IN SEARCH OF KING COBRA IN AGUMBE RAINFORESTS WITH THE i TRAVEL GROUP: THE WETTEST PLACE IN SOUTH INDIA!

This blog is a 2 part series of my experience in the rainforest of Agumbe, (Karnataka, India) 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.

IMG_8758

Signature Spider. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Agumbe is the wettest place in South India. For obvious reasons it is also known as the Cherrapunji of South India. In August 1946, the highest rainfall in a single month was recorded at 4,508 millimetres. In 2014 it even surpassed Cherrapunji when it received 5,625.4 mm rain. Agumbe received 7000mm rain on an average.

IMG_8781

Green Vine Snake – Ahaetulla nasuta. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

July is mostly the wettest month in Agumbe. Located in the Shimoga district of Karnataka in India, it is one of the richest bio diversity hot spot. The Western Ghats (World Heritage site, UNESCO) is home to some of the rarest species in India.

IMG_8763

Signature Spider. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

In my 2016 failed trip to Agumbe, I wandered around in vain trying to spot exotic species of snakes, amphibians, insects etc. My only wildlife experience in Agumbe that year was catching a fleeting glimpse of a long fat snake, few frogs and fish in a reservoir that gnawed at my feet.

IMG_8788

Green Vine Snake – Ahaetulla nasuta. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Little did I know that you need an expert’s guidance to spot the well camouflaged creatures. I visited again in 2017, this time under the tutelage of the i travel Group, a Mumbai based company founded by Ritesh Kadam.

IMG_8808

An unidentified spider. Can you pls help me identify the species in the comment section below. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

I have known Ritesh online since 2014. So, when he presented an offer to accompany him for the trip, I instantly agreed as I had admired the carefully curated trips he takes. It turned out to be the most enriching and intellectually stimulating experience of the year so far. Ritesh’s sincere passion for wildlife reflects in the way he handles wildlife expeditions.

IMG_8814

Signature Spider. It leaves behind a signature trail. Hence the name.  Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Sensitive to the ecosystem, Ritesh takes small groups of discerning travelers who are genuinely intrigued by the mysteries of the wild. Janani Krishnan, Ritesh Kothari and Rochana Poddar from Mumbai took a break from their busy corporate lives and accompanied us. Their enthusiasm for the trip was palpable when they spotted some well camouflaged species themselves and listened attentively when Prashanth P (Research Station Master) and Sujan Bernard (naturalist) discussed snakes.

IMG_8825

Can you help me identify the name of the species in the comment section below? Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Both Prashanth and Sujan work at Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology founded by P. Gowri Shankar in 2012. They research, conserve and even rescue King Cobras (Ophiophagus hannah). Gowri Shankar has been featured in documentaries like – 1) The King and I on the BBC 2) Secrets of the King Cobra on the National Geographic Channel, 3) Asia’s Deadliest Snake on Nat Geo, One Million Snake Bites on BBC and Wildest India on Discovery Channel.

IMG_8846

Kottigehara dancing frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlytis) Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Sujan has also handled King Cobras for shows on similar channels. While we were still there, Sujan received a call on their helpline number for a rescue. The locals, unlike so many parts of India, don’t kill the snake. They revere the snakes, especially the King Cobra, which is colloquially called Kalinga.

King Cobras are elusive in the monsoon. There was thin chance that we could spot one. However, there were many more species on our mind and we managed to spot quite a few. We went for many trails including 2 trails in pitch dark nights.

IMG_8875

Damsel fly sitting by the water stream. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Day 1 of the Agumbe Rainforest Expedition:

On the first day itself, after breakfast, as we were bracing ourselves for a leech infested walk through the jungles, Prashant urged me to come near a tree next to the dining hall. It took me a while to spot the green vine snake aka flatbread snake (Ahaetulla nasuta). Quite similar to the green vine snake (Oxybelis fulgidus) found in Central and South America, it is long and slender and moves slowly like a chameleon.

IMG_8766

Green Vine Snake – Ahaetulla nasuta. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Its movement was so hypnotizing that often I used to just shut my camera and observe its gait. Being a diurnal snake, it was easy to spot in day, as was evident in another sighting the next day. On second day, we spotted another green vine snake, yawning and basking in the sun, perhaps as a result of heavy downpour the previous night. With zilch movement, it looked like a twig of a shrub. Only Sujan’s expert eyes helped us spot it. Mildly venomous, it feeds on lizards and frogs.

IMG_8910

Indian Bull frog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus). Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

A white spider (unidentified, pls see picture) played hide and seek on a leaf. A signature spider was busy expanding his kingdom on a tree as we proceeded for the first walk in to the forest. An Indian Bull frog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) cleverly camouflaged, sat quietly on a slushy ground.

IMG_8937

Translucent Earthworm. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

It ignored our presence and continued pretending to be a leaf. It was green in color. I was told that with age, it becomes grey in color. It is commonly found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. A delicate red and black Damsel fly justified its name as it sit meditatively on a twig.

IMG_8974

Wood SpiderNephila pilipes.  Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Damsel flies are sexually dimorphic pretty much like the female Wood Spider (Nephila pilipes ) which busied itself dining on a lifeless dragonfly nearby. It was amusing to see that the female spider was much bigger than the male. While females (black) can grow up to 30-50 mm, males (bright orange) are as tiny as 5-6 mm, making it 4-10 times smaller. No one answered my sexist remark, “How does that even work?”  I found female gigantism and male dwarfism both amusing and baffling.

IMG_9069

Slug. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

We passed through the farmed land, spotting slugs and translucent earthworms (lazing on a leaf) to arrive at a clearing. It ended at a water body, pregnant with the abundance of August rain. Negotiating the shallow water streams on foot in dense jungle, we stopped in our tracks, when Ritesh pointed to a tiny creature in a hush-hush tone.

IMG_8996

A spider devouring a dragon fly – Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

We got down to our knees and in absolute silence admired the tiny Kottigehara dancing frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlytis). They have a typical habit of shaking their feet to garner female attention during the mating season. Hence the name! Their other common names is Indian skipper frog.

IMG_9002

Moth. Can you help me identify the name of the species in the comment section below? Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Water scorpions (Nepidae) zipped past swiftly in the water stream. Water scorpions are not really scorpions. They are tiny aquatic Heteropteran insects which look like scorpions. In another pool of water nearby, skittering frogs rested under water nonchalantly. It camouflaged itself well blending with the color of mud beneath water. The more easily spottable tadpoles (black and bigger in size) swam in the pond poetically. The water was so clear we could see all the creatures easily.

IMG_8958

Pill Millipede. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

The most visually appealing (for me) creature we spotted on this day was Pill Millipede. Fat and blue in color, it crawled slowly in the undergrowth. It turned in to a ball (or pill) the moment it sensed our presence. The 11 to 13 segments on its body, allows it to roll and protect itself from predator. The locals call it ‘Roli Poli’. They are detritivore, i.e., they feed on decomposing plant matter. We also spotted Malabar Torrent dart. I spotted them again 2 days later in Java Rain Resort in Chikmanglur.

IMG_8964

Pill Millipede. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Day 2 of the Agumbe Rainforest Expedition:

The previous night, we went on an exciting night trail in rain forest of Agumbe where we spotted snakes like pit viper, rat snake and other gems like tarantulas, bioluminescence etc.

IMG_9006

Dragonfly. Can you help me identify the exact name of the species in the comment section below? Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

I woke up on second day in my tent to the melodious song which Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) made. I am a fan of the whistling sound which the bird makes. It is more melodious and versatile than the over rated cuckoo sound. The last time I heard the bird sing was when I stayed at my friend’s traditional home in Kankavali (Sindhudurg district, few hrs away from Goa.) Their whistle is human like, hence they are also affectionately called Whistling Schoolboy. (Google up their whistle) They whistle mostly in dawn.

IMG_9017

Can you help me identify the name of the species in the comment section below? Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

I stepped out and listened to more amazing morning sounds of the forest. A woodpecker drummed on a tree. The sound was quite strong and reverberated around the jungle alternating with the sound which Malabar Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica) made. I saw none of the above, but they made their presence felt with their distinct sounds.

IMG_9021

Blister Beetle. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

However, I did have a fleeting glimpse of a pair of Whistling ducks swimming languorously in the small pond near the Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology. It was a beautiful morning for sure. Later during the day trips, we spotted varieties of grasshoppers, Blister beetle, Damsel fly, dragonflies, katydid (leaf insect). I was awed by the camouflage of katydid. Its shape and color made it look like a leaf.

IMG_9094

Can you spot the Katydid. It camouflages itself and looks like a leaf. Hence the moniker – Leaf Insect. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Just when I was taking my afternoon nap, a coral snake visited the camp area. Disappointed that I missed a chance to see one, I was praying that it appears again. After few hours, I did see one sliding in the undergrowth.

IMG_9039

Can you help me identify the name of the species in the comment section below? Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Day 3 of the Agumbe Rainforest Expedition:

We braved leeches and passed nests of Funnel web spider to arrive early morning at the Akkibatha Rashigudda peak. It was a small uphill hike. It’s only after reaching the peak, I fathomed the scale of the dense rainforest of Agumbe. Sujan, who has worked in BBC and Nat Geo documentaries, told us that only secondary forest (new forest cover) remains today.

IMG_9185

View from Akkibatha Rashigudda peak. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

The primary forest (Trees around 100 years old) has fallen prey to human activities in the area. As the green cover shrinks, the balance in the ecosystem suffers. I realized the urgent need of wildlife and forest conservation and habitat protection. You get that perspective only after spending quality time spotting many species of endangered snakes, insects, birds, frogs. The sheer number of species I spotted in just 2 days is overwhelming. No wonder Western Ghats (I love them more than Himalayas) have rich bio diversity. And oh, we heard a tiger roar from the peak. If only we could spot orange and black stripes amidst the dense green foliage. This was one of my most fulfilling and enriching trip of the year so far.

IMG_9155

Nest of Funnel Web Spider. Akkibatha Rashigudda peak. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

As we were about to leave, a Blue Mormon butterfly (Papilio polymnestor) took fancy to my Wildcraft shoes drying in the sun. The official ‘state butterfly’ of Maharashtra (Indian State) hovered around my shoes as I watched in amusement. It was our way of saying good bye to each other.

IMG_9083

Slug. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

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 ritesh.kadam@theitravelgroup.com or call him at +91 9503839398 for enquiry or booking.

IMG_9051

Forest Lizard. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

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.

IMG_9081

Snail. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Recommended book on snakes of India –

Snakes of IndiaThe Field Guide by the famous Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain is a must read for all information on Indian snakes.

IMG_20170813_091850

Me wearing Rain Gears of Wildcraft to protect me from rain. Notice the leech socks. It is a must in places like these. Akkibatha Rashigudda peak. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India. (Pic By : Rochana Poddar)

How to ward off leeches:

In a rainforest like Agumbe, presence of leeches is common. It is nothing to worry about. They are harmless creatures. If you take good precaution, you can minimize the number of leeches getting on your body. I easily picked leeches from my body and sent them back to jungle. In case you are squeamish about it, you can use a tissue paper, simple paper or even a leaf to pull them off your skin. I don’t recommend putting salt on them. There is no need to kill them when you can get rid of them humanely. Never wash a leech injury with water. Blood caused due to a leech bites doesn’t clot. Wipe off the injury with paper and cover it with another clean paper till the flow stops.

IMG_9043

Green Vine Snake – Ahaetulla nasuta. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

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.
IMG_9108

Bi Colored Frog aka Malabar frog (Clinotarsus curtipes) It yelps like a dog pup. Read about it in my other blog on Agumbe which chronicles the night trail. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Top Tips for an expedition to Agumbe Rainforest:

  • Carry flashlights for night trails.
  • Keep your camera in a box filled with silica gel, so that it absorbs moisture and prevents fungus on lens.
  • Carry macro lens. Kankavali,
  • Read a bit about snakes before the trip starts and after it ends.
  • Carry some snacks. You can buy banana chips, fruits etc from Someshwara, just an hour away from Agumbe if you are coming from Udupi.
  • Take a loo break at Someshwara when coming from Udupi. The loo was very clean.
  • Carry Rain Gears, mosquito repellent, umbrella and sturdy shoes.
  • Combine a trip with Udupi. Even Agumbe can be extended by one more day. There is a lot to see in Agumbe. (Read: waterfalls, trekking trails and the ‘Malgudi Days’ house near the Bus stand)

The views from my #SoulWindow shattered all the myths I had about snakes!

IMG_9136

We were amazed by the fungus luminescence. Read about it in my other blog on Agumbe which chronicles the night trail. Agumbe Rainforest Expedition. The wettest place in South India.

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration: 21abhinav21@gmail.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE TEXT SHARED HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “IN SEARCH OF KING COBRA IN AGUMBE RAINFORESTS WITH THE i TRAVEL GROUP: THE WETTEST PLACE IN SOUTH INDIA!

  1. Pingback: THE MIND BLOWING NIGHT TRAIL IN THE RAINFORESTS OF AGUMBE WITH i TRAVEL GROUP: INCREDIBLE INDIA | A Soul Window - Travel Blog from India!

  2. Wow you saw so many insects and creatures at the rainforest. Your photos captured them well. Some of these creatures look so tiny and could be missed easily. I’ll definitely need a guide to point them out for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a person who loves being in the great outdoors, I just loved this post. Using a travel group like this one with their level of expertise really opens up a new and enhanced version of your outdoors experience with nature. Your photos that you managed to take and share are really fabulous. What a great experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am really very scared of insects 🙈 But your post is really amazing. The pictures are so fascinating and I would have never known these much facts about insects because of my fear 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s amazing how up close and personal you were able to get to all these creatures – your snaps of the Green Vine Snake are incredible, and it wonderful that your guide was able to spot him. It sounds like the i travel Group are the right company to do this trip with – with experts in the field, I am sure you had a very interesting and educational experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: LUXUXY BREWED STRONG AT JAVA RAIN RESORT, CHIKMAGALUR- WEEKEND BREAK FROM BANGALORE. | A Soul Window - Travel Blog from India!

  7. What a beautiful trek, it’s so lush there, I guess being the wettest place in south India helps! It looks like you dressed well for the occasion. You took some perfect macros of so many insects, rare shots as I’ve never seen these insects before. I would be a little nervous about leeches but I’m sure the guide will take good care of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This looks like the ultimate way to see tiny creatures in the rainforest! I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a translucent earthworm! As incredible as the bio diversity is I would not be able to handle the spiders and millipedes and my husband is scared of moths- perhaps best if we live vicariously through you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am sure Agumbe is a treat for the wildlife enthusiasts who love reptiles. The rain forest looks amazing and I loved reading about all the insects and snakes that you had a rare chance to spot and learn about. Such curated trips are worth joining in. They help to make the most a trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What fascinating creatures! You are so lucky Abhinav to have seen such exotic species in their natural habitat.
    Also, the dragonfly you have asked about in the post is actually a damselfly. Common bluetail damselfly.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a fascinating post. The small creatures of Agumbe are really a beautiful lot. Your pictures bring alive the colourful secret life of these creatures in vivid colour. I am sure this was a unique experience that is bound to stay etched in your mind for a long, long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: THE COLORFUL MARKETS OF PUSHKAR FAIR, RAJASTHAN- INCREDIBLE INDIA! | A Soul Window - Travel Blog from India!

  13. Pingback: COBRAS AT PUSHKAR FAIR- IS INCREDIBLE INDIA STILL A LAND OF SNAKE CHARMERS? | A Soul Window - Travel Blog from India!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s