Friday, July 15, 2011

The King of the Rain Forest


It was my long time wish to stay inside a rain forest and experience the amazing fauna of a typical rain forest. But after many planning the visit was pending for a long. But this time I was determined to travel to Agumbe, a place at Shimoga District in Karnataka. This place is actually lying in the Thirthahalli taluk and the Malnad region. Agumbe is among the places in India that receive very heavy rainfall earning it the sobriquet, "Cherrapunji of the South".
Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS), founded by renowned herpetologist and snake conservationist Romulus Whitaker was my destination and shelter of my 3 days visit. Arnab, Anirban and Shreyan, 3 of my colleagues were also very interested to visit the place and they also packed their bag with me. There is only one bus goes to Agumbe from Bangalore every night. So, we got into that bus on one rainy Friday evening from Bangalore Kempegowda Bus-stand. The night passed away in the bus and we touched the wet ground of Agumbe on Sat day early morning. It was a small town, drenched in rain. We have a cup of fine Coffey at bus-stand and hired an Auto Rickshaw to go to ARRS. The research station is 2/3 km far from the town and deep inside the forest. Soon, we reached at ARRS and found the Leopard Cottage (Where we would be staying for next 3 days) surrounded by greens. It was the time for our eyes to adjust with the greens around as they are not used to in city life.
Trekking Route near ARRS

After having breakfast, we were trying to explore the surroundings and found lots of frogs, grasshoppers, praying mantis and lots of unknown colorful insects and off-course leeches around us. My camera came out of my backpack and started working. Rain was giving its company and it was lush green all around. We were tired after a hectic bus journey and decided to take little rest after lunch. After a quick nap we also trek around the campus and went towards a stream which was flowing in full strength. The day light was disappearing fast and night was knocking at the door. During our trek I found a beautiful golden frog was posing infront of my camera. As soon as night came, all surrounding changed totally. It was pitched dark as the station runs by solar power and it has very less lights to save the power. We had torches with us but my 5 cell torch was appearing like a candle in that darkness. And the sound of crickets from the jungle in that night – wow it was something to feel. We decided to go for a trek along with the researcher of ARRS to trace mammals around the campus. We all were searching for mammals by using our torch. It was fun. Few people searching for mammals using torch lights in pitched darkness in the kingdom of snakes. Every step was made with extra care. After a search of two hours we could manage to spot a hare and couple of Slender Lorries and few scorpions. After a hectic day it was the time to take proper rest at night. We went to our bed not knowing what is waiting for us next day.
A Golden Frog was found during the night trek

A warm sunlight welcome our next morning. After a proper rest our energy level was on top and we started a trek towards the same stream in morning. The road was surrounded by thick jungle. The path was slippery due to heavy rain last night. A continuous sound of crickets was coming from the jungle. We were walking inside the meadows carefully. But nature has something different in his mind. He played with us little. I realized soon that our extra carefulness also a joke to natures camouflage when I just stepped a Malabar Pit Viper. I even didn’t realize that I crossed it and my friend discovered something is moving when I stepped out. To my horror I just realized I was almost stepping on a venomous Malabar Pit Viper. Now it was the time to handle it carefully to watch its behavior. I did with a small stick and the viper was in a striking pose. Later my friend handled it which allowed me to click some images of this beautiful creature. This was our first meet with any snake in the kingdom of snakes. Till then we were not aware what is waiting for us for the day. We spent a good time with the Pit and let it go. We headed towards the stream.  After spending some time in the stream we came back to ARRS. 
Malabar Pit Viper in striking pose
We had our lunch and I decided to head towards the town. Shreyan was accompanying me and the other two decided to take some rest at cottage. On the way to town I was actually trying to capture the sound of crickets which was continuously coming from the forest. It was an awesome moment; we two were feeling the forest truly. After spending some time in forest we headed towards the town for some Coffey. We spent almost an hour at town and then decided to come back to ARRS. We decided to hire an auto to reach soon at ARRS. And I will thank this decision to my whole life. As soon as we reached ARRS, we heard that one cowboy was shouting that he has just seen a big snake. We immediately along with the ARRS volunteers ran to the spot. And to my utter disbelief I found a black tail of a snake is going inside a patch of bush. My adrenaline was high as I knew what we have spotted. When we spotted the head of the snake we knew at that time we were meeting the King of Agumbe just inside the ARRS campus. The King Cobra was around 10 ft long and it was comfortable inside the bush turning its head towards us, watching every activity. My fingers were busy on the shutters of the cameras and to my sheer luck I was shooting a 10 ft large King Cobra in daylight with a 100mm macro lens from just 4/5 ft away. Suddenly the snake changed its position and its head was towards us. We felt the distance was not very safe for the king and we should respect the lethality of this beautiful snake. I ran back to my cottage which was very near, awake my two other friends, grabbed my 70-300 lens and came back to the same spot. We all were then in a little safer distance. We watched the beauty of the rainforest for more than 40 minutes and then decided to leave the place and let the king live in peace. It was a moment of my entire life. Everybody was telling about our luck to spot the king in 2nd day. I was thanking my God. On the way back to the cottage we spotted a rat snake and a green vine snake too. We spotted the King again just after couple of hours inside the field searching for food. It was dark at that time. We went there with torches and found it was aggressive at that time. We were just observing its behavior as there was no chance of photography in the darkness.
The King
 
The night was again pitched dark and full of noises from the forest. We had our dinner early and were very careful while coming back from dinner hall to Leopard Cottage. I was using a search light then to scan the pathway as the King was in the campus. Soon we reached the cottage and just for curiosity I switch on the search light and started scanning on the field where we spotted the King last time. Instead of King I could spotted a Big Krait there and it was moving. The krait was not even 15 ft away from our cottage and soon we could spot the King too in the field. It was a fearful experience to spot two snake eater tremendous venomous snakes just 15-20 ft away from the cottage. I was thinking the King is hungry and there is a chance the krait will fall under its prey. I was not sure if King considers Kraits as it prey. Suddenly it started raining heavily and we lost the two snakes in that intense rain. We waited for long but there was no sign of stopping the rain. We came inside the cottage, locked the door scan the whole room carefully and went to the bed.

A warm sunshine welcome our third day at Agumbe. We were expecting the king or krait again infront of the cottage but couldn’t see any of them. The horror of night disappeared with the broad day light. It was our final day at ARRS. In morning we went to see Yogikundi falls which was 6 KM away from ARRS. We took an Auto-Rickshaw and went to the falls. The final stretch was a km trek through the forest. It was a beautiful falls flowing in full strength empowered by the monsoon.
Yogikundi Falls

After coming back to ARRS, we again went on a search of the King, but no sign of it. We had a trek inside the forest towards the stream. We spotted many frogs on the way. We spent almost an hour in the stream. The water was cold and was flowing in its strength. On our way back, I just noticed one snake fall from a tree in the water of the stream and it started swimming. We did an extensive search of the snake in the water and surroundings but couldn’t.
With ARRS Team Members at stream


While we came back to the campus we spotted another pit viper on a tree. It again started raining. We had our lunch and went back to our cottage. The rain didn’t allow us to go outside and we were also packing up our entire luggage. The time to bid good bye to ARRS was approaching and we all were sad.
The Stream near ARRS

Finally we started our journey back to Bangalore at evening saying good bye to all ARRS members and the amazing forest with a promise, we have to come back again. The three days went just like a dream. Meeting the king was an extreme experience.

Few Random Images:

Golden Frog. The image also captured the wet habitat of this frog

Bush Frog
A Colorful Insect
Tortoise Beetle
A video on this expedition which represents the glimpse of the unique landscape and its flora & fauna





9 comments:

deepak said...

Lovely read. Though I'm more into birds, I enjoy every photographing opportunity.
Ref: INW

Santosh said...

Wonderful post, I'm still longing to visit ARRS and not sure when this will happen!
I would say a 'complete entertainer' :)

Saikat said...

wow.... zimbly awezum.. :) very engrossing to read.. could actually visualize how it must have felt to be in the rainforest at night.. hoping to see more photos of the King and other snakes u have mentioned... and yes... The video should be a killer...

Sivakumar V K said...

It is just wonderful and felt like been with the king! A few more pictures of lesser livings would have made it more colourful (mantids,moth,insects etc)
Thanks for the nice trip !

Eliminator said...

Wonderful.

Can you send me the details of ARRS.

Also, how to book the accommodation @ ARRS.

Neloy said...

HI Eliminator,

Can I get your email address or can you send me one email at bneloy@gmail.com?

Regards
Neloy

Ju said...

You know what I feel!!! But the pics are beautiful and this was a lovely read.

Gaurav said...

Awesome pictures and narration. Treat to the eyes and informative as well.

greenerpasturesind said...

Agumbe looks so beautiful. I would surely visit it someday. Thanks for the article.

Canadian Rockies in Winter

Canadian Rockies in Winter Since migrating to Canada I didn’t get any chance to pack my bags, take my cameras and start getting...