Jewels of Satara !

It was around 8 AM in morning and the urge to get to our destination was growing stronger, the last few kilometres felt longer than usual.  A night ago I dreamt of being surrounded by thousands of flowers of different colours and clicking some amazing shots with them, I was now desperate to realize my dream at ‘Kaas – the plateau of flower’. Based on whatever I had seen and read about kaas on google, the place can beat any European location of a romantic song in Yash Chopra’s film.

Unlike most of the flower gardens across world Kaas is a natural phenomenon and occurs only for around a month during late August to End of September or beginning of October depending upon weather. The plateau is located around 22 km from the city of Satara and all of it goes through lush green heaven. These 22 km make The journey as beautiful as the destination !!

Despite planning this trip in the peak bloom season we got to see hardly 20-30% bloom as the monsoon arrived almost 2-3 weeks late in Maharashtra which pushed the bloom period further ahead by same period. Added to this we reached at 8:30 AM in kaas and everything was under a thick cloud cover. To see whatever we could and capture, we parked our cars and started walking on the pathways. On a day in peak season which we expected it to be, the Kaas is flocked by revellers and today we could hardly see anyone on the plateau. The empty plateau gave us the 1st sign of the foul play by the bloom and then onwards it was disappointment for not being able to see it at its best.

Despite a below expected bloom we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the other places we visited. Apart from the locations we also enjoyed travelling with some like-minded people who ensured that we had a great time in Satara. Apart from Kaas, Satara has many destinations for regular tourist circuit, Mahabaleshwar being most famous followed by Panchgani, Wai etc. In the district we visited some great locations which made up for the disappointment at Kaas.

Chanting Sajjangad:

Sajjangad literally means ‘The fort of good people’ and is the final resting place of Sant Ramdas, a saint and Guru of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While I included Sajjangad in our itinerary, I expected it to be a typical abandoned fort located on rugged mountain with fortification, temple or monument of Saint Ramdas but the fort surprised us. The followers of Sant Ramdas inhabit the fort even today and the fort provides them very basic facilities like food, water and shelter. In the pure atmosphere even these basics felt luxury and enough for lifetime. The very first thing we heard on the fort was chants of Shloka from the temple and the fort felt very much alive and vibrant, It seemed to be the daily prayer time for all the pilgrims staying on the fort. The fort influenced all of us and it was hard to leave but with setting sun we moved on to our resting place for the night in Satara.

Rugged Thoseghar :

Further ahead from Sajjangad is the waterfall at Thoseghar which is developed as a tourist point near Satara. Good arrangements have been made by govt. for having a good look at the waterfall. On the way to this waterfall a shop little ahead of Sajjangad offers tea with complimentary beautiful view of Umrodi dam, a must if you are travelling and have time!

Serene KrishnaGhat

This was a force fit in our travel plan just to add 1 more night to our original Kaas itinerary but this will qualify as the best place in our 3 day trip. You can spend hours at this place seating at the serene banks of Krishna river. The monsoon weather added magic to the place and made it more beautiful. On the bank there is a beautiful old palace which was inhabited by Nanasaheb Phadanvis, a top ranked executive of Peshve dynasty. The ghat, temple, Krishna river, palace make up a perfect setup to spend some quiet time. The Krishna Ghat has hosted many shootings of movies such as Kaak Sparsha, Singham,  Swades, Bol Bacchan, Gangajal etc.

Misty Panchgani

Due to last minute ditching by a homestay in Wai, we had to change our plan and spend a night in Panchgani. It is one of the most famous hill station in Maharashtra and has many interesting spots such as table land, Parsi point, MAPRO gardens etc. As it was not on our tour planned we did not carry warm clothes which are essential in Panchgani during this time and we were confined to our room after late evenings. Without stressing much on the sightseeing we enjoyed a night in Panchgani and visited MAPRO Garden and table top.

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Kanha: The land of Jungle book

Every place has its own charm and a charming story. Folklore, history, fiction, mythology; irrespective of the genre of the story all of them are interesting especially when heard from the natives. Undoubtedly jungle of Kanha in Madhya Pradesh has the most famous story associated with it which was narrated by a british legend. I can bet that the people who are reading this blog have not forgotten the story of ‘Jungle book’. Decades ago far from you and me a different world was sketched in the dense sal forests of Kanha and Pench. Even today the title track of Jungle book makes us nostalgic and wanting to see it all again.

The timeless fiction written by British author Sir Rudyard Kipling came to life at 10 AM every Sunday on national television. I belong to the generation who grew up watching this magical setup of a jungle where Mowgli ruled them. A fascinating story scripted to perfection which included amazing characters like ‘ Ka the python’, ‘Baghira the black panther’, ‘Baloo the bear’ and many others like chil, wolves etc. Our hotel in Kanha named Mowgli resort was just outside the jungle gates, and that got us more involved in the story of Jungle book.

Sherkhan was my favourite character in Jungle book and needless to say why. Everything about him was so well scripted that kids at that tender age made up the same impression about a Tiger. A shrewd, cruel and negative character carrying tonnes of attitude and a shrill roar. Watching a Tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park some time ago ‘Blog – Bandhavgarh Diary’ changed my childhood perspectives about them and the adjective ‘cruel’ was sidelined. The reaction you have while you site your 1st tiger is awe to his attitude. You don’t feel that the tiger is ‘cruel’ but looks like he only wants you to be scared of him and stay out of his business.

The weather was harsh but a high chances of sightings was what we were hoping for.

Reincarnations of ‘The Sherkhan’

In 4 safaris through different zones we sighted 6 tigers, 2 of them were full grown males and reminded us of the sherkhan in his habitat.

We sighted ‘Munna’, a dominant male from Kisli-Sarhi zone twice in different Safaris. In first sighting we could barely see him sleeping in the shrubs; but he did not disappoint and was seen sitting on the road side in the next safari. Before reaching Kanha we had heard a lot about Munna and the word ‘CAT’ inscribed on his forehead from my fellow wildlife enthusiasts and was super excited to see him. People had reported clicking him for hours in a single Safari and he did not care to go off the scene. When we sighted Munna he was recovering from a fight he had 2-3 nights ago with another adult male tiger, the fight was heard by the forest rangers for hours, Munna’s walk with a limp was a proof of how fierce the fight was.

Almost to the end of a safari to Kisli zone we sighted a mighty male Tiger sitting in a waterhole. Within few minutes 10-12 jeeps gathered at the scene. All were left awe struck by his size as he got up and started walking towards the jeeps before vanishing in the woods.

 

Other fauna

Unfortunately the glamour of Tigers attracts all the attention of the tourists and many other beautiful birds and animals go unnoticed. Kanha has other residents like leopard, bear, the ultra rare barasingha, different species of owls, vultures etc. We sighted many beautiful birds and animals and enjoyed watching them in their habitat.

 

And it rained in summer

We were visiting Kanha in summer and temperature expected was around 43-44 degrees, however a brief shower at noon took it down drastically and soon after the rain was over we were in our jeep heading to the jungle for our last safari. The jungle we had left at 10 AM the same morning was very different than the one we were visiting now. The overcast conditions made the weather pleasant, the smell of the soil, the fresh leaves which were washed by the rain everything was looking like a different world. The safari after rain was the only one in which we did not sight any tiger but we enjoyed it due to weather and the dense jungle.

Approaching monsoon will close down all the major Tiger parks in country for few months but other Jungles can be visited on foot to experience the wilderness. Looking forward to a monsoon full of treks and small trips!!

 

 

A cool weekend in summer !

The boring lifestyle of a Metro makes you want to go for holiday breaks very often. This feeling becomes stronger in sweat drenching summer of Mumbai when humidity and temperature are at its peak. With no holidays in last 3-4 months a weekend break was overdue and this time around I also had an occasion of celebrating my better half’s birthday.

Hill station it should be, was the unanimous decision taken by both the couples and all four started looking out for options. Malshej, Matheran Mahabaleshwar, Lonavla were some of the options but we took a real long time to conclude the search at Bhandardara which we had not even counted as we thought that is a monsoon getaway. Booking the Lakeview cottages in MTDC resort at Bhandardara we started the journey. Roadtrip to Bhandardara is around 180 Km from Mumbai and one of the reasons for my excitement was my new car which was doing its first long drive since I bought it around 2 months back. Bhandardara is a detour from the NH-3 which connects Mumbai to Nasik. Enroute we could imagine how beautiful the place would get transformed in monsoons, the small roads with dry and rugged terrain everywhere would turn into a sea of green.

While reaching we crossed the highest peak in Maharashtra The Kalsubai peak. Taking a little break at the base refreshed all memories of a trek to this place with friends in peak monsoon around 5 years ago. However with a different shade of nature our summer weekend trip was going to be a different experience altogether.

Lakeview cottage at the MTDC resort

We always prefer a MTDC resort for stay if available in region as they offer the best and unmatched location. Our previous stays in MTDC resorts in Ganpatipule, Velneshwar and Karla have been very rewarding. With the reviews on tripadvisor we were eager to reach the lakeview room in MTDC resort. The resort is located on a hillock next to the Arthur Lake and has different types of rooms as per your taste and budget. Every lake view cottage had lawn in front of it which can be used for all sorts of activities like eating, sleeping etc. Beyond the lawn a small descend takes you to the Arthur lake. Such a beautiful visual it was, sitting on the lawn overlooking lake was very soothing to eyes. Lake view Cottages were the costliest rooms on offer and we expected AC in bedroom, but it was missing and we soon realized the reason behind it. The cool breeze even in afternoon made it an unnecessary object in room and with a view so beautiful and atmosphere so pleasant you would not want to sit inside your room.

 

An unsuccessful attempt of angling

While watching ‘River Monsters’ on animal planet Mr. Jeremy Wade got me interested in angling (fishing). Love his documentaries shot across world catching fish by his fishing gear. On my last birthday my wife gifted me an amateur fishing rod which was unused for almost a year now. Grabbing the opportunity I used it for first time in Bhandardara. The lake was easily accessible from the resort so we headed to the lake early in morning and started fishing in misty fog. 2 hours of trial and error ended in zero result but the time was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We could catch one tiny fish but it was not using the angling gear and was caught by good hand eye co-ordination.

 

Siteseeing

We had planned to do little sightseeing and enjoy more time in resort to avoid heat but the weather in Bhandardara changed our mind. The highlight of the trip was Amruteshwar temple which is at the base of Ratangad, a very famous trekking spot. This temple is across the lake on other side but if travelling by car around 15 km of drive along the border of lake takes you to this serene place. There is a boat service available from our resort to the temple but we opted for a drive as during summers the boat ride is not the best option to reach temple.

Sitting on the lawn in front of our cottage at night we again unanimously decided to do a trek to Ratangad in monsoon and spending a night in tent on fort. A long wait of four more months to go, wish the day comes soon.

The ruins of Portuguese India

Indian culture and wealth attracted many European empires to have their colonies on its shores. Portugese, French and British ruled different pockets of India over last 500-600 years. We all know the stories of British Empire because most of our history books are filled with all sort of information on their colonies in India. However the Portuguese empire goes quiet unnoticed as they ruled only small isolated pockets. The first Portuguese encounter with India was on 20 May 1498 when Vasco da Gama reached India. Shortly after discovering the route they formed a Colonial state in India which included cochin, goa, daman and diu and small pockets in Maharashta namely Vasai (erstwhile bassein) and chaul (near alibaug).

One fortification built by Portuguese empire still stands near alibaug, Maharashtra. The ‘not so famous’ sea-side fort is situated on a hillock near the KorlaiVillage and hence named as Korlai fort. The fort occupying whole hillock can be seen on left hand side when you cross the Revdanda bridge around 25 km from Alibaug.

While navigating through the sleepy fishing village on the base of hillock, local fishermen told us that there is nothing much to see up there, but the rugged fort proved them wrong. During our visit we found out some of the activities which can be enjoyed on the fort.

Explore a Lighthouse.

The fort of Korlai has a lighthouse which guides the modern day sailors and fishermen as they take to waters. The government has opened the lighthouse to tourists and it can be seen from inside with a nominal fees. The guide provides interesting facts about how the lighthouses are used by the sailors and local fishermen. The lighthouse tour was thoroughly knowledgeable experience.

Korlai lighthouse

Korlai lighthouse

Camping and angling

Waking up in a tent to the sound of waves is an experience to die for. While roaming on the fort we saw anglers fishing in the sea, they had set up a tent on a platform which was covered by water from 3 sides. The scene took me back by few years when me and my friends camped on Korlai beach and spent a night there. Sky studded with millions of stars, sand touching your feet as you sleep, the music of waves playing all night; all of this without having to pay a single rupee out of your pocket.

An excursion on foot

Lighthouse and a church are two prominent structures on the fort. The fort offers splendid views of vast sea and korlai beach and that makes it an ideal place for landscape photography. You can easily spend 2-3 hours roaming around the fort and exploring small private beaches and every other nook and corner of the fort.

Bandhavgarh Diary

On a freezing dawn in the forest our naturalist asked driver to stop the jeep and turn off the engine so that he could hear the calls of deers and langurs coming from the jungle. ‘Shhhh…. there is a tiger around’ he whispered pointing towards a water body but we couldn’t see it. That was probably the most desperate time I had in the jungle. Intensity started building up as we buried our eyes in the direction mentioned by him. For around 20-25 minutes the deer calls continued while we were looking in the direction mentioned by the naturalist, the feeling of helplessness had started creeping all over the occupants of jeep.

Thirsty tiger

Thirsty tiger

Just about the time when we started losing hope we suddenly had adrenalin rush as the tiger appeared on the scene leaving us awe-struck in our open top jeep. Just like any other domestic cat it was drinking water with its tongue but something was making this scene extraordinary which was keeping our eyes glued to the wild cat, we kept looking at it while it was drinking water and looking at us intermittently.

For a moment the persona of the tiger made me forget that I had a camera in my hand but the sound of shutter clicks of my wife’s camera reminded me to use the instrument. I always wished to click the shrewd and intense tiger when it was giving me that killer look and I got that wish fulfilled this time. With looks to kill and attitude to die for it deserved all the adulation it was receiving, 3 jeeps were standing there to admire it. The tiger was such a show off that it came closer just to show its attitude by giving us intense stare and eventually vanished in the woods.

The look

The look

We were in the jungles of BandhavgarhNational Park which is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh and boasts of having the highest density of tigers among the all Tiger reserves across India. In a quest to do something different on our first wedding anniversary we had planned wildlife trip to Bandhavgarh and this tiger had started our day with a bang. It was our first wildlife trip and certainly enlightened us with many unwritten facts of the Jungle.

Fact 1: Don’t go with a sole objective of sighting a Tiger

These jungles are not only about tigers, it has much more to offer than just the big cats. Tiger is the Apex predator, jungles with tigers inhabits its entire food chain; Tigers food, its foods food and so on. All share this jungle and they as well are amazing animals to watch. Langurs, spotted/barking/sambar deer, wild boars, peacocks are a common sights and If you are lucky you may also sight tiger, leopard, asian black bear, wild dogs, jackals etc.

If you want a guarantee of sighting a tiger, you might visit a zoo or a circus but if you are an adult, those places won’t take you on a high for sure. Having said that we were lucky enough to sight Tiger, wild dogs, Jackal, Neel Gai and bear in our 1st trip but expecting too much can leave you disappointed. We could spot a tiger in only 1 out of 3 safaris; we met a family who could not sight a single tiger in 17 Safaris through Corbett, Tadoba and Bandhavgarh national park and we could easily make it out from their sorry faces.

Fact 2: Deer’s don’t die natural death!!

Across every corner of jungle we saw beautiful spotted deer herds happily roaming around; while talking to the naturalist we came to know about this fact that deers don’t die natural death as all of them are taken by the predators, their everyday task is struggle to see a new morning. Even the predators take many unsuccessful attempts to end up with a kill which increase the struggle and thrill in life of deers.

We got to experience one such breathtaking instance where a herd of 20 wild dogs were chasing 4-5 spotted deers, we actually felt sorry about the poor deers but for them its part of their lives. Deers ending up as a meal of a predator is one of the unwritten rules of the Jungle.

Fact 3: Naturalist / Guide can make or break the sighting

Sighting a tiger is just a matter of luck, but even on a lucky day a bad naturalist can fail in tiger sighting. We were fortunate enough to have good experienced naturalists for all our Safaris and that’s why we ended up sighting many exciting animals in Jungle.

Fact 4: Wildlife sense is a must

Keeping quiet is a thumb rule everyone should follow when in jungle. If you sight an animal and want to convey your feelings of excitement to the person sitting next to you, do it quietly by whispering or pointing towards the animal. Most of the animals are shy and would not come out if they know that people are waiting outside to watch them. Wearing clothes which camouflage with the jungle are advisable.

Fact 5: It’s addictive

If roaming around in jungle in an open top jeep watching majestic animals like Tiger, leopard, lion prowl and haunt the other animals takes you on a high then in all probabilities you will get addicted to it.

You never get enough of wildlife. If you sight a tiger you want to see it again and if you don’t then you have reasons to plan another trip. Under both the cases you want to head to the jungle. We started planning our next wildlife trip while coming back from Bandhavgarh.

Backpacking in Ratnagiri

My wife had 2 weeks of break before she could join new organization and wanted to go for a refreshing holiday somewhere. What could be more refreshing than a place where the fresh breeze of air from the sea hits you while you are soaking the sun on a secluded beach fringed with palm and casuarina trees. With 2-3 pairs of shorts and t-shirt each, sunglasses, sunscreen, to and fro train tickets and a cash of 10000, me and my wife set out to explore Guhaghar and Ganpatipule which offer some of the best beaches in ‘konkan’. The budget of 10000 may seem to be too much for all boys/bachelor groups, I myself have fond memories of 8 days holiday in the same region for a sum of 900 Rs back in college days; but gone are the days when we could stay in cheesy hotels and eat at unhygienic places. I was married and spending on good quality hotels and food was unavoidable.

Ganapatipule_MapThis was going to be a break from hectic daily routine and hence we planned the trip with enough leisure time, the days were not loaded with site seeing, all evenings were planned to be leisurely spent mostly on beach in the shade of palm tree watching the sun setting in the horizon. On day one we would start our journey by Konkan Railway, get down at Chiplun and head towards Guhaghar. We planned to spend our first night in Guhaghar and then move southwards to spend a night in Velneshwar and 2 nights in Ganpatipule before starting our return journey from Ratnagiri. In and around Guhaghar and Ganpatipule there are many interesting points which we would be covering.

This was not my 1st visit to the region, I luckily belong to Konkan; the slowness and simplicity of life here has always amazed a city dweller like me and it starts getting all over as you stay longer. Konkan has not blessed the inhabitants with wealth but the people are good at heart and always ready to help. During our travel by public transport all the people we interacted with were more than eager to help us out. From the fisherman at Ganpatipule who could net only 1 fish after 3-4 hours of hardwork to the auto drivers who transported us, all of them looked so happy and satisfied with their life. Travelling in konkan is an experience which every one should have first hand, the words or camera can not do justice with the beauty of this place. Read on for our experience of the different aspects of sojourn in konkan.

 

View from Ratnadurga fort - 3

View from Ratnadurga fort – 3

Night stays:

There are very few plush hotels here, however true konkan can only be enjoyed in homestays. There are plenty of homestays available at rock bottom prices to experience rustic touch of konkni lifestyle. We spent one night in a homestay at Guhaghar and that was the cheapest night stay we had in recent years. With big and neat room and hardly 100 meter from the pristine seashore of Guhaghar, this homestay was a great value for money.

Rest of the nights we spent in Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) resorts in Velneshwar and Ganpatipule respectively. All MTDC resort are so ideally located that no other hotels in the region can match the views provided by them. In these resort you can experience the magic of watching the sun going down in the sea while you sip tea in your balcony. At dawn when you open the door, orange sky makes a wonderful beginning of your day. From both the resorts you can hear the roaring sea all night long. Velneshwar MTDC resort is located on a hill near Velneshwar beach and offers splendid views of the sea from a height whereas Ganpatipule MTDC is a beach resort.

Traveling to and through Konkan

Reaching konkan is one thing and travelling within konkan is quiet another. There are many convenient options to reach konkan by rail and buses however the travel within konkan is a different ball game altogether. You can not rely on the ST buses as the frequency is very low and most of the roads are in bad condition all year round. The network of shared auto/jeeps is decent but sometimes you may have to wait for an hour or even more for the auto/jeep to fill seats and start the run. During our backpacking tour we travelled using train, bus, shared auto and jeeps, we also used ferry twice. The local travel tested our patience when we had to change mode of transport 5 times (ST-Auto-Ferry-Jeep-Auto-Auto) to travel from Velneshwar to Ganpatipule. It took almost 6 hours to travel this distance of 36km. On top of it the shared autos/jeep exceed their passenger capacity which makes a business sense for them. Having said that its fun to travel like this as you feel more connected to the place. Undoubtedly we would have covered more places if we had travelled by our car, but we had fun travelling this way.

Bon Appetite

While we were there, we had the best fish preparations of our lives. After trying multiple hotels we came to a conclusion that all the restaurants serve amazing fish delicacies. Would like to make a special mention of Hotel Shraddha in Guhaghar, the surmai and pomfret we had there was out of this world. Being a coastal place coconuts are available in abundance and finds its place in almost every preparation, may be that’s the magical ingredient used in the konkni food.

 Meal

Residents of this wilderness

Legend has it that Lord Parshuram reclaimed this land (konkan) from the sea, the sea gods got angry and as a curse they filled this place with poisonous snakes. We could not see any of them during our trip but as per the localites they are the most feared animals here; the jungles are full of poisonous snakes like cobras and vipers. Though it was not a wildlife trip, we saw many birds and animals for first time in our life. Apart from the regular mynas, bulbuls, skinks and geckos ; In velneshwar while on a morning walk we saw a woodpecker pricking the tree. In MTDC resort of Ganpatipule we sited a pair of kingfisher, green bee eaters were a common site across Guhaghar and Ganpatipule. Langurs locally known as ‘kaaltondya’ were also seen but the highlight of the trip was a full size monitor lizard which we saw in Guhaghar near Tavsal but before we could click a picture it vanished in the jungle. A local auto driver mentioned about the tigers and leopards of this region but unfortunately we could not spot them.

Beaches, temples and more

During our 5 days trip we saw 9 beaches, 11 temples and 8 others such as fort, palace, museums, lighthouse. Though it’s very difficult to come up with top 3 spots in our itinerary let me make an attempt of listing them one by one.

Top spot in our list will undoubtedly goes to Ganpatipule beach. By grace of god who sits on this beach despite being a famous tourist spot the beach is amazingly clean and serene. Sitting in the temple looking at the sky over the sea at dusk leaves you enchanted. There are good eating and stay options which every tourist would need. The sand art show on the beach was a surprise to us which added to the goodness of the beach.

A very less known place called Siddheshwar temple near Anjanwel in guhaghar becomes second best spot which stole our hearts, this place was suggested by owners of the homestay we stayed in Guhaghar. A rough road cutting from the Anjanwel takes you to this beautiful temple. Autos won’t take you till the temple, you have to park it and walk 15 minutes to reach there. While walking you have to cross a small water reservoir which is a perfect setup for monsoon picnic. To our surprise even our auto driver who was a localite had never been to this place.

 There are many contenders for the third spot; thibaw palace, Guhaghar beach, Anjanwel lighthouse, ratnadurga fort, prachin konkan museum etc. were all amazing but arey-warey snatches this spot from others. Arey-Warey road connects Ganpatipule to the city of Ratnagiri and offers mesmerizing coastal views you may have ever seen.

We had exhausted our budget of 10000 on 4th day of tour itself mainly due to costly stay at MTDC and daily splurges on sea food, however every single rupee spent was worth the experience. With a heart full of memories and tanned skin we started our return journey, would have been great if we had more time and could continue our trip southwards to the beaches of Devgad, Tarkarli and vengurla however my roots there will provide numerous opportunities of travelling to this coastal heaven.

Detail itinerary

Day 1 : Reach Guhaghar and local site seeing

  • Mumbai to Chiplun by Jana Shatabdi exp. Chiplun to Guhaghar by ST, Reached Guhaghar by 1 PM by ST.
  • Lunch in Guhaghar and check in to homestay.
  • Visit Vyadeshwar temple and Ufrata Ganpati which are walking distance from ST depot/homestay/beach.
  • Sunset on Guhaghar beach

Day 2: Siteseeing around Guhaghar

  • Take an auto for whole day site seeing and visit
    • Chandikadevi temple, Dabhol
    • Siddheshwar temple, Anjanwel
    • Anjanwel fort and lighthouse
    • Hedvi Ganesh temple (post lunch)
    • Hedvi beach and bramhanghal
    • Velneshwar temple and beach
  • Check into MTDC Velneshwar

Day 3: Velneshwar to Ganpatipule

  • Travel as per availability of public transport and reach Gapatipule.
  • Visit Prachin Konkan museum
  • Visit Ganpatipule temple and beach
  • Sunset on Ganpatipule beach

Day 4: Siteseeing around Ratnagiri

  • Local siteseeing by shared jeep/cab
    • Kavi keshavsut smarak, Malgund
    • Ratnadurga fort and lighthouse
    • Bhagwati temple
    • Ratnagiri matsyalaya
    • Mandovi beach
    • Tilak smarak
    • Patit pavan temple
    • Swaroopanand Maharaj temple, Pawas
    • Bhatye beach
    • Arey-warey beach and view
    • Bhandarpule beach
  • Back to Ganpatipule for night stay
  • Visit the beach and sand art exhibition

Day 5: Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri

  • Transport to Ratnagiri by bus.
  • Shopping
  • Late afternoon train(Janashatabdi) to Mumbai

Walk in Jungle of Nagla and Chenna

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !!

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