9 ways to enhance your Mumbai experience
Mumbai is the commercial capital of India and the largest city of Western India, overlooking the Arabian Sea. South Mumbai has a rich colonial heritage and is home to a few UNESCO heritage sites. However, there is more to Mumbai than just a large metropolis as it is widely perceived. Let me suggest some ideas to enhance your Mumbai experience.
1. Urban Safari
Urban Safari takes a jeep ride into the heart of the Old City of Mumbai. Here, you have the option to explore the “Fort” area, the heart of South Mumbai and home to wide ranging colonial era monuments. Urban Safari offers a deeper insight into the history and heritage of the original “White Town of Bombay”. Another Variant of Urban Safari offers a trip through the bylanes of Byculla, the first suburb of Mumbai. This takes you through areas and offers a historical narrative that even most locals would be unaware about. The third variant of Urban Safari is to visit the sacred enclaves of Banganga and Bhuleshwar, the hidden Portuguese village of Khotachiwadi and the fabled bazars of inner Mumbai where tourists rarely reach. Urban Safari is a must do for every traveller looking for a unique urban experience, not offered elsewhere.
Note: Urban Safaris are 2.5 hours to 4 hours long and are best done during mornings or evenings.
2. Heritage Walk
Heritage walks (2-3 hour duration) take travellers to centuries old areas of Mumbai where cars will never reach. There are a series of walks on offer that start from the heritage precinct of Fort and then take you to many heritage areas of South Mumbai such as Gateway of India, Old Customs House, Stock Exchange, the Art District, University, Lion Gate, etc. The walks can either end at Marine Drive (overlooking the Arabian Sea) or Ballard Estate (Port area). There are specialised walks for sacred areas of Banganga and old city areas of Lalbaug, Gamdevi and Parel. Heritage walks are compelling for heritage and experiential travellers as they offer an interesting perspective and insight into the history of Mumbai from a Colonial “Bombay” to a modern day Metropolis.
Gateway of India – Popular part of every heritage walk
3. Slum Walk
Slum walk refers to a guided walk inside the slums of Dharavi (Central Mumbai), considered one of the largest in Asia. The slum walk in an eye-opener for those arriving to see a lot of poverty. The slum today is a heart of various small-scale industries in Mumbai. Here travellers witness a wide range of these activities such as recycling, embroidery, bakery, pottery-making, soap factory, leather tanning and many more. Here visitors are amazed at the spirit of the residents for being able to live and thrive in tiny spaces in a spirit of complete religious harmony. Walking through the narrow bylanes recreates the scenes of the Hollywood movie “Slumdog Millionaire” as one gets an insight into life in the slums of Dharavi. Slum walk is compelling for well heeled experiential travellers and craft enthusiasts.
4. Excursion to Boardwalk by Flamboyante
Boardwalk by Flamboyante is a restaurant at Alibaug on the other side of Gateway of India (South Mumbai), approachable via a ferry / speedboat ride. The entire experience offers travellers superb views of the Arabian Sea on an easy boat ride and cuisine at restaurant overlooking the Arabian Sea. Boardwalk by Flamboyante is popular for special occasions and those looking for exclusive romantic evenings by the Arabian Sea.
5. Sailing around Mumbai
Sailing trips around Mumbai take you from the Gateway of India in a luxury yacht to catch a glimpse of Mumbai’s oldest lighthouses, surrounding birdlife and some stunning views of the Mumbai Coast. The tour operates with two people on board for 2 hours taking you to coastal areas around Mumbai. Sailing can be one of the most romantic experiences where you are treated to a thorough Arabian Sea experience. For groups, there are options for larger boats where one cruises gently around Mumbai for a fun experience.
6. Cycling in South Mumbai
Morning cycling experience in South Mumbai is one of the most compelling experiences for an experiential traveller / heritage traveller and a cycling enthusiast looking to explore the heritage character of Mumbai. You visit / cycle past prime colonial heritage areas of Mumbai (such as CST Station – UNESCO heritage site, University, Flora Fountain, Central Library, Government Buildings, etc), stop over to take pictures, have breakfast at one of the oldest restaurants, with everyone ending at Marine Drive for the Arabian Sea experience.
7. Boating for Flamingos
Bhandup along the Eastern Express Highway in the Central Suburbs of Mumbai is home to a pumping station from where a boat ride is conducted in the creek areas around. These creeks are home to large flocks of flamingos and other migratory birds in winter (Dec – April is best time). The boat ride can be a small 2 persons canoe ride to a 20 persons motor boat, taking you very close to the flamingos from where you can take some stunning bird photos with a backdrop of the city suburbs of Navi Mumbai.
8. Sanjay Gandhi National Park Trek
A guided trek to Sanjay Gandhi National Park situated in Borivali (Northernmost suburb of Mumbai) involves a relatively easy trek through the thick forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. You will visit Kanheri Caves (a Buddhist heritage site), watch some birds and enjoy some fresh air. A typical trek lasts for 2-3 hours and is popularly done by soft trekking and birding enthusiasts.
9. Ethnic Dining Experiences
Mumbai for its rich history and heritage is renowned for its wide ranging ethnic cuisine. Mumbai is one of the few cities in India that has extensive home dining experiences with more than 100 different ethnic cuisine variations on offer, all offering superb authentic cuisine. Mumbai is home to restaurants that serve authentic Coastal Cuisine (Sea food), Goan Cuisine, local Maharashtra Cuisine, and cuisine from the neighbouring state of Gujarat (Vegetarian). A meal either dining at home or at an ethnic cuisine restaurant is a definitive experience for every foodie and experiential traveller.