Located about 10 km from Panvel city and 65 km from Mumbai, Karna Fort is is situated within the Karnala Bird Sanctuary.
We planned for the trek just a day before and may be due to this last-minute planning only 5 of us joined for the trek. On 28th Oct 2017, we started from chembur at around 8:30 am and reached Karnala Bird Sanctuary at around 10 am. It was quite crowded with lots of vehicle and bus were parked near the sanctuary gate.
Since it is a protected area, the authority charge an entry fee of Rs 30 per person and also for parking Rs 100 per car. To maintain the area clean of plastics, at the entry point they also check the number of bottles you are carrying and ask for Rs 200/- as a deposit to be refunded on your return if you show them the same number of bottles 😊. I found It is really working and may be due to this it is one of the few trekking sites where there is no dumping of plastic bottles or any other wastes in the route.
It was 28th Oct 2017 and being a Saturday there were many trekkers on that day. We had started the trek around at 10:30 am and reached back to the entry point at around 3:30 pm after spending almost an hour at the fort areas. My smart watch recorded a total count of 16450 steps . There are 5 resting places on the pathway made by forest department. The trek route was quite steep and rocky, but still can be considered as an easy trek compare to my past trekking experience. On our way to the Top we could see many families with kids as well as group from schools enjoying the trek. Since it was a small trek of approx. 1200 ft, we were relaxing on the route while enjoying the natural swings by the tree roots at many places. It took almost 2 hours for us to reach at the top. From the top the view of Mumbai- Goa highway and the many other forts like Prabalgad, Manikgad, Haji Malang, Chanderi fort, Matheran, Sankshi fort, Dronagiri fort, and Rajmachi was marvelous. Though it is also a Bird Sanctuary we could not spot any, however we could hear the birds’ chirpings on our way.
On the top there are two forts adjacent to each other. At the middle there is a 125 feet high basalt pillar which is popular as Pandu’s tower. This pillar served as a watchtower when the fort was occupied, however now it is in a ruined state. There is a water reservoir just below the Pandu’s tower. There is a temple dedicated to goddess Bhavani located at the bottom of the fort.
It is believed that the fort was built before 1400 under the Devagiri Yadavs and the Tughlaq rulers when Karnala was the capital district of their empires. Later it fell into the hands of the Gujarat Sultanate but was eventually taken over by the Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar in 1540. Subsequently the Gujarat Sultanate taken the help of the Portuguese to win the Karnala Fort back with 500 soldiers. The fort was it in the hands of Gujarat sultans but under the garrison of the Portuguese. Afterwards the Gujarat sultans fled from Karnala, leaving the fort under complete control of the Portuguese. Subsequently the enraged Nizam Shah sent 5000 men to recapture the fort but failed in his attempt. Later on considering the fort a little strategic value to them, the Portuguese agreed to return the fort to Nizam Shah for an annual payment of INR 17500. During 1670 Shivaji Maharaj conquered this Fort. After his death in 1680, it was taken over by Aurangzeb and the fort was with Mughals till 1740. In 1740 this fort went to the hand of Peshwas of Pune. During British rule colonel Prother won the fort in 1818.
In this month of October it was quite hot at the top through the trek route is completely under tree shades and at many places there were natural swings by the tree roots which offers a quite relaxing trek. During monsoon may be the trek will be more challenging and exciting.