Offbeat, Eco-friendly Things to do in Mumbai – 6 Recommendations from Locals
It’s hard to imagine seeking nature-centric, low carbon, community-led experiences in one of India’s most congested and ever-growing cities: Mumbai. So we reached out to a handful of Mumbai locals who are as passionate about their city as they are about environmental and social impact. From flamingo-watching and organic farmers’ markets, to witnessing a circular economy in the city’s largest slum, these are offbeat, immersive and eco-friendly things to do in Mumbai:
1. Walk along the seafront
Living amidst the cacophony of traffic and incessant construction, it’s easy to forget that Mumbai is blessed with a wonderful seafront. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, I think one of the best eco-friendly things to do in Mumbai is just walking around in Colaba, Ballard Pier, Bandra or Dadar – or going for a quick jog at Jogger’s Park in Bandra early in the morning, followed by some bird watching. We spotted and documented nearly 50 unique bird species during one such walk!
Additionally you could also visit the absolutely wonderful Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Centre for an ethical flamingo-watching boat ride. At least momentarily, you’ll forget that you’re in the heart of one of the most congested cities.
- Bandra: Joggers Park – Carter Skatepark – promenade – mangroves near dog park
- Colaba: Art Deco precinct. Start in the center of the Oval Maiden and look for the visual map on the pathway.
2. Slumdog Billionaire: Recycling and unorganized markets at Dharavi
For someone born and brought up in Mumbai, the mention of Dharavi is not the most pleasant one – after all, it is one of the largest slums in the world. But I must thank my American friend who changed its perception for me forever, since it was one of the things he wanted to see in Mumbai.
A tour of this shanty hood is insightful on many levels. For example, I was shocked to hear that over 60% of plastic and 80% of solid waste produced by Mumbai gets recycled here! We often hear about the circular economy and sustainability in posh environments, but Dharavi is where you get to see it happening in real time.
Besides recycling, the unorganized markets here for embroidery, leather, pottery, snacks, faux jewelry, steel and cardboard manufacturing are truly eye-opening. Your trip to Dharavi might even leave you inspired to turn into an entrepreneur, if you aren’t one already!
Pro tip: Read ‘Poor Little Rich Slum’ by Rashmi Bansal before or after your visit for deeper insights into this bustling $1 billion economy!
3. High tea and yoga with peacocks
When we know something is beautiful and awe-inspiring, it becomes second nature for us to ensure that it lasts for as long as it possibly can. That’s pretty much what sustainability is all about – and if you want to really appreciate the city of Mumbai in all its glory, make an online appointment to visit the Governor’s bungalow.
Well-preserved for over 150 years, this lush expanse of 44 acres of land surrounded by sea on three sides even has a thick forest, its own private beach and untouched lawns that are home to 25 peacocks (last time I checked) and other flora and fauna.
When I last visited, there were talks of a bunker being opened to the public, where they found cannons used in wars. After savouring some refreshing tea and saluting the flag, I recommend heading to two other nearby places of interest – Banganga and Hanging Gardens.
Such pockets of bliss in the midst of a mad metropolis are beacons of hope, reminding us and inspiring us to tread lightly and appreciate the beauty around us.
Tips 1, 2 and 3 are recommended by Kaushal Karkhanis of Exotic Gringo. Currently shuttling between Goa and Mumbai, Kaushal is a solo, slow travel blogger who puts people, perspectives & palates over places, and counts time spent and meaningful connections made in a place more than countries. Follow Kaushal on Instagram.
4. Trek in a protected forest
In the heart of bustling Mumbai in Goregaon East is a hidden gem – the Conservation Education Centre, located amidst a lush green protected forest that hosts a variety of endemic trees, birds and even a resident leopard! Nothing is more exhilarating than an early morning trek in the forest conducted by trained volunteers who share interesting information and fun facts, making it an enjoyable experience for all ages.
An event close to my heart was their zero waste, eco-friendly New Year celebrations. It started with a thrilling treasure hunt with clues hidden in and around the centre, followed by an adventurous night trail in the forest. A round of star gazing added to the celebrations. The festivities ended with wholesome, locally prepared cuisine, and with each one of us taking a Green Pledge.
Recommended by Sharmila Vasudevan. Sharmila is a corporate leader turned independent writer, singer, voice artist, green crusader. She hopes to make a difference through words, voice and song. She has lived in Mumbai for 50+ years and has a deep passion for nature, wildlife and sustainable practices.
5. Climb Gilbert Hill: The oldest remnant of Mumbai’s past
While overtourism often harms natural wonders, the lack of tourism poses a threat to Mumbai’s best-kept secret: Gilbert Hill – a 66 million-year-old basalt rock formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. Yes, you heard that right! One of merely three such formations in the entire world, this hill stands as a remarkable testament to my city’s geological history.
Yet, even Mumbaikars, including my family members, don’t know of this 200-foot monolith, trapped today between neighbouring high-rises. Nevertheless, once you find your way through the puzzle of narrow streets of Andheri, you are bound to be stunned by the sheer mass of rock rising from beneath. The ascent of 250-odd steps leading to the Gaondevi temple perched atop lets you experience the ancient frozen lava up close.
I highly recommend getting there early to catch a spectacular sunrise over Mumbai or to spot Black kites fiercely hovering above. Your visit can actually play a large role in conserving what little is left of this precious monument, helping it earn a well-deserved status among the city’s top highlights.
Recommended by Forum Parekh of Barriers and Borders. Forum was born and raised in Mumbai. She runs a travel blog ‘Barriers and Borders’ along with her partner, where they write about meaningful travel stories while promoting sustainable, mindful and ethical exploration. Having lived in Mumbai for 25 years, she was always on the hunt for hidden gems amid the urban chaos, especially during her time as an architecture student at a local university. Some of her favourites include the fishing villages of Uttan, Sewri fort and the rock-cut caves of Jogeshwari & Mandapeshwar. Follow Forum on Instagram.
6. Visit the Organic Farmers’ Market
My Sunday morning ritual for many years has been going with my family to the organic Farmers’ Market in Bandra, initiated by Kavita Mukhi. The Farmers’ Market promotes rural, certified organic farmers with small holdings. It features new and exciting earth-friendly trade, workshops and an organic café. Over the years it has moved to different locations in Bandra. However, the ethos and the focus on reasonably priced produce in an eco-friendly and sustainable fashion remains the same.
It’s a great place to pick up your groceries or settle down with a nice breakfast (served with compostable cutlery). Vendors encourage people to bring their own bags or provide jute bags on sale. Connect with like-minded locals who are regulars, who form a community that value health and care for Mother Earth. Learn about cow dung mosquito repelling cakes, herbal or natural alternatives to cleaning and personal care products, or chat with visiting artisans from rural areas.
Recommended by Vinita Contractor, a holistic nutrition & lifestyle coach based in Bombay. She offers personalised one-on-one nutrition and lifestyle coaching programs as well as group programs. Follow Vinita Contractor on Instagram.