Umbarli is a small village near Dombivli, which is known as the village of crows. I came to know of the place from a news article that mentioned a group of nature lovers in Dombivli who were working hard to save the forest around the bird sanctuary. So I decided to cycle to Umbarli to see the place for myself.
The village is located in the forest of the Umbarli Bird Sanctuary, in an area of about 100 acres of forest land that is flanked by the Kalyan-Shilphata road to the west, and the Pipeline Road that leads to Badlapur to the south.
I started from Andheri at 6 am and reached the Umbarli lake by 8 am, covering a distance of just over 40 km. I entered Umbarli from the pipeline road that leads towards Badlapur.
I paid my respects at the Gaon Devi Mandir next to the lake, and the Shiva Temple. I met some other cyclists from Dombivli who came for their daily morning ride to Umbarli. They greeted me warmly, and guided me to the path that leads to the hills of the bird sanctuary.
I rode along the mud path that leads to Umbarli hills, and carried my cycle up to the small viewing gallery. I noticed a group of people at the top of the hill and went to meet with them.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was the very group of local nature lovers led by avid adventurer Mangesh Koyande, who were taking all the efforts to conserve the bird sanctuary, and who were struggling against commercial interests to conserve the forest.
I came to know that there are 135 documented domestic bird species in the bird sanctuary. Check this link to see the list of birds!
But the most interesting story that Mangesh related to me was about how Umbarli is known as the village of crows! Apparently, hundreds of crows descend on the trees in the village every evening. The villagers have a special relationship to the crows, and they consider the crows as an integral part of their village!
For more information on the Umbarli Bird Sanctuary, please visit their Facebook Page.
Mangesh had come there on his MTB, and we both rode together on the off road section from the hills up to the Kalyan-Shilphata road, with Mangesh guiding me on the route. On my way to Shilphata, I stopped for breakfast of Vada-pav and Tandoori Chai at the Khidkaleshwar Shiva Temple.
As I was riding uphill to Shilphata, I noticed this gateway with a steps leading to the Ganesh Ghol Mandir of Shilphata. I was curious to know more about the temple, and decided to trek uphill.
I carried my bicycle uphill and climbed the hundred odd steps slowly, enjoying the view behind me.
The temple is at a beautiful location, sheltered by a massive rock on the hill!
The idol of Ganesh is a rock formation on the face of the rock on the hill, and the temple is built to ensconce it. Devotees had placed coins to stick to the idol as a sign of respect. I did my the same and stuck one coin as well.
From Shilphata, I took the Rabale road that leads via the Gawli Dev temple and waterfall, to ride towards Airoli.
As I rode over Airoli bridge towards the Eastern Express Highway, I noticed some flamingos on the mudflats below. This is the flamingos annual migratory visit to Mumbai, and I was happy to see some of the flamingos who were visiting the city this year!
I was happy to discover a new place to cycle in the city, and also new friends like Mangesh and the conservation group at Umbarli!