This blog is a 2 part series of my experience in the Rainforest of Agumbe facilitated by i Travel Group. We spotted many species during our trails. It is one of the finest wildlife experiences in the western ghats of India.
After an eventful morning spent in the forests of Agumbe (See my other blog on Agumbe), we were gearing up for the night trail after the sumptuous South Indian lunch and nap. But before we ventured out in the dark, we spent the evening watching documentary on snakes and also an informative presentation on snake followed by question and answer session.
Once the presentation got over, every one headed to the dinner table, while I came out to the lawn area. I was attracted by the yelping of dog pups coming from different directions. It was pitch dark and I tried hard to locate the pups. Failed to spot one, I asked one of the snake researcher at the Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology founded by P. Gowri Shankar in 2012. Turned out it was a bunch of bi-colored frog aka Malabar frog (Clinotarsus curtipes) who were making those distressed calls. I was amused at the uncanny similarity. These frogs are found in the Western Ghats of India. Thanks to its appearance, it was the weirdest looking creature I spotted in Agumbe.
I left the frogs alone. Post dinner as we started wearing our leech socks for the night trail, Agumbe decided to justify the moniker it has earned over the years – The wettest place of South India. It started raining heavily and showed no sign of stopping. The sport that we were, none of us backed out from the night trail. I decided not to carry camera. We took baby steps as Prashanth P (Research Station Master) led us through the dark forest, supported only with flashlights. Rains lashed us from all directions. Unperturbed and dry under our raincoats, we trained our eyes on spotting the rare creatures which the forests of Agumbe are famous for.
Our first success was spotting a Malabar pit viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus). Also known as Malabar rock pit viper or rock viper, it perched on one of the upper branches of a tall tree. Unfazed by the torrential rains, it sat in one position for as long as we observed it. In fact, the next day, when we spotted the Malabar Pit Viper again in the morning, it was still sitting on the same branch. These are venomous snakes found in southwestern India (mostly Western Ghats). They are easier to spot in the monsoon months. Being nocturnal, they are mostly inactive during the day.
They feed on geckos, musk shrews, tree frogs etc. Speaking of which, we spotted the Coorg Yellow Bush Frog (Raorchestes luteolus) hidden behind a leaf on the opposite tree. Its synonymous scientific name is Philautus neelanethrus. It was an exciting spotting for me since I saw a frog on a tree for the first time ever. I have no idea how it got there. Perched approximately 1 meter from the ground, it made constant mating calls. During vocalizing, the vocal sacs of the Yellow Bush Frog expanded in to a sac/ball/bubble, indicating that it is a male. The expanding helps them to make louder sound. The vocal sac is the flexible membrane of skin. The purpose of croaking in this fashion is either to keep away other male frogs or mating, of course. Yellow Bush Frog is not to be confused with aorchestes travancoricus Kalpetta yellow bush frog (Raorchestes nerostagona)
Did you know scorpions glow in dark?
A little ahead, the team congregated at the foot of a muddy wall. A scorpion hid itself amongst dead leaves and mud. I learned scorpions are easiest to find in the dark? As Prashanth focused his ultraviolet (UV) flashlight light on the scorpion it cast a tantalizing glow on the unsuspecting scorpion. It glowed a vibrant blue green, standing out in pitch dark. The scorpion glowed only when UV light was focused on it. No theory has been established yet as to why they glow or what’s the function of this attribute?
Bioluminescent Fungi in the rainforests of Agumbe:
Thanks to the presence of glow worms, fireflies and glowing scorpions in the pitch dark forest of Agumbe, we already saw much natural glowing on 2 night trails. But the best was yet to come. We saw bio luminescent fungus under the foot of a tree on first night and another one in a more scenic location, which is, on the sides of a shallow water stream. All of us would switch off our flashlights and small sections in the undergrowth would glow magically. Since it was pitch dark, the glow was easy to spot. The fireflies hovering around us added to the drama. We stood there agape mouthed, in absolute silence, our shoes soiled with mud and water. It was one of the most magical phenomenons I had seen in a forest. The faint green glow becomes stronger when the eyes adjust to it.
More snakes spotted – Rat snake this time.
The other snake we spotted in the night trail in the rainforest of Agumbe was the rat snake (Ptyas mucosa). It perched still on the top of a small plant. Allowing rain to wet it, the tiny snake coiled and made no movement. Unlike the pit viper, it was quite at a touching distance. It feeds on rodents, toads, small birds, other snakes, lizards and eggs. It is, however, often the meal of the King Cobra.
Other species we found on the night trail in the rainforest of Agumbe:
Tarantula, Common Indian Toad, Indirana frog, Tiger centipede, House centipede, Cricket, Roux’s forest lizard (Calotes rouxxi ) were the other species we found in the rainforest of Agumbe on 2 nights. We even spotted the exoskeleton of cicada. We were amazed to see that the exoskeleton was not destroyed and retained the shape of the cicada. Quite a smooth exit, that!
Roux’s forest lizard is endemic to the western ghats of India. Its habitat is varied viz. moist evergreen, secondary forests and dry scrub. It is insectivore and hunts during the day.
How to plan a trip to Agumbe:
You need expert guidance in Agumbe to spot species. In my earlier solo trip to Agumbe, I failed to spot any species. I would recommend curated experiences by i Travel Group It is a Mumbai based company headed by Ritesh Kadam. Ritesh takes batch of discerning travelers who yearn to learn something new on meaningful trips such as this. Passionate and knowledgeable about wildlife, Ritesh offers many enriching travel experiences in a responsible way. His trips are sensitive to local environment and culture. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at +91 9503839398 for enquiry or booking.
Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology, Agumbe has good facilities. They have documentary shows, educative workshops on snakes, accommodation in clean and dry tents and superb meals. The in house chef Pramod BS served us sumptuous South Indian meals such as Kadabu, Kokum Rasam, Upma and Kesari Bhath flavored with clove.
Recommended book on snakes of India –
Snakes of India – The field Guide by the famous Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain is a must read for all information on Indian snakes.
The view from my #SoulWindow is enriching!
Responsible Tourism In Agumbe Rainforest:
Pls remember Agumbe is not your serene picnic spot. It is an ecologically sensitive zone. Below are some pointers which you must take care of:
- Please be careful while walking. Watch your steps as you might crush a creature. Best is to take baby steps.
- Take pictures but
- Don’t touch any of the creatures.
- Don’t pluck any plant material
- Don’t collect any specimen of flora or fauna from the jungle.
- Don’t talk or sing loudly.
- Don’t litter. Pack your non biodegradable waste and dispose off to the nearest city Udupi or in your home city.
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