Words AMRITA LALL
Photographs T KRISHNA PRABAKAR
Out of Mumbai (490 km)
Amboli, nestled in the crest of the Western Ghats, is the last hill-station in Maharashtra before the coastal highlands of Goa. Every monsoon, it turns out into a playground of sorts. On the one hand, there are frogs of many, many species that come out to attract potential mates; on the other are snakes that lie quietly in wait for them. You might or might not be lucky enough to witness live action, but you will hear it – a chorus of croaks, a typewriter-like clicking, a low, clear whistling, and the steady patter of raindrops on the wet forest floor serving as the ideal background score.
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) organises camps in unspoilt little nooks of the Western Ghats that let you explore secluded forest trails where it’s likely that you will be privy to the above-mentioned scene. Few people come into the thick forest, so you pretty much get it all to yourself. While the day trails let you appreciate the evergreen forest in all its lush glory, it is at night that the smaller creatures come out to say hello. The night trails, led by experts from the BNHS will take you deep into the wet forest. Keep your eyes peeled: you might just spot the venomous Malabar pit vipers curled up on leaves or draped across branches – they have a distinctive triangular head that’s easy to identify. The trees are also filled with bright green Malabar gliding frogs whose jumps resemble flights. Around breeding season, they gather around water bodies – huge bullfrogs, male cricket frogs whose vocal sacs swell into giant translucent bubbles as they croak lustily to attract the larger females, and male wrinkled frogs guarding their mates’ eggs or serenading them with a whistle. There are striking colours on display too, like the bright crimson of the Malabar hill frog, the critically endangered tiger toad, and the fluorescent green of the semi-venomous vine snake.
But, not all your time here needs to revolve around frogs and snakes. The source of the Hiranyakeshi River is close by, a spring gushing forth from an ancient cave atop which stands a temple. While it can get pretty crowded in the rains, if you make your way away from the din and towards the calm meadows, you’ll spot more creatures like shy crabs or feisty scorpions. You’ll also find some street-side vendors along the way selling hot corn-on-the-cob – do stop for some.
The monsoon is really when the creepy-crawlies come out to play, so make sure you pay attention when the guides examine the undersides of rocks in the region – they’re home to everything from caecilians, which resemble snakes or large worms, to white-banded geckos. After a few trails, you’ll learn to look for wildlife in the right places and might even be able to identify some species by their calls. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Malabar giant squirrel romping about in the treetops. Make sure you do look up every once in a while – isn’t that a gorgeous Malabar pied hornbill soaring across the skies?
Over the course of your weekend in Amboli, you are bound to marvel at how, every monsoon, the misty hill-station turns into a haven for the beautiful little creatures you’ve just discovered. Mark the perfect end to the weekend as all good, rainy days must be celebrated – with some hot pakodas and chai – in the company of like-minded explorers and fellow fans of monsoon discoveries.
To get acquainted with the smaller creatures during the monsoon, travel to Amboli NOW – check out LPMI’s July 2019 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.