Saturday, June 16, 2012

Amboli Ghat, Biodiversity Hotspot Batch-2 (10th Aug - 12th Aug'2012)


Nature India's season has started and with it the demand for 2nd batch..... For those who missed batch1.... Here it is, "Batch-2" :-)
Bookings for Amboli Ghat trip, Batch-2 from 10th Aug to 12th Aug 2012 are open (travel days excluded)...
for details see at the end..... Hurry up and register fast as this trip is eagerly awaited by many
...
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AMBOLI GHAT - A Herpetofauna Paradise





Ever heard of " Maharashtra's Cheerapunji”...the wettest place in our state? The hottest biodiversity region in Maharashtra? The cleanest and the greeniest hill station near us?..... Come with Nature India & explore this amazing place called Amboli Ghat…… the dream destination of all the naturalists and which is at its Best in Monsoon.....Great walks, beautiful scenery, loads of biodiversity to look for, waterfalls, balmy climate and local delectable Konkani food…perfect menu set for a short holiday. (some images in this blog are contributed by participants)













Amboli Ghat......Nestled comfortably in the midst of luxuriant foliage on the Sahyadri Mountains in southern tip of Maharashtra and perched at a height of 710m above sea level it  is relatively tranquil and uncluttered by commercialization and unfolds a charisma that appeals to the heart and the soul. This hill station in Sindhudurg district is said to be the wettest in Maharashtra, receiving the highest rainfall (approx.7446 mm) during the rainy season.















Colonel Westrop, who was a British political agent, developed Amboli as a hill station after the opening of the Ghat Road from the coastal town of Vengurla, now in southern Maharashtra, to Belgaum. Amboli is situated on Vengurla-Belgum state highway no 112 in Sindhudurg district. The population is @ 3000. The main road is lined with shops    and small restaurants of all shapes and sizes that form the main bazaar.

Home to innumerable species of animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and medicinal plants, it has contributed generously to our country’s bio-diversity. The valley, hemmed in at all sides, looks protected, sheltered, unexplored, and holding in its secrets. Dense brown green foliage, roots above and below, intertwined branches, creepers, and moss hanging like an afro-braid from branch after branch. Layers of fog surround us, weaving a shroud of mystery as to what lay ahead. At times the strong winds clear the path before us, unfolding a   panoramic view of the scenic valley. The walks to Mahadevgarh, Shirgaonkar & Parikshit Points offer fantastic opportunities to explore these rich forests and also offer spectacular views of valleys below and the Konkan area.



Though Amboli is emerging and is famous as a hill station, not many know that this place is extremely rich in Herpetofauna, wildflowers and birds. Home to myriad species of Amphibians, Amboli is a must visit place in monsoon for all the nature enthusiasts.The star attraction here are the wonderful array of reptiles that includes Malabar Pit ViperGreen Keel BackBanded RacerOlive Forest SnakeBeddome's Keelback SnakeGreen vine SnakesShield tail snakesDeccan-banded Gecko etc. While in   Ambhibians, the Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus), Amboli tree frog (Philautus amboli), Wrinkled frog
 (Nyctibatrachus humayuni)Koyna Toad (Bufo koynayensis), Beddome's burrowing frogCriket frogFungoid frog and the Caecilians will take your breath away.


Amboli is also a hot spot for the variety of wildflowers that bloom in monsoon on sadas (the local name for lateritic plateau). It is also a heaven for wildflower enthusiasts with some rare plants recorded here.

The Birds, though difficult to see in monsoon is well represented with Scarlet MinivetsPuff-throated BabblersBrown-cheeked Fulvettas, Emerald Dove, Red-whiskered & Yellow-browed BulbulsCrimson & Crimson-backed Sunbirds, Leafbirds and many of the Western Ghat   endemics.


Beautiful insect life dominate the surroundings with all sorts of bettles, bugs, lantern flies, butterflies, moths, spiders and what not. Surely, this is one place which you wont like to miss.

Four kilometers away, the river Hiranyakeshi originates from a cave adjacent to a temple of Goddess Parvati at the foot of a mountain. Water rushes out with tremendous force to fall into a squarish tank or ‘Kund’, from where it flows out. Opposite, an old tree offers ample space around its roots to urge devotees to meditate without disturbance


Here are some photo stories of Nature India participants of last year trip.....

There are several trails and points to be explored in Amboli …some of them are



1) Mahadevgad (3 kms)
2) Manohargad- Manasantoshgad point
3) Shirgaonkar point (5 kms)
4) Kalvesad Point (10 kms)
5) Parikshit Point (3 kms)
6) Hiranyakeshi (4 kms)
7) Nagartas Waterfall
8) Sunset Point (2 kms)
*We will visit some of these places during our walks

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Nature India tours has meticulously organized a Herpetofauna trip to this bio-diversity hotspot from 10th Aug to 12th Aug'12 (travel days excluded) with eminent experts in the field.

TRAVEL & STAY ITINERARY. (Ex.Kolhapur )
Though the Camp will be focused on Herpetofauna and to learn more about them, we will also try to look for and learn about everything that we come across including Wildflowers, Birds, Mammals ….

Date: 10th Aug 2012, morning 8.00 am to 12th Aug 2012 eve 8.00 pm
Resource person:  Mr. Abhishek Narvekar (Herpetofauna Expert)
Assistant resource persons: Mr.Mandar Khadilkar & Mr. Adesh Shivkar


TRIP ITINERARY (Itinerary is Ex.Kolhapur) 

Day 1: Friday 10th Aug, 2012 .

Pick up at Shahu Maharaj Terminus, Kolhapur Railway Station at 7.30 am .… Drive to Amboli in minibus…. Check-in….. lunch…….Mini nature trail in Amboli Ghat…return to hotel by evening ...slide show/talk on Herpetofauna of Amboli … dinner… night trail to Shirgaonkar point 

Day 2: Saturday 11th Aug, 2012

After breakfast, morning visit to Parikshit point…lunch….Discussion on sightings…..late evening trail to Mahadevgad…dinner.... night trail near the campus

Day 3: Sunday, 12th Aug, 2012
After breakfast, morning visit to Shirgaonkar Point…..proceed to see Hiranyakeshi temple before Lunch…..Proceed to Kolhapur.... Reptile watching along the way...reach Kolhapur by  18.00 Hrs to catch Mahalaxmi Express from Shahu Maharaj Terminus / Bus at 20:30 Hrs to reach Mumbai by 07.20 am on 13th Aug'12

More details on the Itinerary will be given to those who register.....

Please note: This is primarily a herpetofauna watching trip.

Trip Charges :Rs.Ex. Kolhapur (This includes stay in Hotel Green Valley on twin sharing basis, Veg / non-veg food in nearby restaurant, breakfast, tea, local transport by minibus to & from Kolhapur, entry fees, guide charges, Articles on the places to be visited & on board snacks ……)

This does not include travel charges from Mumbai and Back or any charges other than the above.

Travel options to reach Kolhapur:Kindly note that there are several travel options available (given below) to reach Kolhapur, but the best one is Mahalaxmi Express that leaves Mumbai at 20.20 pm and arrives Kolhapur at 07.20 am next day.

By Road:

Mumbai to Kolhapur (400 km/ 8 hrs), Pune to Kolhapur (230 km/ 5 hrs) ....State Transport buses ply from here
There are also regular AC buses (Volvos) from Mumbai to Kolhapur

Stay Arrangement: In Hotel Green Valley on twin sharing basis.The Hotel campus is wonderful and the rooms are spacious with clean bathrooms.



Food : We will relish the delicious food (including the famous "Sol Kadi" :-) in a good restaurant just a few meters from our hotel.










Registration: You can register by sending a confirmatory mail to natureindiatours@gmail.com
and by paying a non refundable advance of Rs.4000/- after our registration conformation by email…..the remaining amount will be collected on the day of travel.

Mode of Payment: You can either...

1) Transfer the advance money directly to HDFC A/c : (please call Mr. Mandar Khadilkar for the A/c no.) .... please mention your name, date and other details….

2) Courier a cheque of Rs.4000/- to the following address

Name: Mr. Mandar Khadilkar
Address: B/702, Neha Apartments, Ashish Complex, Chh. Shivaji Cross Road, No.4, Dahisar - East, Mumbai - 400068
Ph.: 9930318665/ 9967518665

Please Note:
1) Once registered, the advance amount of Rs.4000/- is strictly non-refundable
2) Alcohol & Smoking is strictly prohibited on Nature India Tours
3) We expect heavy rain throughout, hence will need to brave the rains during the trails.....please bring all the rain wears
4) Hot water facility will be available all day

For any other queries, please contact:-
Adesh Shivkar – 9820455713 /  9869071091
Mandar Khadilkar - 9930318665 / 9967518665
Or Email: natureindiatours@gmail.com

Hope to see you for this wonderful trip !!

Thanks for your patience.

Warm Regards,
Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
Nature India
Appreciate, Respect & Conserve






---By Amey Ketkar (Nature India Participant, Aug'10)

                I am back from one of my most memorable trips to the mystical forest of Amboli and still musing over the right adjectives to describe it. What would you call a journey which yielded in 23 snakes(8 species), a variety of frogs, geckos, tarantulas, a scorpion, centipedes and the rare caecilian (a limbless amphibian) in a mere span of two days? Superb, exciting, awesome….…?? Yes, am at loss of words, so I conclude that we just got extremely lucky.

                A herpetology tour with Nature India was a first of its kind for me and I had packed only curiosity with the least of expectations. Frankly I went with the intention of enjoying the blissful and scenic hill station of Amboli famous for its above average rainfall (around 6000-7000mm!!). But as the dates approached nearer we faced a couple of set-backs. First was in the form of the Konkan Railway Service being hampered because of heavy rains and second was when a landslide shut the Sawantwadi-Amboli route. But nothing was to deter Nature India’s resolve and a group of 14 wildlife aficionados reached Amboli via a much longer route (Neeta Volvo till Sawantwadi and a minibus thereafter to Amboli via Dodamarg).  Our sojourn was planned in the cosy rooms of Hotel Whistling Woods owned by Mr. Hemant Ogale. Mr. Hemant, a founder member of the Malabar Conversation Club and a herpetofauna expert knows Amboli at the back of his hand.  Apart from being thorough with reptiles, amphibians, wild flowers and more so with butterflies, he is a very talented photographer which was evident from his wonderful presentations and photographs. Alongside Mr. Hemant we had got along our own resource person, Mr. Zeeshan Mirza.  Already having described 6 new species to science, Zeeshan was our Mr. Omniscient. There is nothing that creeps, crawls or leaps on the forest floor that Zeeshan isn’t aware of. My reverence for him grew a great deal when I discovered he is just 22!! Obviously Adesh and Mandar were always present to help us in our endeavour.

            With such a strong unit at our disposal we started our first trail towards Shirgaonkar point at around 6.30 pm. The Brook’s, Dwarf and Prashad’s gecko showed up instantly and Akshay’s sharp eyes spotted the Konkan Bush and Bull Frog. As the light faded; the mist set in, giving the night a spooky and eerie touch. The dense pristine forest was suddenly a perfect set for a Ramsay horror movie with intertwined branches, creepers and hanging moss. The jungle adorned its natural jewels in the form of Fireflies and Glow worms which kept on glittering incessantly. We continued our search getting accustomed to the torch light. The trail was a totally new proposition for me and in a way a deviation for normalcy being a bird watcher. My eyes which were so used to scanning anything between mid-forest canopies to the sky were for a change riveted on the forest floor. The deathly night silence was disturbed only by the harsh discordant croaks of a variety of frogs and at times a barking deer. Like birds most frogs can be identified by their calls. The narrow mouth frog, amboli bush frog, wrinkled frog, cricket frog et al were identified quickly and Zeeshan enlightened us about their characteristics. After viewing a few of these I was amazed by the ability of these tiny creatures to produce such loud sounds. On the trail we came across a huge rock to our left called “Shalucha Dagad” (Shalu’s Rock). According to legend a man called Shalu killed a Tiger sitting on this rock, whence the name. The place deserves special mention as this is exactly we found our first snake, the Beddome’s Keelback and apparently the first I ever handled. Later we found a Travancore Wolf Snake at the same spot which as told by Hemant and Zeeshan is at times mistaken for the Common Krait. After the tiring walk we satisfied our ravenous appetite at Hotel Satpurush which took care of all our meals. Where the non-vegetarians relished on chicken and bangda the veggies had to settle for hot pakodas and at times kheer or shrikhand.  With a lot of delicacies offered during the course of our stay it was the Sol Kadi that stood out and was consumed in large quantities.

                The morning brought a thrilling surprise when Adesh spotted a Cat Snake lurking near the roof right outside our room. Getting rid of their torpor all participants rushed out for a closer look. Most returned with their cameras and the Cat snake enjoyed all the glamour. We were to head towards Parikshit point, an area known to be infested with blood sucking leeches. All of us wore protective gear (leech socks) except for Abhishek, who trod along the path merrily only in his floaters. This local expert was enjoying his unexpected vacation in a way he loves the most (since the Sawantwadi- Amboli road is non functional, his college is shut for the time being). He accompanied us on all our trails and had a knack of spotting Malabar Pit Vipers. Of the 5 vipers we spotted during the trip he was responsible for 3 of them (even he is just 22!!). We saw quite a few Bicoloured frogs on the way but the limelight was shared by the Banded Gecko and the beautiful Purple Crab. As we ventured into deeper forest, I unintentionally concentrated all my energy on flicking the tiny monsters that clambered on my shoes. Expecting to find the Caecilian as we reached the plateau we engaged ourselves in our favourite pastime of turning stones. No stone was left unturned in the literal sense but still no Caecilian. Instead we managed to find the Asian Forest Scorpion, a Tarantula, a juvenile Wolf Snake, an Elloit’Shield Tail snake and a Green Keelback snake. It started pouring suddenly and so we decided to descend. Adesh made a final attempt to find one and couldn’t contain his joy when he saw a Caecilian lingering furtively under a rock. I almost sprinted to the spot followed by others marvelling on how successful the trip had been so far. As we reached our guest house, the staff welcomed us cordially and took us straight to a lamppost to show us our first Malabar Pit Viper. We were in awe looking at the camouflage and the reptile’s ability to remain dead still.

                  Abhishek had promised more Pit vipers on the night trail to Mahadevgad and he didn’t disappoint us. We sighted a few more Cat snakes and Green wine snakes along the way. The Common Toad was ubiquitous and so were the colourful moths. Before dinner we went to see the Malabar gliding Frog that Mr. Hemant is breeding in his backyard, under conditions conducive for its growth. Their population has declined rapidly in the last few years and so such conservation methods are essential. Few of us pried the area adjoining the Hotel after dinner and retired unusually late to our beds. Trying to make the most of the limited time we had next morning, we decided to explore Shirgaonkar trail again. A remarkable faceoff between a Green Vine Snake and a Malabar Pit Viper was according to me the highlight of our trip. I experienced a chilling sensation while the drama unfolded right in front of our eyes. Thankfully there were no casualties and in the end both individuals headed off their own way. Little ahead I pounced on the opportunity to handle a Green Vine Snake and saw an adult Tiger Centipede on the way back. Mr. Hemant was waiting for us at the guest house with a beautiful Pied Belly Shield Tail Snake which we had missed so far. The glowing sheen of this specimen was enough to lure the shutterbugs, who made the most of it.

                 An early lunch and it was time to bid goodbye to the mysterious biosphere of Amboli, which I am sure holds many more secrets unknown to mankind. An enjoyable session of antakshari in the minibus was followed by deep slumber and when I got up next we had reached Kamat Hotel Sawantwadi. After a light snack everyone busied themselves in buying cashews and wooden toys for which Sawantwadi is famous for. Neeta Volvo was punctual for a change and I was home by Sunday morning.

               Summing-up, it was a classic adventure and I would like to thank all my fellow participants, as it was their delightful and splendid company that made this tour such a grand success.

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Appreciate, Respect & Care for Nature