There are certain places where travelling to that spot is more than half the fun. And the UNESCO heritage site of Elephanta Caves is definitely one such place. Known for its rock-cut caves, Elephanta Island is located about 11km from Mumbai. Being an island, it can only be reached by the water, and that is where the fun begins. The hour-long ferry ride meanders parts giant ships, accompanied by flocks of seagulls.
The journey starts from Wellington Pier (formerly Apollo Bunder), located next to the Mumbai’s most famous landmark — the Gateway of India. The harbour is crowded with all sorts of vessels and the ferry makes its way out of the crowded harbour. As it goes a little farther, the crowded harbour and the grand view of the Mumbai skyline unfolds. The iconic Gateway of India, the majestic Taj Mahal Hotel and a host of other beautiful buildings make for a splendid view, with the scattered ships and boats in the foreground creating a stunning spectacle.
You will see massive cargo ships on the way past the harbourRangan Datta
The area has a heavy naval presence, and ships and boats of Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard are can be spotted at regular intervals. Apart from the ships, the Navy also has a host of other infrastructure, including fort-like structures built on small islands. The most prominent among these is the island of Middle Ground Coastal Battery. It is a rocky outcrop in Thane Creek and was fortified by the East India Company to keep an eye on pirates. Today, it functions as a heritage Indian naval base.
The rocky outcrop of Middle Ground Coastal BatteryRangan Datta
Standing on the upper deck of the ferry is an amazing experience and soon the skyline of Apollo Bunder goes out of sight. The ferry sails on, dodging past an assortment of other ferries and large ships. The highlight of the ferry ride to Elephanta Island is the flocks of Black Headed Seagulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus). These migratory birds are winter visitors to the Mumbai region. A large number of tourists travelling on the ferry feed the birds with packaged fried snacks, which is extremely harmful for the birds’ health. The birds are now so familiar with humans, that they sometime pick the food directly from the hands of the tourists. The area near Gateway of India has boards mentioning that feeding of birds is prohibited, but once on a boat, no rules are followed.
While feeding the seagulls is prohibited, no rules are followed on board the ferryRangan Datta
The ferry continues sailing past gigantic cargo ships and oil tankers from far-off lands. Slowly, Elephanta Island, with its two hills, comes into sight. The island covers an area of 1,050 hectares and the highest point rises to a height of 173m above sea level. The island has a coastline of 7km and is approached by a pier, located on the northern side. The pier consists of an arched pathway leading to the island.
Sailing past a naval shipRangan Datta
A toy train runs along the pier and ferries tourist to the island. But the journey is short and many tourists prefer a leisurely walk. On reaching the ground level of the island, a long flight of stairs leads to the caves. There are 100+ steps and it is not very steep and the entire route is lined with souvenir and artifacts shops.
The path leading to the Elephanta Caves is lined with souvenir shopsRangan Datta
- The ferry operates every half an hour
- The first ferry leaves Gateway of India at 9.30am
- The last ferry leaves Gateway of India at 2pm
- The first ferry leaves Elephanta Island at noon
- The last ferry leaves Elephanta at 5.30pm
- A one-way journey takes an hour
- The round-trip fare for the ferry cost ₹260. A payment of an extra ₹10 will provide a seat on the upper deck
- The caves are closed on Mondays