1 Be a rock star Members of Girivihar, a mountaineering club started in 1954, teach amateurs rock climbing every weekend at Parsik Hills in Belapur. On average, eight to 13 people show up for these free sessions, which include the safety equipment required for the climb. For those in the city on a weekday, they conduct similar sessions at Podar College. www.girivihar.org.
2 Walk behind Mumbai’s most famous facade No one should miss the opportunity to waltz up Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus’ majestic staircase that lies beneath the ornamental stained glass in the colossal dome. The Central Railway’s heritage tour takes you through this and more, revealing interesting nuggets on the city along the way, such as the Fairy Queen, the oldest steam engine in the country dating back to around 1855 and still in working order.
3 Check out B-grade cinemas In a kind mood, we would call Grant Road the Broadway of Mumbai. With 19 theatres within shouting distance in its heyday, the place is a cinematic artefact. Weave your way through the street to see Moti Talkies, Silver Talkies, Super Plaza Cinema, Imperial Theatre and Novelty. You’ll soon realise that these B-grade cinemas contribute to the film industry as much as A-list actors. Start your walk at Imperial Theatre at DB Marg.
4 Clean up a fort In the early ’90s, the crumbling, creeper-covered walls of Vasai’s Bassein Fort had caught Shridatta Raut’s imagination and fuelled his passion for Maratha history. But he was dismayed to find visitors had littered the premises. So he did what any sensible man would. He called his friends and started cleaning up. Their frequent sessions led to the creation of Kille Vasai Mohim in 2003, a group of trekkers who double up as conservationists and local historians. They unclog the fort’s sludge-choked water tanks, collect trash and remove graffiti. In the absence of governmental help, they are often the only ones maintaining the fort. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trawl through the by-lanes and you’ll find a curious range of shops. A-1 Corner is a cine-buff’s dream. It’s stacked with original, unused movie posters including the original artworks for Sholay (1974) and Rail Ka Dibba (1953). Haji Ebrahim is another store that stocks about 25,000 records. The Art Palace is filled with statues and antiques of grand proportions such as chests, fountains and sculptures. And Abdul Gani Ebrahim has one of the largest offerings of antique wall clocks, pocket watches, world clocks and gramophones.
6 Venture into a restricted zone Every year Bombay Natural History Society conducts a nature walk along the Shilonda trail, which lies in a restricted area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. These walks give nature lovers a chance to explore the biodiversity of the deep forest. Each group of 25 is accompanied by a botanist and a zoologist, who can point out interesting facts such as the life cycle of insects. Although, the main draw of the event is that you can spot exotic vegetation including the arjun tree and rare insects as well. www.bnhs.org.
7 Explore the city’s wetlands Since 2006, the non-profit organisation Vanashakti has been working for environmental causes such as the conservation of mangroves. While bird watching groups often trek through the mangroves, Vanashakti’s trail is the first to focus on the tropical vegetation. Flamingos, egrets, storks, herons, sandpipers and gulls can usually be spotted, as well as a host of snakes including the rat snake, vine snake and the dog-faced water-snake. email@example.com (+91 226 529 1089).
8 Ride the bulls
Riding a bullock-cart is a noisy affair – there’s the constant rattle of a wooden wagon bouncing over uneven surfaces interspersed with the driver’s guttural cries and open-handed thwacks to keep the bulls moving at a constant pace. Once you get used to the medley, however, steering the cart is rather intuitive – rein the left bull in to go left and vice versa. And any adventurous city slicker can take a pair of bullocks out for a spin at Saguna Baug, an agritourism set-up in Neral. (+91 987 096 6910).
Need to know
Getting there Air India flies direct to Mumbai from Dhs1,090 return. www.airindia.in