One of the offbeat & unique things to do in Mumbai, that I had been wanting to do for a long time was visit the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and take their safari in Mumbai. I had seen such beautiful pics of these pink Flamingo birds in various locations that I wanted to actually see them myself & click some beautiful pics! The Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary in Airoli Navi Mumbai, is best suited for this…a boat ride takes you into their natural habitat.
Flamingos are the lovely long-legged birds with bright pink feathers. Their name is derived from the Spanish word meaning “flame-colored”, as these birds are famous for their vibrant appearance. I thought these birds were born pink, but hey! They’re born white & grey. How do the flamingos turn pink? Well, it’s their food….only after they start eating the algae here, they turn pink! How amazing is that!!
The Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary region is where these beautiful birds fly in from Kutch for more than 3 months in the summers & paint Mumbai’s seashore pink. The Flamingo safari takes you extremely close to these Flamingo birds & they can be seen clearly with their brood from a boat, hence this place has become the talk of the town. Plan an outing with friends or family, the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary is worth a visit in the migratory season.
Let me share the details of how & when to plan this trip! 🙂
December- early May is the best time to do the Flamingo boat safari in Mumbai at the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary. Thousands of Flamingos migrate to Mumbai every year between the months of October and March. Imagine, over 30,000 of pink flamingos, along with their chicks, occupy the mudflats and the bordering mangroves. By May-end, these flamingos usually start exiting the city, and completely fly out around June.
Why do the Flamingos turn pink?
During the flamingo boat safari at the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, I was surprised to learn that Flamingos are not born pink, they turn pink from the food they eat- they are born white & grey. :O
The bright pink color of Flamingos comes from beta-carotene, a reddish pigment present in huge quantities in the algae that Flamingos eat. The same carotenoids give carrots their orange color & tomatoes their red colour. As the Flamingo feasts on algae, its body metabolizes the pigments, turning its feathers into the beautiful pink that we admire.
How to reach the Flamingo boat safari Airoli creek
Although called Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, the boarding location for the Flamingo boat ride is actually Airoli. You will know when you are nearby- Flamingo statues start appearing as soon as you turn from Eastern express highway towards Airoli. 😀
Which is the station nearest to Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary?
From central train line, Nahur is the nearest station
From the harbour side, Airoli is the nearest station
From there, ricks, Ola, Uber etc. are easily available. We had booked an Uber from our home itself for convenience.
The Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, Mumbai
The grounds of the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary were very pleasant, very neatly maintained & absolutely green. There was a counter from which the tickets were to be picked up- if booked earlier. You can also find a museum that was interactive with sounds of birds at the press of buttons; children would love this very much, we adults did too! 🙂
The Flamingo boat safari jetty was about a 5 mins walk & there were benches around for waiting. The boat had enough life jackets & 2-3 employees manning the wheel & acting as our guides. They were really informative & spoke at length about the types of Flamingos, what they eat etc. It was from him we learnt about Greater & Lesser Flamingos, their season and how Flamingos turn pink.
The 24-seater boat safari takes us inside the mangroves & goes as deep as 10 km. The flamingo boat ride was of an hour, however we could not spot Flamingos for about 20 mins & were worried whether we would see any at all! And then, almost suddenly, after a turn…there were rows of Flamingos as far as the eye could see…a much awaited pretty sight indeed.
The Lesser Flamingo is the smallest species of Flamingo, with a dark red beak and a black tip while the Greater Flamingo is the largest species of Flamingo, with a Pink beak and a black tip.
As one Flamingo took flight, the rest followed and formed a beautiful formation, a treat to the eyes! The boat bobbed there for some time allowing us to soak in the beauty before we returned. It is best enjoyed with binoculars so make sure you carry them. All the while, the guide told us details of the Flamingos & answered our questions with great interest & enthusiasm.
There is also a boardwalk & creek view that’s worth visiting.
- Imp: Unfortunately, there’s no cafeteria/ canteen for water, tea or snacks. There was a cooler though. We were completely burnt out by the time we finished our Flamingo boat ride, given the April weather so do carry snacks & water from home! And wear comfortable cotton clothes.
We went to Wadhwa R Galleria, Mulund for desperately required food & a cool-down before we started on our return journey.
Flamingo safari booking Airoli
How to book Flamingo boat safari in Mumbai
We WhatsApped the CMBC no: +91 9987673737 & they sent us a monthly schedule for boat safari at the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary. The timings for boat ride change daily as per high tide so there aren’t fixed timings. However, there are 3 rides daily.
We chose 2-3 dates & timings & enquired about availability. Once confirmed, the payment for the Flamingo boat safari Airoli can be made by QR code scanning or account transfer to secure the seats. Confirmation is received over WhatsApp itself. Tickets can be picked at the site just before boating.
Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre
2/Mangrove Forest, Sector 10, Diva Nagar Road
Airoli, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra 400708
Office Timings: 10 am to 6 pm- Flamingo safari boat rides are from 8am to 5 pm. But the schedule changes daily as per high tide timings.
Flamingo Sanctuary entry fees: INR 50 for adults, INR 25 for kids
Flamingo safari boat ride charges:
– INR 396 (Monday to Friday), INR 528 (Saturday & Sunday) per person.
– INR 6,600 per speedboat for 7 people: weekdays, INR 7920: weekends
If you book a boat ride, the entry charges do not have to be paid.
What to expect at the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary boat safari Airoli
You can see large flocks of the Lesser Flamingos and Greater Flamingos. It was a beautiful sight to see rows & rows of them together & then taking flight & flying in beautiful formations.
The boat maintains some distance & keeps bobbing in the water a little distance away, hence binoculars are recommended.
I also expected to see Flamingos like this…in the sand, on one leg as generally shown in pics. Since the boat ride happens during high tide only & the Flamingos go to the shore during low tide only, you will not get to see both together- either you take a boat & see them in water; or forget boating & just visit the creek in low tide to see them feeding near the shore.
Where can we see Flamingos in Mumbai
Flamingos can be seen at Sewri, Wadala, Bhandup & New Mumbai apart from the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary. But boating is available only at Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary Airoli.
Top places for Flamingo watching in Mumbai
Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary: Boat ride from Airoli.
NRI Complex, Seawoods in Navi Mumbai.
Bhandup Pumping Station.
Where to see Flamingos in Mumbai
These elegant tall-legged birds can be found from the New Mumbai & Thane Creek to the Sewri jetty area in Mumbai. But the Flamingo boat safari happens only in the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.
How to book Flamingo boat safari in Airoli
Whatsapp the CMBC no. given above for boat ride schedule, decide your dates & make payment. You will receive confirmation on WhatsApp itself.
Where can we see Flamingos in India
In Gujarat, Flamingos can be sighted at the Bird Sanctuaries of Nal Sarovar, Khijadiya, Thol & the Flamingo City during the winter season.
Why Greater Flamingo migrate to India
Greater Flamingos migrate to India to find a warmer climate for food and to lay eggs. Most Flamingos that migrate return to their native colony to breed.
Flamingo City in India
Flamingo City lies in the Rann of Kutch. This area is famous for the nesting of Greater Flamingo in winters.
This is one of the offbeat things to do in Mumbai during the Flamingo season for an unique experience available at very few places in India. Do take advantage of being a Mumbaikar and do something fun with your family & friends this weekend! 🙂