Karnala Bird Sanctuary
Karnala is a refreshing break from the big city - come here to watch the birds and wildlife, come here to picnic and to trek, and while you are enjoying all this, do spare a thought for preserving the ecology and tranquillity of the sanctuary.
Just a short drive outside Mumbai on the Mumbai-Pune Highway to Goa, is the densely forested Karnala Bird Sancturay, a pleasant surprise away from Mumbai's concrete jungle. Karnala is a tiny sanctuary, barely 4.8 sq km, home to over 150 resident bird species and about 37 types of avian migrants.
It is located in the mountain range of the Western Ghats. It is surrounded by many hills and is a trekkers pradise. Climbing Karnala can be a great experience for trekkers. Trekking can be dangerous in the rainy season so it can be done in the rest of the year. While climbing the fort you come across many species of birds in nature. River Patalganga is towards the east of the fort. Greenery covers and surrounds the fort of Karnala.
Flora and fauna
Vegetation typifies moist deciduous forest and is characterised by species such as Koshimb, mango, nana, kulu, kalam, asana, umbar and teak in the top canopy. The ecological conditions of the tract favour a large variety of bird population. The forests are also ideal as a harbourage to wild animals. A casual walk through the forests is an unfailing source of joy, with the list of bird-song ringing in the air.
The sanctuary abounds in bird life and during the migrating season from October to April as many as 140 species of birds have been recorded. Though Karnala is principally a bird sanctuary, many other interesting forms wildlife like wild boar, the four-horned antelope, the muntjak and the common langur also occur here.
Karnala has two distinct seasons from the point of viess of the bird-watcher. At the onset of rains, one can see the paradise flycatcher with its fairy-like white streamers, the shama or the magpie robin and the malabar whistling thrush which are some of the most melodious avian songsters. A variety of other birds is also seen nesting in the forest.
In winter, the migrants take over and the pattern of bird life changes. The migrants include a variety of birds such as the blackbird, the blue-headed rock-thrush, the bluethroat, the red breasted flycatcher, the ashy minivet, the black headed cuckoo-shrike and a host of others.
Monsoons are very severe in this part of the world. So you can avoid them during June-August. Best time to visit: October to April.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary is 60 km from Mumbai, on the Mumbai-Goa Highway, NH-17. This is a 2-hour drive via Thane Creek and Panvel. Central Railway trains from VT Station stop at Panvel, 12 km from the sanctuary; from here you can catch autorickshaws, taxis and buses. State Transport buses run from Mumbai Central to Karnala. You can hire an Taxi from Mumbai or Pune and shouldnt be very expensive.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary is a major attraction to the visitors of Mumbai, Thane and other nearby towns. About one hundred thousands local tourists visit the sanctuary every year. Karnala is a paradise for bird watchers. One can also visit Nature Interpretation Centre and trek down to famous Karnala Fort located amidst sanctuary.
Karnala Pinnacle offers refuge to endangered birds like the peregrine falcon, king vulture and the crested serpent eagle. The four-horned antelope, wild boar, common langur, African monkeys and the muntjak or barking deer are amongst the commonly seen wildlife, while the leopard is spotted rarely.
Apart from being a place of interest to the naturalist, Karnala is redolent of martial history. Karnala Fort or the 'Funnel Hill' as it is called, stands 475 metres high. Its command of the high road between Bhorghat and the rivers of Panvel and Apta, must have from the earliest time, made Karnala a place of strategic importance. Two gateways one at the foot and the other at the top of the rock-hewn steps lead to a dual gateway with a chamber in between. There are two inscriptions in the Fort, one in Marathi and the other in Persain. The Fort has a cheqered history of having passed through the hands of Muslim, Portuguese and Maratha rulers.
Bird Watching and Trekking.