Ever since Nashik resident Sanjay Uchil, 26, watched a documentary on Elephanta Caves in college, he had been keen to visit the heritage site that dates back to between the 6th and the 8th centuries AD.
In April, he got the chance to fulfil this wish as he came to Mumbai to attend a cousin's wedding, but he cancelled the trip to see the set of Hindu and Buddhist caves at the last minute.
"My cousins said it could be unsafe and uncomfortable. Secondly, I couldn't find a travel agent keen to include a visit to the caves in the city tour itinerary," said the Nashik resident who works in a call centre.
Many tourists like Uchil have become wary of visiting this ancient network of sculpted caves as the ferries carrying passengers to the island are in poor shape.
On October 27, a launch carrying 125 people broke down mid-sea leaving the passengers stranded for two hours. With such incidents on the rise the, on November 1, the state transport department asked the regulator, the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), to check whether the boats that are currently operating are sea-worthy.
Mahek Soni, a homemaker from Andheri, had her in-laws from Delhi visit her this Diwali. She deliberately avoided the ferry ride to Elephanta.
"They were keen for a ferry ride. But having learnt from our previous experiences we chose to go by road," the 47-year-old said.
Tour operators conducting sightseeing day trips have also begun leaving out Elephanta Caves from their package as they say the ferry service is slow so it makes the deal unviable.
"A round trip from Elephanta takes about five hours because the launches used are old and slow. That would make it impossible for us to accommodate other popular tourists spots on a day trip," said Prakash Narkar, owner of Dream Holidays, a city-based travel agency.
Ferry owners, however, argue that they meet the safety requirements set by the regulator.
"We have frequent checks by MMB surveyors and we ensure that no rules are violated," said Hassan Mullah, president of the Gateway Elephanta Jalvahatuk Sanstha Maryadik, an association comprising ferry owners.