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 Sanctuary, a pleasant surprise away from Mumbai's concrete jungle. Karnala is a tiny sanctuary, barely 4.8 km², home to over 150 resident bird species and about 37 types of avian migrants.
It is 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. 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. The sanctuary is home to over 222 species birds of which 161 are resident species, 46 are winter migrant species, three are breeding migrants, seven species are passage migrants and five species are vagrant. 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. The sanctuary is also home to 114 species of butterflies.
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 CST 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 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 6-7PM. The fare is around ₹10.
Fees and permits
Indian Nationals Adult - ₹30/- Child - ₹15/-
Foreign Nationals Adult - ₹60/- Child - ₹30/-
Parking Two Wheeler - ₹ 25/- Light Wheeler - ₹100/- Bus - ₹150/-
Camera Charges - Indian Tourist - ₹100/- Foreign Tourist - ₹200/- Indian Tourists Video Camera - ₹250/- Foreign Tourists Video Camera - ₹500/-
There are two ways up, one is a easy and other is bit difficult. People who are doing the trekking for the first time can go for the easy way. Others can go by the difficult path.
- Easy - 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.
- Difficult - Move right from the entrance. This path can be taken from man-made steps near the entrance, which leads directly to the forest.
- Karnala Bird Sanctuary is a major attraction to the visitors of Mumbai, Thane and other nearby towns. About 100,000 domestic tourists visit the sanctuary every year. Karnala is a paradise for bird watchers. You can also visit the Nature Interpretation Centre and trek down to famous Karnala Fort amidst the 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.
- Bird watching and trekking. - Take pictures of birds. - watch varieties of trees.
There are no shops!
Food is available at the base which leads to pathway to the fort. Water, cold drinks, complete thali - veg, egg and non-veg, poha, tea, coffee, bhajiyas is available.
Take all the drinking materials from the base. As there is no water available on the Hill/Fort. 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 you walk around the pinnacle from left you reach a small cliff. Water tank on the right hand side has good clean water through out the year.
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.
There have been a few rare incidents of looting here, so it's better to go with group.
Top pinnacle has huge honeycombs. If you are with kids be careful.
Don't wait till after 5PM, it could be dangerous due to wild animals attacks. Beware from this animals like leopards.