The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) is the world's only wildlife reserve located within the administrative boundaries of a major city. The national park's total area accounts for approximately 20% of Mumbai's geographical area.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park area has a long written history that dates back to the 4th century BE. In ancient India, Sopara and Kalyan were two nearby ports that traded with ancient civilisations such as Greece and Mesopotamia. This forest was part of the 45-km land route connecting these two ports.
The SGNP is a part of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot and is home to diverse flora and fauna. It has over 1,300 plant species, including teak, shisham, kadamba, karanj, euphorbia, acacia, red silk cotton, and some flowering plants like Karvi, an exotic flora that blooms only once every eight years. The park is home to over 40 species of mammals, 254 species of birds, 150 species of butterflies, 78 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 1300 plant species.
Apart from admiring the flora and fauna, there are numerous other things to see and do in the park. This includes butterfly gardens, cycling, boating, walks and trails, and a toy train ride. The safari rides within SGNP are major attractions. These safari rides last 30 minutes and are available from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, with a one-hour lunch break in between.
The park's large size allows cycling enthusiasts to fulfil their desire to cycle through a relatively empty patch of land, which would otherwise be impossible given Mumbai's traffic jams. One can either bring their bicycles or rent them inside the park for Rs 60 for two hours. Boating hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. You can also enjoy a ride on the toy train, Vanrani. Each ride lasts between 20 and 25 minutes. Adults are charged Rs 50 per journey. The only requirement for the train ride to begin is that a minimum of 20 people be available for the ride.
The Nature Information Centre organises overnight camping trips (NIC). They provide a variety of lodging options, including tents, pine houses, guest houses, and dormitories. A souvenir shop at the exit gate sells artefacts, coffee table books on SGNP biodiversity, trekking gear and apparel, books on tribes, and so on.
Apart from these activities, there are many other places to visit near SGNP. The Kanheri caves, located in the park's heart, were important Buddhist learning centres and pilgrimage sites carved by Buddhist monks. They were carved from a massive outcropping of basaltic rock. Around the first century BCE, Buddhist residents carved the caves. The area was once a settlement with inns for travellers. Kanheri is derived from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri, which means "black mountain." Seven Buddhist caves that are older than the Kanheri Caves have recently been discovered. The Archaeological Survey of India is expected to conduct extensive exploration and documentation.
There are two man-made lakes within the park grounds - Tulsi Lake and Vihar Lake, which meet the city's water needs. Nearby amusement parks include Tikuji-ni-Wadi, Essel World, and Water Kingdom.
Trimurti (meaning "three idols") or Trimurti Digambar Jain Mandir is a well-known Jain temple located in the forest. The Digambar sect of the Jain community pays frequent visits to this temple. Lord Adinath and his two sons, Lord Bahubali and Lord Bharata, are represented by three massive idols.
The SGNP is closed on Mondays. It is open from 5:30 AM to 7:30 AM for morning walkers with monthly or annual passes. It is open from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM for day visitors. Tickets for activities such as the toy train ride, boating, and safari, can be purchased through the park's official website. All online tickets must be validated at the ticket counter.