Most people think that MNP stands for Mahim Nature Park. But technically the name of the place is Maharashtra Nature Park. In fact, it is not even in Mahim - located opposite the Dharavi BEST bus depot, it is closer to Sion and even Bandra than it is to Mahim. Whatever you call it, it is one of the best kept secrets of Mumbai's bird lovers and nature photographers. Hope it stays that way because once "family" crowds discover the place, it would revert to it's original avatar of a garbage dump
Located on the Bandra-Sion Link Road and on the bank of the Mithi River, the idea of MNP was conceived by the WWF India in the late 1970s. The MMRDA website mentions that an area of about 37 acres, which was earlier a land fill, was ecologically restored and developed as a Nature Park by MMRDA. It also says that naturalists from the Bombay Natural History Society and WWF India have confirmed that MNP plays host to about 38 species of butterflies and more than 80 species of birds. As many as 200 tree species have been listed, many naturally planted by birds and insects
The MNP is open on Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. The entry fee is Rs. 5 per person. You need to enter through the Main gate rather than the Nursery gate. If you are driving in from the LBS Marg side, you would see the Main gate (on the opposite side of the road) before reaching the Dharavi Depot. The building that houses the office, where you make your payment, and Education Centre is towards the right. There are many small trees and shrubs planted around it, which attract butterflies in the morning
Moving further, you would see three parallel paths moving towards the Nursery area at the other end of the park (exactly opposite Dharavi Depot). If you follow the outermost path (Path 3), you would go past a large pond and reach the banks of the Mithi river. The river is very wide here and the buildings of the BKC seem far away. On most mornings, you would see a host of water birds in the river, mostly towards the BKC bank. Path 2 is the innermost path that runs parallel to the road, while Path 1 is in the middle and goes past an Astral Garden that is on a raised platform. On my first visit, I did not get time to check it out, but I am told that it contains trees corresponding to all 27 rashis and nakshatras. Talk about mixing science and pseudo-science!
When my friends and I visited MNP recently, it was the middle of winter and there were not many flowers to be seen. But we did come across many butterflies, though mostly of common varieties, and a few not-too-common birds like kingfishers and coppersmith barbets. A pair of brown kites were nesting in the tress near the main office, despite the constant and raucous harassment of the park's many resident crows. I hope to make another trip in the post-monsoon months when I hope to see and photograph many more winged beauties