Article Published in Loksatta dated 5th April 09.
Wild Life seekers, bird watchers and nature lovers in general do not need any introduction to Phansad Wild Life Sanctuary in Raigad District, about 150 K.M. from Mumbai. The WLS is more known for vultures, shekhru squirrel, a number of other birds, butterflies and reptiles. Like all other Sanctuaries, not only in Maharashtra, but all through India, its wild life population, too, is on the dwindling graph.
I, however, like Phansad more for its flora than for its fauna. Right now in the month of March it is agog with a lot many species of trees, bushes and creepers on bloom. This WLS is an excellent mix of ever green and rainforest. You visit the Sanctuary at any particular time of the year and you would see a number of species of trees, bushes, creepers and other plants either flowering, fruiting for shedding leaves.
March is the time for Seeta-Ashok (Saraca Indica), Surangi (Ochracarpus longifolius), Lokhandi (Samadera indica), Ookshi (Calycopteris floribunda) and a number of other species of trees, bushes and creepers to be on bloom. Each of these has its own grandeur, look, medicinal properties and commercial value. The first three which are mentioned here are also bear invigorating fragrance. They belong to evergreen species and to the best of my knowledge no sanctuary either in India or elsewhere in the world except the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (having almost similar climatic, geographical and geological conditions as that of Phansad) houses these trees in such a large number. It definitely is worth visiting the Sanctuary to see these flowers – some quite across the branches, some across the bark, some hidden in the leaves and some covering the plant completely! This bloom is likely to remain there until Mid-April after which these would start getting converted into fruits and pods. All of these have their own patronage from amongst birds, butterflies, bees and monkeys apart from the human beings. There are a number of water bodies in the thicket of the forest. The Park Management (Thane Division of Forest (Wild Life) has recently made nice arrangement for about fifty people to stay in nice and safe tents at its Supegaon entrance. Reservations can be made either from Thane or Alibag offices of forest (Wild Life) at modest cost. The WLS is accessible by bus from Alibag, Murund, Roha and other places on the route. For people travelling from Thane, Mumbai, Pune, etc, one may have to change the bus at Alibag, Roha or Murud , as the case may be.
Should you miss this bloom, never mind. Visit it at any time convenient to you. Some or the other species – many of them exclusive to this Sanctuary – and some common to Sahyadri Ranges – would always be in bloom to welcome you. Some of those may also provide you delicious fruits and berries. But , be ready to take long walks through the jungles to really enjoy its flora and fauna.
Thane, 31st March, 2009