Just on the outskirts of this city that never sleeps, peaceful trails that can lead you through forests, along gurgling streams, up to historic forts and into the midst of wildlife habitats.
At Sanjay Gandhi National Park, you can track a leopard or a poisonous viper. A few kilometres away, thousands of pink flamingoes have flown in from Kutchh to feed at the Sewri mudflats. In Thane, you can have batata vada and chai in the midst of more than 300 flitting butterflies.
If you prefer historical relics, head to Panvel or Karjat, where you can climb through woods or a bird sanctuary to ancient forts.
For nine-year-old Anoushka Ebrahim, a trek to the Kothligadh fort near Karjat with her parents a year ago as part of a Nature Nights group became one of her most memorable experiences. “When I first started climbing, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the top,” she says, giggling. “But once I saw the tall, green bamboo trees and the beautiful surroundings, I forgot all my worries. I was so excited that I ran up and down. I fell twice on the way but I got back up and continued.”
Banker Marshal Nagpal, 31, also had an unforgettable experience, at the Lohagadh fort near Lonavla, when he and a group of friends decided to trek there on a moonlit night and sleep over at the fort. “The trek to Lohagadh is extremely easy and is actually refreshing,” he says. “After a short walk, we just had to climb stairs.”
For those less inclined to such exertions, you can head to the Maharashtra Nature Park, Aarey Milk Colony or Sanjay Gandhi National Park for a day of easy walks and relaxation, as birds tweet and butterflies flit around you.
“When we moved to Mumbai two decades ago from Madras, my husband and I were surprised to learn that there is a forest within city limits,” says Shivani Ganesh, 49, a yoga teacher who takes time off at least twice a month for a rejuvenating experience with nature. “For just a few hundred rupees, you can leave the noise of the city behind and just sit under a tree and read a book.”
These experiences are not just a chance to connect with nature but also a time to relax and rejuvenate, says Kaustubh Bhagat, officer at the Conservation & Education Centre of the Bombay Natural History Society.
Dos and don’ts
A trek or walk can be a very enjoyable experience for the whole family, if you go prepared, are dressed comfortably and know your limits. Here are a few tips:
Wear comfortable clothes that can stretch as you climb; cover your arms and legs to protect from sun, pricks and bites.
Wear comfortable shoes. Avoid heels and sandals.
Carry a light, packed lunch for daylong treks. Carry at least 2 litres of water per person.
Carry caps, sunglasses, binoculars, sunscreen and a basic first-aid kit.
Pack all of this in a backpack to keep your hands free.
Senior citizens with heart ailments should contact their family doctor before deciding on a trek.
If you are planning a trek with children, prepare them in advance. Explain where you will be going, the level of difficulty, and the payoffs.
If you have never done this before, take them on a practice run, maybe a walk or a trek around your neighbourhood, to gauge what they can handle.