Enjoy a more eco-friendly stay in Mumbai with our green guide to the city, taken from travel bible Great Escapes.
Visit a handicraft centre
India is home to over a billion people, more than a thousand distinct languages and countless different arts and handicrafts. Travelling across the country, you’ll no doubt encounter some of these crafts, but the trouble is, in such a large place, it would take you a lifetime to trawl them all. Fortunately, since 1960, Fabindia has been collecting them and bringing them to a single location. Pay a visit to one of its stores – showcasing the finest hand-made linens, textiles, garments and jewellery, sourced directly from village craftsmen – and you’re bound to find something worth taking home.
Fabindia has eleven stores in Mumbai, often open until 9pm or later. They also sell organic food. Visit www.fabindia.com for more information.
Sleep in the park with leopards
Where London has Hyde Park and New York has Central Park, Mumbai has Sanjay Gandhi National Park, also known as Boravili. While the others are well-tended city parks, however, Sanjay Gandhi is, in places, truly wild. So wild that there are leopards and, reputedly, the occasional tiger lurking about – but they are shy beasts, so the chances of coming across one are pretty slim. Beloved by Mumbaikers for a stroll, the huge park provides a unique getaway from the crowds pounding the hot streets of the city. Better still, book yourself into one of the park huts, and as the hordes of people ebb away towards closing time, you’ll have the park to yourself. The huts themselves are very simple – there are no mod cons – but that’s of no significance as you peer through your hut window, aware that somewhere out there in the inky blackness, a leopard is prowling.
To reserve a stay in either the forest lodge or one of the surrounding huts, go to http://www.tourism-of-india.com/sanjaygandhi.
Stay in an Ecotel
If the thought of leopards outside your bedroom window isn’t your cup of chai, there are two great hotels in Mumbai offering alternative encounters with nature. The five-star Orchid is 15min from the international airport, has a 21m waterfall in the lobby and its own rooftop swimming pool from where you can survey the busy Mumbai skyline. The three-star Rodas, meanwhile, is located on the edge of Powai Lake, where you can take a boat out and watch the crocodiles basking on the banks. By undertaking a range of initiatives to reduce their environmental impact – from the design of the buildings, stringent water and energy conservation, composting food waste and even providing sustainably produced slippers in every room, both hotels show that if you can do it in one of the world’s biggest cities, you can do it anywhere.
Tour the slums
You might not think a slum could be a tourist destination, but responsible tour operator Reality Tours and Travel aims to banish that preconception by taking visitors around Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia. It’s a noisy, vibrant place – packed full of kids, people going about their daily business and scavenging goats – but Reality Tours and Travel ensures you aren’t there to gawp; the people make sure that the people you meet will benefit from your trip, with eighty percent of profits going to local charities. A tour highlight is a visit to the school and community centre built with these funds.
Reality Tours also offers market and village tours. It’s possible to volunteer at the centre for periods of three months or more. www.realitytoursandtravel.com.