shot down in 1929 near Tulsi lake and after that they were locally extinct in SGNP. The count of leopards has also gone down from more than 40 in early 2000 to 21 in the last census of 2011 but still the density of leopards here is very good. Apart from these big cats the park offers some beautiful animals like spotted and barking deer, hare etc.
We started from home at 6:30 AM in morning, plan was to reach early and start the trail walk. Nagla was first on our itinerary. We reached there by 7:30 AM and started the walk without wasting any time. Nagla is an easy trail of around 3 KM, the internal roads are clear and big enough for a bullock cart.
The dense forest here makes it a not so suitable place for birding but it’s a feast for the macro photographers. None of us were specifically interested in the macro photography but we got some beautiful pics of spiders and butterflies.
The place is infested with mosquitoes and itchy creatures and hence it is advised to wear full pant especially if you are visiting in or around monsoon. Nagla block ends at a ‘pakhti’ (small jetty) and the climax of the trail is amazing with panoramic views of the Vasai creek.
From creek the return journey took less time as we did not take too many photography breaks. The whole trail (to and fro) can be covered comfortably within a span of 2-3 hours.
We returned to the entry of the park at around 10:15 AM. Straightaway headed to have breakfast after which we headed to Chenna which is the extension of the SGNP.
One of my friends knew this place as he owns a farm house in the Chenna area. We parked our cars near the gate of farm house and started walking. As soon as we started walking one of our group member spotted a small black snake, it should have waited for some snaps but rather rushed into the green grass. None of us has good knowledge of snakes and hence we didn’t try to follow or catch it. Further ahead within few hundred meters the trail got wild. This place was much wilder than our earlier trail, it packed lot of action, we spotted spider of the size of adult human palm. We also spotted some exotic bugs, reptiles, butterflies and flowers.
Nagla felt like a walk in the park compared to this rugged and adventurous trail. Halfway though the trail we found an impression on the muddy patch which looked like a leopard pugmark, and that doubled our excitement.
Up till now it was an even trail but as the uphill climb started the atmosphere got more intense, we were walking on trail covered by dense forest and our eyes were hunting for the big cat. We all really got serious and stopped cracking silly jokes, everyone was looking around in anticipation of spotting the leopard. Further ahead on the trail we met 2 local men, while talking to them they mentioned that the big cat comes to their pada (village) every single night looking for its prey. The dogs make an easy prey for them and hence they are attracted to the human settlements where dogs are in plenty. They said that the region has both leopard and tigers however the presence of tiger is a debatable issue as official records of SGNP shows that there are no Tigers in this region but leopards with a healthy count of 21 are in plenty.
The eventful short outing ended at around 2 PM when we reached home. While transferring the photos in PC a thought touched my mind, why the elusive cat still remain unseen even after so many attempts ? however Chenna is a new finding which looks highly promising. Looking forward to visit again !! Very soon !!