Popular with avid bird-watchers and trekkers, Karnala Bird Sanctuary lies about 60 km from Mumbai and 10 km from Panvel. The sanctuary is also famous for the 11th century fort of the same name.
Straddling the Mumbai-Goa highway, the sanctuary is quite small as it is spread over 12.11 sq km in Raigad district ofMaharashtra. Home to over 150 species of resident and 37 species of migratory birds, three rare birds – Ashy Minivet, Three-toed kingfisher and Malabar Trogon – have also been sighted at the park.
Nestled in the Sahyadri hills, Karnala is popular as picnic spot and as a trekkers paradise. Categorized as an easy climb, some stretches of the trail can get a tad difficult. However, Karnala is good place to start trekking.
The sanctuary comprises of moist deciduous forest. The forest department has made efforts to educate the visitors by tagging several trees inside the forest. Principally a bird sanctuary, other forms wildlife too exists. Wild boar, common langur and rhesus monkeys are common.
There are four nature trails in the sanctuary. Though safe, it is advisable to hire local youths as guides for the long trails.
The trail leading to Karnala fort, also called Funnel Hill, is most popular. The 125-feet high basalt pillar at the centre of the fort, sticks out like a thumb which earned it the sobriquet of Karnala Thumbs up point. It was a favourite spot for rock climbing. However, the presence of several bee hives have made it risky and no one attempts it now.
Karnala has two distinct seasons for bird-watching. Monsoon is the best season to spot the Malabar whistling thrush, the magpie robin and the paradise flycatcher. Winter is the best time to spot migratory birds. The blue throat, the black headed cuckoo-shrike, the blue-headed rock-thrush, blackbird and the red breasted flycatcher flock to the sanctuary during winter.
WHERE TO STAY
Karnala has a guest house run by the forest department located close to the sanctuary gate. A day is more than enough to discover Karnala.
WHERE TO EAT
There are no options to eat inside the park. Visitors generally carry food and water. Kamat hotels and several other dhabas are located at a close distance from the sanctuary gate.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Karnala can be visited all through the year. Avoid the sanctuary during heavy rains as the trails tend to get slippery. However, visiting the sanctuary especially the trek to the fort during monsoon can be an unforgettable experience. The entire area is carpeted in green and one can see mists gently by below the fort. October to April is the best time to visit.