Karnala Bird Sanctuary
Karnala is a refreshing break from the big city - come here to watch the birds, wildlife and greenery, come here to picnic and to trek, and while you are enjoying all this, do spare a thought for preserving the ecology and tranquility of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is just a short drive from Mumbai on the Mumbai-Pune Highway to Goa. Karnala is a relatively small sanctuary, barely 4.8 sqkm in area, home to over 150 resident bird species and about 37 types of avian migrants. Many of these, however, might not be in view.
They do have a small caged area but this is to help injured or orphaned birds recover or be independent before releasing them, rather than to serve a zoo-like function.
It is located in the mountain range of the Western Ghats. It is surrounded by many hills and is a trekkers paradise. Climbing Karnala can be a great experience for trekkers. Care must be taken while trekking during the monsoons - though you might be rewarded with some great climate and views of the Sahyadris. 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 view 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 CST (Now known as CSMT) 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 a Taxi from Mumbai or Pune and shouldn't be very expensive.
From Vashi (New Mumbai) - 32km. (one Way)
From Panvel regular buses and autorickshaws (6 seaters) going towards Pen will drop you at Karnala, but the frequency is very less after 6.00-7.00 PM. The fare is around Rs 30.00. Though this might be adventurous for a foreigner, it's not unusual and these rickshaws are generally safe.
If you're getting your car or two-wheeler, there is a car park which can take around 15-20 cars. To avoid problems, the earlier you come, the better. The place will fill up by 2-3 PM.
Adults - INR 30 Child - INR 15
Cameras Still Camera - INR 100 Video Camera - INR 150
Parking Two Wheelers - INR 15 Four Wheelers - INR 50
To reach Karnala Fort, there are two ways up: one is easy and other is bit more difficult. Those who have not done trekking or consider themselves in good enough physical condition can take the former. Experienced trekkers would find the latter interesting - it is at par with some of the easy-medium Sahyadri treks like Tikona Fort.
For the easier route: Move left from the entrance. One can take this path, which starts from the water pump house. Follow the arrow marks displayed on the trees.
For the difficult route: Move right from the entrance. This path can be taken from man-made Steps near the entrance, which leads directly to the forest. This has a few streams (get ready to have your shoes wet!), small waterfalls and traverses through foliage. It's recommended you get a good pair of sports shoes, and plenty of water. The total elevation of this climb is around 375 m. While it's not difficult, there are some rocks and steep climbs to negotiate.
Once you reach the fort base area, there are railings to help you climb up. The top of the fort offers some very rewarding views of the below valleys - especially during the latter half of the monsoons.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary is a major attraction to the visitors of Mumbai, Thane and other nearby towns. About one hundred thousand 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 Persian. The Fort has a chequered history of having passed through the hands of Muslim, Portuguese and Maratha rulers.
Apart from trekking, soaking in nature, and searching for birds, there is precious else to do at Karnala Sanctuary. However, along the way, you can also have a snack / lime juice at a little stall. There are also little shelters with corrugated roofs where you can sit and have a meal with your family (you have to get the meal along, of course!).
There are no shops!
Food is not available on the Fort (apart from a small stall at the base where you can have snacks like poori-bhaji). So carry all your edibles from the base of the Fort or nearby villages or Highway hotels (there are quite a few leading up to the sanctuary).
Take all drinking materials from the base. One person should have at least 2 liters of water, especially if they're trying the tougher trek. There is no water available on the hill / fort apart from the above mentioned stall. During the summer it is advisable to take lots of water along, as it may cause to dehydration because of heat.
Rain water gets accumulated at the bottom of the fort, which is available throughout the year which may or may not be hygienic.
Take Lots of drinking Water along with you during the summer trek.
There are many water tanks on top which does not have good water, but there is a water tank cut in the rock, almost behind the fort. If we walk around the pinnacle from left we reach a small cliff. Water tank on the right hand side has good clean water through out the year.
You can stay at Government rest house, Karnala. Booking need to be done almost 2 months in advance with the forest department. Few resorts and home stay available near Karnala. It is better to stay at Panvel. Good Hotels are available at Panvel. Many resorts are also available in the park vicinity but may be expensive.
Try to avoid camping at this site. Lot of problems tend to occur during Camping.Nice place to enjoy
There have been reports of a few rare incidents of looting there. so it's always better to go with a group. The top pinnacle has huge honeycombs. If you are with kids, be careful.
Since you are trekking through the jungle, take the usual first aid: Bandages, antiseptic and glucose / Electral. Some mosquito repellent and sunscreen wouldn't hurt either.
Dont wait till after 6PM, it could be dangerous due to wild animals attacks. Beware from this animals like leopards. So get out from there before night. Also, you have to pay fine if found inside the sanctuary after 6 PM.