Monday, June 11, 2012

Amboli Ghat, Biodiversity Hotspot (27th July - 29th July'2012)

NIT (Nature India Tours) Season 5 has started and a long wait is over..... For those who were eagerly waiting the commencement of the trips.... Here it is :-)
Bookings for Amboli Ghat trip from 27th July to 29th July 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

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..... 

Some interesting places around Amboli :

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


Nature India tours has meticulously organized a Herpetofauna trip to this bio-diversity hotspot from 27th July to 29th July'12 (travel days excluded) with eminent experts in the field.

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: 27th July 2012, morning 8.00 am to 29th July 2012 eve 8.00 pm
Resource person:
Mr. Parthiv Sanghvi (Herpetofauna Expert)
Mr. Hemant Ogale (The local expert & Founder member of Malabar Conservation Club)
Assistant resource persons: Mr.Mandar Khadilkar & Mr. Adesh Shivkar

TRIP ITINERARY (Itinerary is Ex.Kolhapur) 

Day 1: Friday 27th July, 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 28th July, 2012

After breakfast, morning visit to Parikshit point…lunch….Talk by Mr.Hemant Ogale on the Conservation activities of Malabar Conservation Club…..late evening trail to Mahadevgad…dinner.... night trail near the campus
Day 3: Sunday, 29th July, 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 30th July'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 Whistling Woods/ 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 Whistling Woods/Green Valley on twin sharing basis.The Hotel campus is wonderful and the rooms are spacious with clean bathrooms.
to see the interiors click

Food : Since meals are not served in the Hotel, 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
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:

Hope to see you for this wonderful trip !!

Thanks for your patience.

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

---By Rujuta Phadke (Nature India Participant, Aug'10)

In your pursuit of peace and solitude, perhaps you will come across Amboli, a tranquil hill station on the Western Ghats, surrounded by thick forests and tree canopied hills. On the coastal side, Amboli peers over the tree lined sandy ribbon of the Konkan coast; whereas on the other three sides, by a magnificent panorama of the sweeping valley. Amboli is situated at 710m above sea level, on Vengurla-Belgum state highway no 112 in Sindhudurg district, receiving the highest rainfall (approx.7446 mm) during the rainy season. I wanted to visit this less commercialized hotspot with integral natural beauty and rich flora and fauna since long time so pounced on the opportunity provided by Nature India….. Due to continuous and heavy downpour for last few days, the Konkan railway took a long break and we had to resort to lesser attractive option of bus journey all the way to Sawantwadi village, in Sindhudurga district which is very famous for handicraft wooden toys….We embarked upon the much awaited bus, an hour later than the scheduled time on Wednesday, 4th August at around 10:45 PM…Since we had taken semi-sleeper Neeta Volvo, it was comfortable except the bed bugs giving me scratches till now and that atrocious bollywood flick “De Dana Dan” : )….. The 30 kms journey from Sawantwadi to Amboli was extended to almost 120-130 kms and added 3-4 hours, due to a grave landslide in the ghat.

After an appetizing but late lunch of local (Konkani) food, we took some rest at our hotel, ‘Whistling Woods’ and commenced our first excursion in the pristine forest….We went along the main tar road towards the ‘Shirgaonkar point’, waiting at regular intervals for checking interesting things en route…. Our group of 14 (including Adesh and Mandar – organizers of Nature India), was accompanied by Mr. Heman Ogle – The local expert, founder member of Malabar Conservation Club and owner of our Hotel, Whistling Woods, his wife and Abhishek – local nature lover with amazing sighting abilities and knowledge……Highlights of the first hour of the trail were ‘Narrow mouthed frog’, ‘Beddome’s leaping frog’,‘Amboli Bush frog’, ‘Konkan Bush frog’ ‘Dwarf Gecko’, etc. We also got to see a mammoth ‘ Bull frog’ put on show of ‘frog style swimming’ to the perfection for us : ) ……Slowly the last rays of the sun disappeared as well, leaving us behind in the mysterious and hazy night…..It was wonderful to walk in the misty, dark night, right in the middle of the dense forest, which was slowly unfolding its secrets upon us…….And while we were still marveling how wonderful these creatures are, Amey shouted in the front ‘snake, snake’…….All of us rushed to the huge rock on which, to our delight was the ‘Beddome’s Keelback’……….our first snake sighting of the trip, which went on to as high as 23 individuals of 8 different species :D……. After photographing the Keelback on different backgrounds and giving different poses, we further probed the surroundings for some more time, with sightings of few orchids and other interesting things…..On our way back to the hotel, on the same stone, someone again spotted something moving and to our delight this individual was identified as ‘Travancore wolf snake’…….After a sumptuous dinner, most of us were tired and returned to bed but few of us with some more enthusiasm again ventured out in the night, enjoying the cacophony of frogs, crickets, fireflies, other creatures of the jungle :D…..

Next morning sprang a pleasant surprise on us….Everything in nature is so unique and surprising that it amazes each and everyone….We were to assemble for breakfast at around 8-8:15, but because of some water problem in the Hotel , though we were up, we were laying around the place….Adesh came to mine and Sharvari’s room to ask something, and suddenly noticed something looking like a rope on the bar holding the ceiling, just outside the room…….His doubt was instantly confirmed and Zeeshan came running to capture it for a closer look….He confirmed it to be a ‘cat-snake’ with unidentified specie because snakes are distinguished in different species only after their scale count….We kept this fellow in a cotton bag to detail observation to be done later……Again as soon as we started the trail, awesomely camouflaged ‘Green vine snake’ stole the first ten minutes of all our attention just outside our hotel…And down the lane there was ‘Elliot’s shieldtail’ waiting to welcome us right in the middle of the road :D…….We couldn’t have hoped for better beginning of the day!! This day, we went up the hill to the ‘Parikshit Point’, the area dominated by leeches……Walk up the hill was beautiful through dense canopy of forest, with only obstacle being those horrendous little creatures pouncing on you from all sides to relish on your blood…..On our way we spotted, ‘Bi-coloured frog’, ‘Amboli bush frog’, ‘Prashad’s gecko’ etc…On the top of the hill, there were beautiful meadows and heavy rain showered upon us…Due to cloud cover, we missed the mesmerizing view of the valley but nevertheless found what we were targeting for….. rare find and the specialty of the place… ‘Caecilians’…For those like me, they are the limbless amphibians with two small, cute tentacles, staying in moist soil and are extremely difficult to catch or handle due to their slithering bodies….Icing on the cake were sightings of ‘Green Keelback’ and one more ‘Travencore wolf snake’…….After a long but pleasing walk we enjoyed as usual the lovely local cuisine and came back to hotel to find to our astonishment, one of the hotel staff, had spotted the famous ‘Malabar pit viper’ in the campus…..That fellow was sitting entangled around himself in a pose that all photographers in the world would lounge for :D……….We couldn’t believe our luck because all throughout the day, we were hoping to see this beauty and here it was!! Later while rest of the group members were resting for sometime as all of them were hassled badly by those notorious leeches all over the body, few of sat in the Hotel ‘verandah’, photographing the ‘Skink’ and helping our expert Zeeshan in counting scales of the cat snake found in the morning….That was the first time when I handled the snake, skink as well as the gecko……..I was soo thrilled!! We began the evening trail with sighting of superb ‘Banded ground gecko’….beautifully graceful it was!! The stroll to ‘Mahadevgarh point’ was dedicated to snakes as we spotted as many as 4 ‘cat snakes’ 2 ‘green vine snakes’ and 2 ‘Malabar pit vipers’ in just 3 hours time…… Plenty of ‘Amboli and Common Indian Toads’ were jumping around….The fog was very dense making the dark night thicker and if we were to switch off our torches, we couldn’t even see the person next to us, imagine spotting the disguised snakes : )…….. Hats off to Abhishek for his wonderful eye to spot those ‘Malabar pit vipers’ everywhere, and ofcourse Adesh and others for their wonderful sightings…..On our way back we also got to see ‘Malabar gliding frogs’ along with their nests, eggs and tadpoles….. These are the specialty of the region.

Next morning we again went on the road to ‘Shirgaonkar point’ as we had lesser time on hand…. And were rewarded with few different tarantulas, massive ‘tiger centipede’, 2-3 more green vine snakes and 2 more Malabar pit vipers :D………. As we were waiting for our bus to take us back to Sawantwadi, playing the role of a perfect host, Mr. Hemant Ogle found ‘Pied –bellied shieldtail’ and fulfilled our wish….. This snake has black and white under side, thus giving it the name, and shining black upper side is stunning to watch……. We had got to see the this snake dead in our first trail but no need to point out the twinge of witnessing that……. Sadly, there the snake road-kills is a regular sight… Just as when we were leaving, we got to see a mating pair of grasshoppers, which was unique as it was some different specie with beautiful green/blue colour and metallic tinge and a ‘crab spider’, who had caught hold of a prey much bigger than its size :D……..

Thus, in true sense wonderful and most rewarding trip coming to an end…..Thanks to Nature India for arranging a trip, which gave an altogether different insight into this precious world, which sadly the man is destroying at a rapid pace for selfish reasons and without realizing that he is digging his own grave..…..

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Appreciate, Respect & Care for Nature