Offering an opportunity at nature education for Mumbaikars fed up with the urban monotony, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park Saturday hosted a camping event called ‘Night under the Stars’. The event entailed star gazing and an early morning forest trail on Sunday.
Conducted by Nature Information Centre (NIC), the event was attended about 25 people, mostly parents with their school children, and college goers.
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“Away from the usual pollution of Mumbai, the night sky, when looked at from the forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is magnificent,” said Shardul Bajikar, the chief naturalist and event coordinator.
With sumptuous meals and tented dormitory accommodations, the campers watched the sky with the help of high-quality telescopes and interstellar insights from experts.
“The sky above Mumbai is the best for star gazing from November to May, when there is lesser humidity,” said Satish, an expert stargazer.
Receiving inputs from the studies of astronomy and Greek and Indian mythology about stars and their patterns by the guides, “the children got a practical orientation of what they are being taught in school right now,” said a parent of a five-year-old.
Aloma Rego, another camper, expressed that it is her love for the moon and curiosity for astronomy that pulled her to the event. Her husband Puneet Rego, however, said, “I had expected the setting to be more rustic, perhaps from a hilltop without the intrusive lights of the city.”
The campers, nonetheless, did feel that merely gazing at the immensity of the sky is “reinvigorating and soothing”.
“The entire week you get crushed down by people. Twenty minutes away from the Borivli station on a weekend and you don’t feel that you are anywhere near the city,” said Bajikar. Having started such outreach activities about a year-and-a-half ago, he is glad about the fact that NIC is conducting camps to “involve people in a structured way rather than letting them roam around the place without them knowing much about it”.
After the well-spent night, the early morning three-km long Shilonda nature trail in this urban wilderness, filled with interesting natural history, was equally awe-inspiring for the campers.
“Summers are the best times for forest trails not simply to see the spectacular wildlife, but also for the flora,” said Sandeep Kachhap, a guide.