What is Agumbe about
Agumbe is a village in the Shimoga district of Karnataka. It is surrounded by the Western Ghats mountains and has a lush rain forest with a huge diversity of species. Arriving here was literally a breathe of fresh air. I got here through the trekking group Naturewalkers who organize treks regularly to places around Bangalore.
Agumbe isn’t a typical trekking destination like Kudremuk but rather a rainforest where you can find a plethora of species, predominantly Reptiles and Insects and a small hill to climb. You will soon get busy tracking snakes, spiders and other reptiles. It isn’t a place where you can have a bon-fire at night, play loud songs and dance. Here humans live in harmony with the animals around strict rules are followed with regard to noise, conduct and littering.
How to get there
It is around 400 km from Bangalore and we took an overnight bus to Agumbe. From there we found our way to the Kalinga mane. We walked from the bus stand downill to the Kālinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology, a nature conservation camp situated adjacent to the forest. Couple of researchers from IISC were our tour guides. We were greeted by a snake, sleeping peacefully under a broken branch. We later found out that it was a venomous snake. We settled inside open the kitchen and dining area and soon the leeches came in.
We were in Agumbe, the land of King Cobra. It was lush monsoon season when we arrived and it rained through the night. We had home cooked breakfast and started our trail into the forest. It was a rainforest (Characterised by a thick canopy, layered vegetation and incessant rain), green , moist and slippery, full of leeches and creatures crawling beneath our feet.
We waded through the forest along a small stream. We spotted frogs, mantis, grasshoppers. We were made sure we dint disturb fallen tree branches and moist green areas as they are the breeding spots for snakes. We reached a flowing water body which looked heavenly and took a dip in it.
In the afternoon we watched a documentary shot by Nat Geo on King Cobra at the place we were staying. It featured Gowri Shankar, who later told us about his career as a King Cobra rescuer. It was an educative documentery on Cobra male combat, mating and its preying habits.
We were on the thinner part of the forest and luckily for us they lived on the denser part of the ghats. They occasionally do make their way into the nearby villages and Gowri and his team help in getting them back to the forest. In the evening we had hot tea served to us. Our tents were set up, the only place free of leeches.
Leeches are deadly creatures according to me. They inject an anesthetic so you don’t feel the pain, then inject a blood thinner and then suck your blood. You notice them when you lift your shirt of pant and they are engorged with blood. When you pull them out, the blood doesn’t clot so soon. It is just horrible except that it isn’t fatal or painful. They prefer moist and wet places. They crawl all over you. I became paranoid during the trip to avoid leech bites, that I took bath thrice a day.
Drowned in Moisture
The rainforest is moist all the time. Your wet clothes wont dry and your dry clothes will get wet due to the drizzle or the sudden pour. So be prepared for a moist weekend. I had unknowingly taken just two pair of clothes and ended up wearing wet clothes the entire weekend.
We went on a night trek. It was for snake spotting and we did spot a vine snake and a cat snake. We also saw scorpions and spiders. There was a rule that all lights have to be off by 10 PM. This curfew was so that the animals living around us don’t get disturbed. We had to even switch off your phones. We slept in utter darkness to the sound of chirping cicadas.
Morning we were as fresh as ever and had a sumptuous home cooked meal and coffee. We went through the forest one again to the stream. This time we took bath in the waters. It was a lot of fun, I must say delightful and a wonderful break from the city life.
We then trekked uphill to a peak nearby. We spent an hour at the top, enjoying the greenery around us. The peak was clound claden and we could feel it was going to rain anytime. We found that Gaurs had walked past the path. When we came downhill we spotted more animals and birds- A big hornbill and a flying squirell with a huge orange tail.
We had another round of educative seminar in the night on Snake bite first aid and some snake experiences which were thrilling.
We left the kalinga mane the next morning. We visited the Sringeri Temple on the way. Magnificent temple which looked elegant in the drizzle when we were there. We took the blessings from god, some prasad from the temple and left Agumbe the with fond memories of the rain forest.
Some tips to those who plan to go
- Fully covered tight dress or Short loose ones. Don’t wear loose long ones as it would become difficult for leech spotting.
- Take extra pair of clothes. Take a pair of trousers and tee in case you want to take a dip in the water.
- Raincoat is mandatory
- Take a bag cover as well
- Apply Lime power(Sunambu, as it is called in tamil) on your legs and hands as they drive leeches away
- Apply amurthajan or volini as well. They hate fragrances
- Take a pair of flip flops and a pair of shoes. Either wear flip flops or shoes with knee length socks as it gets messy if the leeches enter into your shoes.
- Do not carry a lot of grub with you as rats might eat into your bag
Get a good DSLR camera with a good Zoom, or wildlife photography lens, You might regret it otherwise. There is just so much to capture. We had a rough ride downhill due to the hairpin bends. Take a anti vomiting tablet just in case.