The most memorable, most adventurous and most dangerous trip in our entire lifetime was our trip to Agumbe, a destination that’s famously known as “Cherrapunji of the south”.
In Agumbe, it rains throughout the year. This place is famously referred as “agumbe rainforest”. At a distance of 350+ km from Bangalore, Agumbe is a must visit place (we repeat, it’s a must visit, if you have high adrenalin rush) in Shimoga district.
Agumbe is also famous for one more thing – King Cobra!
Our single objective of the trip to Agumbe was to learn about King Cobras and see them live (rather than seeing them in a zoo) in action.
We went along with two professionals who know a lot about Agumbe —
- Amoghavarsha, a renowned photographer and nature enthusiast
- Gowri Shankar, an ecologist who is famously known as “the king cobra man”
We took a KSRTC bus from Bangalore and reached Agumbe by 6 am. Our first impression of Agumbe was – green, green and green everywhere. Almost all houses were covered with moss, and there were dense trees on both sides of the road. We hardly noticed anyone in Agumbe. We felt that we were suddenly transported to a new world that’s undiscovered by humans.
From Agumbe bus station, we hopped on to a private jeep and started our journey into the forest to reach ARRS – Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (more on this later).
We stopped our jeep in this place to take photos. There were no one except us.
Amogh and Gowri took us to a place that had lot of frogs. Nothing special in seeing a frog, right? See picture below to see the size of the frog we spotted. I’ve never seen a frog of this size. We took a frog, kept it on our thumb nail to see it close. The frog occupied only 50% of a thumb’s nail, imagine its tiny size. The place had at least 50 of these tiny frogs.
We continued our journey towards ARRS, it had rained the previous night, so we spotted paw prints of elephants on the road.
There was fog all over the place, so driving to ARRS was a little challenging.
After a 20 minute drive, we reached ARRS.
ARRS is a research organisation started by famous herpetologist Rom Whitaker in 2005. Currently, Gowri Shankar runs ARRS and he stays here along with his family.
Many research students come to ARRS, stay for months to do their research/project along with Gowri Shankar as their mentor. When we went to ARRS, we met about 5 research students. Gowri is a very famous personality in Agumbe, all towns around Agumbe know of this great man for his service towards preserving nature, and educating them about snakes. When a local spots a snake, Gowri gets a call for rescue.
During our trip, we stayed in ARRS with all research students. The place has bunker beds, very simple bathrooms, and a tent under which food will be served. ARRS is a perfect example of “know local, live local”. Though the facilities are extremely basic, getting all these basic facilities inside Agumbe forest is a luxury. It’s best to experience it to truly understand the feeling of living a local Agumbe-an life.
Amoghavarsha and Gowri Shankar alerted us before the trip itself that Agumbe is known for leeches too. But, we under estimated their warning. There were leeches in bathrooms too. For the first time, we lived with leeches.
For people who haven’t experienced leeches — they climb your legs and you wouldn’t even feel it most of the time. Leeches bite and suck your blood. When you accidentally look down at your leg, chances are high that there will be 10+ leeches on your legs and you are bleeding already.
When I looked at my leg, I was bleeding from three places. See picture below.
We were given leech protective gumboots that cover your leg foot to knee, it’s THAT big. Irrespective of the huge shoe size, time and again leeches proved us wrong. They climbed much above our knees towards the upper portion of the body.
Without any exaggeration, at a given point of time, there were at least 20+ leeches on my body (irrespective of the leech protective shoe).
Every time I looked down at my legs to check for Leeches, I remembered Gowri Shankar and admired him for his dedication towards ARRS. We stayed in ARRS only for three nights, but Gowri lives with his wife in ARRS, among Leeches, snakes and all other interesting reptiles, with solar dependent power supply.
Breakfast was served in a tent in front of ARRS. This is also the place where lot of research discussions happen everyday. After a long day of trail into the forest, by evening we group together in the tent to look at photos we captured, and learn from each other on characteristic of a reptile, safety measures, photo composition, among others.
Since ARRS is completely surrounded with thick dense trees on all sides, there were many varieties of reptiles. Some of them we saw it for the first time (more on this in part 2).
Guess what we saw right outside our breakfast tent? A green pit viper snake!
The snake was perfectly camouflaged.
Unlike a forest jeep safari trip in Bandipur or Kabini, this trip inside Agumbe rainforest was entirely by walk. We walked about 5-6 kms a day inside forest. Imagine the scene — you casually take a walk and there is a snake at your chest level and within five feet from you.
In part two of this article, we discuss about our most thrilling forest experience ever, and all interesting reptiles we spotted are also showcased — Part 2 Here.