The verdant greens abound,
As the pitter patter of raindrops surrounds,
In this hidden haven thrive,
Creepy crawlies and lowly lives,
Lowly only in our eyes,
They are rulers in their own right,
For they enjoy plenty of all,
Be it winter, spring or fall,
For this is the hotspot of all things wild,
Here the nature-law you must abide!
Almost every wildlife photographer wishes to experience the epicentre of wildlife, the biodiversity hotspot of the world- the Western Ghats. And what better way to witness the wonders of the dense rainforests than a visit to King Cobra capital itself- Agumbe. Even for the general nature-lover Agumbe is heaven- for its simple village life and beautiful monsoon vistas like gushing waterfalls and gurgling streams.
Located in the Shimoga District in the Malnad region of Karnataka, it is fondly called the “Cherrapunji of the South” for its incessant rains. The village in itself is merely about 3-4 square kilometres big, but the real essence of the hill station lies in the numerous nature trails and treks that shoot off from the village, and immerse the traveler in a world far removed from reality. The place receives more than 7,620 millimetres of rainfall as it stands at an elevation of ~643 metres above sea level. It is a wildlife photographer’s dreamland- the forest floor offers a wide variety of photo opportunities with reptiles, insects, and amphibians calling it home. It is especially known for macro photography, and for interesting encounters with the King Cobra. Interestingly, there are very few incidents of conflict between the local human population and this King of Snakes. Maybe the dense, almost impenetrable forests afford the iconic reptile his much-needed space and security.
Wildlife of Agumbe
Agumbe is home to a plethora of flora and fauna, making it a great wildlife photography destination especially in the monsoons.
- Mammals: Lion-tailed macaque, Giant squirrel, Barking deer, Slender Lorris
- Birds: Malabar trogon, Yellow-browed bulbul, Sri Lankan frogmouth
- Reptiles: King Cobra, Malabar Pit Viper, Green Vine Snake, Common green forest lizard
- Amphibians: Malabar Gliding Frog, Blue-eyed bush frog, Indian bullfrog
- Insects: Millipedes, beetles, leaf insects, golden-backed ants
- Others: Arachnids like Tarantula spiders
Places to visit
When in Agumbe, plan to enjoy the rains to the fullest. Treks in the rain, night-trails to photograph the herpetofauna, drives through pristine rain-soaked forest and drenched in the gushing waterfalls- the options are many.
- Agumbe Rainforest Research Station: A trip to Agumbe is incomplete without visiting the center of wildlife research in the south, the only rainforest research station in India which was set up by Romulus Whitaker in 2005. The place was fitted with the first automatic weather station, and continues to monitor rainforest climate. Today it is associated with the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore. The station runs a volunteering program where you can volunteer your time and effort for its conservation efforts.
- Sunset point: For some splendid views of the lush green forests, head to the Sunset point, a 10 minute walk from the village atop the hill. A sunset over the Arabian Sea is sure to energize you no end. The views are best during the non-monsoon months.
- Jogi Gundi Falls: A brief 1 kilometre trek from the village brings you to the gushing waters, where water flows unabashed from a cave. It can be made into a quick half-day visit.
- Barkana Falls: Rising around 850 feet tall, this is formed by the plunging waters of the Seeta river in the midst of verdant greens.
- Koodlu Theertha Falls: This falls is further away, about 20 km from Agumbe in the interiors of Hebri and needs a trek of about 3-4 km. It is possible to stand directly beneath this falls and getting drenched, provided you are the ultra-adventurous types!
- Onake Abbi Falls: This is a longer trek of about 5-6 km in the forest, and hence suitable for those who do not mind walking long distances.
What to do
- Get on the King Cobra trail: Best done with an expert guide, Agumbe affords you a chance to encounter the mighty King of Snakes in its own natural habitat. This is nature-thrill at its best. And if you dislike the slithery nature of snakes and other Agumbe-denizens, this is your chance to look at them with a new lens- as just another wild animal that likes its own space.
- Try your hand at macro photography: Take out that macro lens and try to capture the teeny-weeny beauty of nature. Whether it is the close-up view of an insect’s head, or the eye of a slithery snake. A number of macro-photography workshops too are organized to the place, you can consider joining one to learn the macro perspective.
- Volunteer your time for conservation: The Agumbe Rainforest Research Centre invites volunteers who are keen on wildlife conservation to contribute their time and efforts. They also conduct conservation-oriented education programs with the help of an education officer. It’s a great way to get involved in the field of wildlife. They do charge for stay and food.
- Simply soak in the serenity: If you are more interested in the general beauty of nature, just prance about in the misty hills or refresh in the waterfalls. Remember not to disturb the wildlife and sanctity of the place, though!
Where to stay
- For a true forest dwelling, accommodation is generally available at the Rainforest Research Station. But check ahead of time to book your place.
- Doddamane, Kasturi Akka’s house which is the 150 year old heritage house where Malgudi days was filmed.
- Other homestays like Amthi Homestay, Hingaara- The Nature Stay, Belachikatte Homestay are simple but comfortable places to stay.
Best Time to Visit
When you visit this beautiful hill station depends on your intent of visiting. If you wish to enjoy cool climes and reasonable wet weather, November to February is a good time. For herping and wildlife photography, and to capture the king of snakes, the King Cobra, monsoons are ideal.
How to Reach Agumbe
- By Air: Mangalore is the nearest airport about 106 km from Agumbe. From there, take local KSRTC buses that ply from Shimoga, Udupi and Mangalore. Or hire a cab to reach the village.
- By Rail: Udupi is the closest railway station (54 km) while Shimoga railway station is about 100 kms away.
- By Road: A number of local state transport KSRTC buses carry passengers from Shimoga, Udupi and Mangalore to Agumbe.
Important to note:
- Do not disturb wildlife or trample on the fauna when on nature trails. This is for your safety as well. Be cautious of natural denizens that may be lurking in branches, crevices etc.
- Be leech-ready: Invest in a pair of good anti-leech socks to avoid the infestation of leeches which are quite common.
- Rain wear: Be prepared for heavy rain especially in monsoons. Carry a durable poncho, waterproof gear for camera and gum boots.
Fun facts about Agumbe
- Remember the enchanting tales from the Malgudi days by famous story-teller R.K. Narayanan? The endearing fictitious town, Malgudi is in reality referring to Agumbe.
- The Rainforest Research Centre pioneered the world’s first radio-telemetry project related to the King Cobra. This information has been used for managing the species through understanding their behavior.
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