“What are we doing this weekend?” The one question that haunts the husband and me every time we fail to notice the upcoming long weekend. Both of us are nature lovers and passionate about travel and therefore never miss a chance to pack our bags and head out of town for a quick weekend getaway. Last Sunday we decided to explore the local Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai with our 4-year-old. It was a dark rainy day but we thought what better way to enjoy the rains than to head out and spend some time with nature. This was a guided nature trail organised by BNHS, where weÂ could get a chance to explore the forest on foot and get to learn about the rich biodiversity that co-exists with Mumbai’s concrete jungle.
What did we do? Shilonda Trail:
Having participated in previous nature trails organised by BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society), a pan-India wildlife research organisation, on a mission to promote the cause of nature conservation, we decided to go for theÂ Shilonda Trail in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), an easy, short 1.5 hours walk in the forest that we could easily do with our 4-year-old.
Every nature trail organised by BNHS is conducted by naturalists and experts who know the inside of the forest and the wildlife at SNGP and want to share this knowledge with the fellow participants via interesting stories and insights which are a lot of fun for kids too.
All you need to know about ShilondaÂ Trail at SGNP:
The trail is not accessible without permission and organised by BNHS team. This jungle walk leads through a mixed forest dominated by bamboo and ends at a beautiful stream. It is a simple walk for 1.5 km each way. Entry tickets to SGNP can be purchased online. Carry packed breakfast, hat/cap, and adequate water and don’t forget to apply mosquito repellent. Be prepared for the rains and remember to carry umbrellas, raincoats and a change of clothes.
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Here is what we got to see and learn during the nature trail:
1)Â We started the walk by 8 AM when it was raining but I think the muddy puddles made it a lot more fun for the kids.
2) Wildflower sighting: Our path was bordered by the first blossom of wildflowers like Wild Turmeric which last only a few days after they bloom. Surely, a sight to behold!
3) Indigenous tree sightings: The forest is dotted with the soccer ball tree commonly found in the park and the kids were amazed to learn that the fruits of this tree are poisonous for humans (and not so for monkeys!)
5) Exotic insects: My daughter was thrilled to spot a hungry caterpillar hidden under a leaf, in fact, this was the first time she was seeing so may exotic species -Â a jewel beetle,Â a pagoda ant’s nest and a praying mantis.
6) Â Insect calls: Â The silence of the forest was disturbed not just by the curious little kids running around, looking for the wonders of nature but also by the loud sound made by the Cicada- that is actually a mating call – made by rubbing their wings!
7) The kids were excited to see the crabs that were all over the forest floor walking side ways!
8) We got to learn more about the various native plants and trees of Maharashtra, about their respective flowering season and how their flowers and fruits are used for making different products.
9) At the end of the walk, we were rewarded by the sight of a beautiful stream, where we had our breakfast and my 4 yr old thoroughly enjoyed this spot by throwing stones in the stream.
We came home with new learnings and appreciation for nature.Â So if you are nature lovers, you know where to head out as a family for a perfect weekend getaway! Narrate your experiences with us in the comments below!