« Back to articlePrint this article

#AroundMumbai: Elephanta Caves

Last updated on: April 07, 2015 17:17 IST

The popular island just off the coast of Mumbai has a lot more to offer than you know.

Photograph: Louis Vest/Creative Commons

Mumbaikars love to include Elephanta Caves in their sightseeing itinerary for visiting relatives.

Being situated between South Mumbai in the west and Uran in the east, the Elephanta Island is a floating drop of wilderness that transports its visitors away from the bustling city.

So when my friend had his 83-year-old grandfather visiting him for a couple of weeks, he took him to Elephanta on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The old man, a political activist in a leading national party, is an avid traveller and rued over his fettle, that prevented him to join us on the upper deck of the ferry.

Reaching Elephanta is a very exhilarating experience.

After you arrive at Gateway to by the time you take ticket for ferry, stand in queue and jump on the boat ramming against stairs, the excitement keeps building.

As the ferry surges ahead, negotiating it's path from patrol vessels, yachts, ferries and boats, people line up on the lower deck popping a ten rupee note which allows them to take wooden ladder and move to upper deck.

It offers a far better view and is a pretty enjoyable experience.

Few hundred meters into the sea you get to see some of the finest of Indian war ships docked in the nearby naval facility.

The operator, at this point prohibits tourist from taking photographs, many of them foreigners.

Further ahead, sea gulls fly chasing you for puffed rice that are thrown to them by boatmen.

Their sounds are vexatious but the way they fly following you overhead, makes it an enthralling experience.

It is one thing to reach the island, quite another to reach the caves.

First you land on to the concrete jetty which is an extension of a kilometre long path and then you climb up the stairs.

If you are not in the best of your health, my advice is to take the toy train, but if you have walked the whole stretch, you should buy mineral water first, even when it's overpriced, for it will be something you will need as you trudge up the stairs.

While my friend and I walked merrily, his grandfather had to take the toy train.

Near the stairs, one can hire the service of locals who carry you in palanquins -- a facility mostly availed by seniors.

Though the service and price is regulated by a government agency, be warned, you could be asked to pay a fortune for it.

After being unsuccessful in cutting a deal with locals who could carry him in palanquin, he put up a brave face and tried to hike all the way up, but soon realised that he couldn't do it.

We continued striding up, while he wished to stay put at one of the many shops that line up the pathway.

The pathway is lined up by shops selling fancy items.

They are made up like shanties, with blue plastic sheet wrapped around to cover from rains.

The shutter, which is an extension of the blue plastic, is stretched over your head, providing much needed relief from the incandescent sun.

I had been to caves earlier, so I decided to check out the other parts of the island which have huge population of monkeys.

Strolling around, we discovered a lake which we hadn't seen before.

While you alight from the ferry at Elephanta, you will hear boat operators announcing that the last boat leaves the island at six in the evening.

Though I have reasons to doubt this, it's definitely better to leave an hour earlier than the deadline.

You avoid the last-minute rush and by the time you reach near the shore, the sun sets over Mumbai, needless to say a very pleasant experience.

The visiting grandfather, on the way back, had ensured to choose a boat which had steps instead of ladder to go to upper deck.

After occupying a seat there, he was visibly happy.

"We are going to Triambak next weekend, will you join us?" he asked when I was about to board a local train at CST station.

"Triambak! Where is that place?" I enquired.

"Join us next weekend, you will see," he said as I got hold of a window seat.

Text and photographs (except the lead): LenzView

Lenz View is a travel photographer and writer.

Also See: Notes from a road trip

What is your favourite lesser-known attraction in India? We'd love to know.

Please write in to (subject line: 'Travelling the lesser-known'), along with photographs of the destination you are writing about. We'll publish the best ones on

> More Travel features here