Agumbe – A perfect anytime getaway for wildlife enthusiasts
If you’re like me, a little stupid and love quaint little villages and gregarious denizens, Agumbe is for you.
If you’re like me, a little weird and love incessant rains, a plethora of glistening little shrubs, tall trees in all shades of green, yellow and brown; orchestra by Cicadas all day, all night; Leeches (of course not on me but in the forest, for Leeches are indicators of pristine forests); enticing King Cobras, reticent Pit Vipers, ubiquitous Frogs, Agumbe is most definitely for you.
Not for nothing, Agumbe forest made it to the list of World Heritage sites. It receives the 2nd highest rainfall in India, hence earned the title, Cherrapunjee of South India.
My friend and I set off on this expedition with rains, snakes-right, snakes not snacks- and some good sleep in mind. The “life is so beautiful” hormones kicked in the moment I stepped out of the wobbly, blaring bus. Although I just arrived from Bangalore which is in not very far from Agumbe, I thought Agumbe had an exotic air to it. It felt as if someone waved a magic wand over me and transported me to a fairyland.
A perfect anytime getaway for wildlife enthusiasts
We camped at a friend’s environmental education campsite called Kālinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology. It is a perfect place to meditate, read, stretch awkwardly in the name of yoga and contemplate about life and make life decisions. It is a perfect anytime getaway for wildlife enthusiasts.
Now picture yourself spending time right in the middle of one of the wettest places in the world. Rustling streams, whispering breeze, the pitter-patter of raindrops, gallons of oxygen, the fragrance of damp earth, rain forest stretched to infinity take over your entire existence. If you’re like my mother and this scene spooks you, add a good friend or two and some delicious hot food to your imagination. A soul-stirring and detoxifying experience guaranteed.
If you want to avoid entertaining leeches and yet enjoy the nature all you have to do here is just flop at one place and tilt your head slightly. In one direction, stick insects calculating its moves over a prey will captivate you and not so far from it, a potter wasp’s abandoned nest invites you to peek into its dark tunnel. And, in the opposite direction eggs of a day Gecko clinging to the roof for their lives will keep you amused. Back at home, with great difficulty, I’ll find eggs in the refrigerator much less, eggs of a Gecko on the roof. In simple mathematical terms, Agumbe is equal to divine happiness.
Sunset point in Agumbe Ghats is as famous as Niagara falls in the US. Unfortunately, like any touristy spot in India, it is untidy with a lot of plastic packets and bottles strewn all over the place. You can see Bonnet Macaques, very close to people, eating from plastic packets and sometimes eating packets themselves. My advice to the Sun would be either to never set on Agumbe or choose another point, inaccessible to people.
King Cobra & Lion Tailed Macaques
That said, Agumbe Ghats is also home for gorgeous Lion-tailed Macaques (endemic to the Western Ghats) and the mighty and revered King Cobras. Also, here we took part in a rescue and release of a sick King Cobra in a village called Someshwara.
When you look into the eyes of a King Cobra you will realize why he deserves the respect he gets. What a majestic animal. To me, this clearly tops the list of most beautiful creatures ever to exist on this planet. And the drive through the Ghats lifts even the darkest and apathetic of moods.
Agumbe village is cosy and comforting. It has its own charm just like the song from the television version of Malgudi days. Kasturi akka is a very famous, courteous and important person in the village. Malgudi days was set in her house, this was Swamy’s home. And the Kashaya (tea made of dozens of herbs) she offers with or without milk is perhaps a cousin of the elixir of life.
In my humble-not so significant-opinion Western Ghats, especially Agumbe is God’s best creation (after women and King Cobra of course).
Agumbe is 370km from Bangalore. It’s part of Shimoga district in Malnad region.
Best time to visit Agumbe is between November and March – and for snakes and amphibians between June and September.
If you are travelling during monsoon, carry rain gear, gumboots or water-resistant shoes, leech socks, books in zip-locks and an extra set of everything. Wear lightweight fabric clothing as clothes get damp and don’t dry at all.
Places to stay:
Kālinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology: for information and to check availability contact the Director at info[at]rainforestecology[dot]com
Kasturi akka’s Dodda mane, a homestay walkable distance from Agumbe bus stop
Note: Avoid carrying and discarding any form of plastic in the village/forest/ghats. Carry plastic covers only to bring your damp clothes and shoes back.