The last leg of the trip to Dudhsagar waterfall near Goa is to reach Kulem town. The trek is through a 12 kilometer dense rainforest in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, where one would have to wade through numerous streams during the monsoon. In the midst of the jungle is a small tea stall placed in an open space, where one would likely take a break. It’s there during a cup of tea, that I happened to chance upon a photographer’s delight; a rain drenched mammoth sized Blue coloured butterfly fluttering over a bunch of fully bloomed Red Ashoka flowers as its backdrop. Call it my lethargy after the arduous walk or blame it on the constant drizzle, low light, and some enthusiastic ‘nature lovers’ anxiousness to catch the butterfly, I just managed to capture a blurry snapshot of the rare and beautiful sight.
Six months later on a winter Sunday Morning, I made a visit to Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Park. Located at the outskirts of Mumbai in the suburbs of Thane. the Butterfly Garden is a secret few Mumbaikars are aware of. Maharashtra is home to 225 varieties of butterflies and accounts for 15 per cent of the country’s estimated butterfly population. Few years ago, enthused by a programme on butterflies conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Rajendra Ovalekar a naturalist decided to convert his two acres of ancestral agricultural property into a butterfly garden. Amidst the fast growing bustling city characterized by non-stop roar of traffic and high rise concrete structures around, this place serves the purpose of an oasis in the desert. Today the park is a result of his deep rooted knowledge, dedication and perseverance.
The introductory session by Mr. Ovalekar consisted of visitors of all age group ranging from toddlers to senior citizens, where he explained about the various types of butterflies, their life cycle, and the variety of plants that are required to attract them around. He also mentioned the Blue Mormon butterfly found only in Sri Lanka, Western Ghats of Maharashtra, and the coastal belts of India has been declared the State Butterfly of Maharashtra. Hence on, the Blue Mormon became the most sought after species for the various amateur and professional photographers gathered in the park.
Unfortunately in the three hours I spent in the park, the exotic Blue Mormon did a no show. A fellow photographer who had turned up for the second time quipped that he had spotted and clicked a couple of blue Mormon in his last visit to the park. Out of curiosity, I requested him, if he would show me few of the Butterflies’ shots that he had captured. The first few looks at the photos made me ponder what I had missed six months ago in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary. The butterfly I failed to click there was a blue Mormon four times bigger the size of the butterfly my fellow photographer had snapped. I exhaled thinking how I wish, I had known what a blue Mormon butterfly is and how it looks.
Nevertheless, I had a delightful experience at the butterfly park. I came back being a lot more aware about butterflies and the kind of plantations one can grow at home in a balcony garden that can attract butterflies. Apart from main attraction “The Butterflies”, the other draws were the backcountry unwinding atmosphere of the farm (Yes, you get a mat and can order home cooked breakfast like poha and idli). This is a place where you can just enjoy the winter sun lying down on the lush green lawn, gazing the blue skies, reading a book or watching the butterflies gliding through the flowers for hours. You will be transported to your childhood.