Planned trips sometimes don’t go as per expectations. Unplanned trips on the other hand, sometimes turn out like the most planned trip ever. The latter is what happened, when along with friends, I decided to do the Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Fort trek.
How did we come up with this plan?
It wasn’t even our plan actually. We were contemplating on a visit to Adlabs Imagica in Khopoli, the night before. Research told us, the entry ticket costs Rs. 1900 per head. A bit pricey we thought, so we came up with a backup plan – Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Fort. On my road trips to Goa, I had always seen this place and wanted to visit it.
The Karnala Fort was an important fort in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. It has been conquered by prominent rulers dating from the 1200’s right until 1818. The Tughlaq rulers, Nizam Shah, Shivaji Maharaj, Aurangzeb, Peshwa’s and the British have all ruled this fort at one point in time. The location of the fort overlooked the Bhor pass which was a main trade route between the Konkan and the Vidharba region during that time.
On the morning of 4th November 2013 (which was Diwali), a group of four of us decided to start at 6 am. The sanctuary is around 60 km from Mumbai and 13 km from Panvel, located on the Mumbai – Goa National Highway (NH-17). After a stopover for breakfast, we reached Karnala by 8:30 am. It seemed we were the first to reach the ticket counter, which felt good as we would explore the place all by ourselves with no crowd.
Entry ticket – 25 Rs (Adult)
Parking charge – 50 Rs
It took us 2 hours with leisure halts to reach the pinnacle where the fort was located. The difficulty level for the trek is easy to medium with forest trails that lead to the fort. So it is not like you make your own route. However, there are a lot of rocks and wild grass that one needs to cross along the journey. Once atop, the view is amazing like most pinnacle views are. Non-trekkers (like me) will feel proud once you reach atop, amazed at the climb you have accomplished. The fort is in a dilapidated state but has some ruins like fort walls and entrance frames indicating its historic existence.
The sanctuary is said to be home to more than 100 species of birds including rare ones like Ashi Minivet and 3 toed Kingfisher. We spotted none of it on the trek. What we did get to see are some caged rabbits, sparrows and parrots at the starting point of the journey near the small canteen. The canteen has limited snacking options like bhajjia’s, tea and nimbu paani. We rewarded ourselves with 2 glasses of nimbu paani (each person) after we had finished our trek.
We headed back home thereafter, and touched down at 4pm after a lunch on the way. It could be argued that it was a half day trip and we could utilize the remaining day for other activities, but frankly each one of us was drained and slept off.
What we did right:
- The most important thing we did right was to start early. By the time we reached the pinnacle fort it was 10am which is fairly good. On our way back, the heat got very harsh and while we saw fellow trekkers heading towards the pinnacle, we were glad we were heading back.
What we didn’t do right:
- While most of us were dressed for the trek, one among us wore knee-length shorts which was not a good idea as the mosquitoes were torturous and there was also wild grass and plants.
- The trek was quite a climb and we thirsty souls fell short of water.
Tips for you:
- Start early and always keep the option open to yourself – whether you want to finish early or stay longer.
- Carry lots of water. Lots of it! Once you start the trek there is no water available.
- Better to drive down with your vehicle or hire one. Using public transport may get you there easily but returning is a problem as it is difficult to get a return transport on the National Highway.
- I do not need to inform that you must wear trekking shoes or at least closed shoes. Chappals are an absolute NO for any trek. Besides, the Karnala trek has wild grass, a bit of rock climbs and lots of small crabs.
- Take the contact number of the ticket counter, if possible. You are heading deep into the forest and climbing peaks that can be quiet and lonely. Just a safety measure!
- It is a safe trek from the point of view of wild life existence. At least we didn’t encounter any.
Carry a handy bag just so you can keep your litter (if any) with you through the trek. It would be a shame really, if you came for a nature-trek and littered nature.
(Note: Ticket prices were correct at the time of publishing this blog. It is advised to check with their office for updated information about prices)