Within the fences that surround one of Mumbai’s main tourist attractions, Gateway of India, there are small make-shift sheds with attendants selling ferry tickets to get to Elephanta Island. About an hour ride on a rickety two-level boat from Mumbai, past fishing boats and rigs the size of islands themselves, is Elephanta Island.
It’s a quiet island with five cave temples, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main temple is spectacular, and is surprisingly well preserved. I’ll admit that my husband and I weren’t exactly overcome- I think after our tour of Rajasthan a couple of years ago seeing the remains of the Mogul Empire and Rajputs, as well as our many ruin sight-seeing adventures in Greece, it takes a lot to impress us in terms of large man-made structures turned half rubble (otherwise known as archaeological treasures).
The stroll up the stone steps to the caves doesn’t seem as long as it is due the markets selling handicrafts and food along the way. Small statues, pashmina scarves, and colorful lanterns line the pathway up to the caves. We also indulged in some delicious fire-roasted corn rubbed in lime salt, figuring the recent flames may have killed any bacteria? My toddler loved it!
Perhaps just as exciting to my 15 month old as running around the grand stone interior of the temples was spotting all the monkeys inhabiting the island. It was amusing to watch the monkey bandits lurking in the branches and ropes above us leap down and snatch a corn cob, or an entire soda bottle, out of unsuspecting tourists hands. They were aggressive monkeys, and there were a lot of them. We had to keep our little one from joining the gang, though; she was a bit too eager, and we didn’t think the initiation would have been pretty.
It takes a good four hours to get out to Elephanta Island and explore what it has to offer. It’s something that’s nice to do if you’re looking to get out of bustling Mumbai and hear some birds chirping, and can easily be done in an afternoon if you’ve just come to check out India Gate and Colaba market, for example.
The only real issue we had with venturing out to Elephanta Island with a toddler was keeping her contained on the ferry ride. There were plenty of open spaces surrounding the seat where a crawling or walking baby/ toddler could easily crawl or roll off the boat, so for the hour ride there and back we were terrified and jumpy, trying to keep our busy bee in the center of the ferry and away from the sides, which was challenging at times. It definitely can be a long ride, but well worth it and easy if you have a non-walking baby or older kids who you can reason with (E.g. “If you go to close to the edge you can fall off the boat!”).