The leafy and quiet centre for marine diversity built in Airoli, at the edge of the Thane creek, may seem like an unlikely place to be fun and educative, but visitors to Coastal and Marine Biodiversity (CMCB) centre have a multi-sensory experience to look forward to.
The 7,000-sq ft construction provides information to visitors in unique ways. For instance, visitors not interested in reading about birds and mammals can hear what a bird sounds like while singing to attract a mate. The centre has recorded sounds of kingfishers, flamingos, frogs, whistling ducks — all from the Thane creek and also of dolphins and whales. Visitors can also watch a turtle lay an egg or smell mangroves. They can also watch night creatures of the mangroves, including dog-faced water snakes and night herons hunting for prey. Or they can see what crabs, birds, flamingos and fish look like from different angles. All this can be experienced through multi-sensory and mechanical exhibits at the centre. The facility has a selfie point with stuffed turtles, duck and flamingos and a large wall, where visitors can compare their height with different turtles. Over 600 marine species as well as information on marine ecology are on display at the centre.
Opened in 2017, the CMCB is a state-of-the-art facility, making it the country’s third marine interpretation centre and the only one in Maharashtra. The 44-ft carcass of a blue whale has been a great crowd puller. The carcass was washed ashore at Kegaon beach near Uran in Navi Mumbai last year. The skeletal remains will be displayed at the marine mammal museum, currently under construction.
Additional features include a mangrove trail walk, education centre, crab farming, ornamental fish farming, and a spot to photograph birds, said Mayur Bothe, Range Forest Officer from the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.
The Mangrove Cell has been operating two boats — one 24-seater and a seven-seater — since February 1 from its centre. The boat ride takes the visitors through the thick mangrove cover, towards Diva and Vashi. The 26-km Thane creek is the largest in Asia and a haven for over 200 bird species, and 13 types of crabs.
Bothe said, “On an average, we are getting 3,000 visitors per month. Since the boat ride is scheduled as per tides, each month there are 27 to 30 rides in all.”