Amboli is a rain forest, and a popular honeymoon destination in Maharashtra for its beautiful waterfalls and lush green forest and wide mountain range of Western Ghat. But it is also a treasure trove of flora and fauna. Amboli is still an uncharted territory and new classification of flora and fauna are still being discovered. There are around 800 types of butterflies, numerous snakes, frogs, insects, orchids etc in this region and many of them are endemic to this region.
There are also different types of birds like Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Cylon Frogmouth, Malabar whistling Thrush, Yellow-browed bulbul, White-rumped Shama, Black Eagle etc are found in abundance. But, it’s not easy to photograph them due to thick forest.
Ideal time to visit:
We went there specifically for reptile and amphibian photography. The best time to visit for the same is during June-Sept. For birding, the season starts from November.
How to Reach:
Amboli is a mountain range of Western Ghat. You need to cross it while going from Maharashtra to Goa. It’s around 350km from Pune, and 100km from Goa and 80km from Belgum. The nearest train station is Sawantbari, which is around 60km far.
Most of the hotels are near the bus stand and the costs range from Rs. 800-1500. There’s a couple hotel/resorts are bit inside the jungle and in excellent location. One of them is Whistling Woods run by Mr. Hemant Ogale and it is just beside the MTDC resort.
In Whistling Woods, a regular room costs Rs. 2400 a day, and Rs. 1800 for single occupancy. AC room costs Rs. 4000 and Rs. 6000 for a four people suite. This rent is only for the room, you have to pay for food extra. The breakfast is made by his wife and it’s homely, charges are nominal. You can order thali and/or dishes from MTDC and another restaurant. They have the menu card.
The rooms are clean, moderate sized, equipped with gas geyser and western toilet. Rooms are very basic but clean for the location you are going to. Cell connection is poor. But the hotel has WI-FI and land phone to use it for free.
Guide for the trail:
You are going toe to toe with venomous snakes, so, you would need someone experienced to keep check on your activity, also to spot them in the wild. You will need a guide.
There’s a guy named Kaka Bishe. He along with another person in Pune named Anish Pardeshi, runs a conservation club over there, and educates the locals about conservation rather than destruction. They also employ them as guides. But their charges are bit high. He asked 6500/- for 5 trails and 4000/- for 3 trails. They also organise nature camps which costs around 5k for 2 night 3 days stay, including food, stay, guide etc. But the downside is that you will get a lot of people in a trail.
So, there are basically trail walks where you spot the insects, frogs, snakes, butterflies, orchids etc. A trail walk can be of 1.5 hours to 3 hours and there could be 2 to 3 trails a day (charges vary). Guides know locations where you could find a particular species. My suggestion would be to go in small groups (2 to 3 photographers), so that once you take picture you can move on to the next subject.
Some suggestions on dress, cameras and accessories for the trail:
- When I said, it’s a rain forest, keep in mind, that this year, Amboli had more rain than Cherapunji. So, expect rain all the time, and that is something you have to account while preparing for a trip to Amboli. Also, if you’re planning to take macro, you need to get your hands and feet dirty. You need to walk in stream, lie down in wet places. So, dress accordingly.
- Amboli is a paradise for leeches, thankfully there’s no golden leech like Dooars, and so a leech sock is recommended.
- You also need to keep your camera gears from getting soaked. Best way to do that is to protect it inside a poncho while walking. I took a Quechua poncho (from decathlon) and a big umbrella (camouflaged, again from decathlon) to protect it when taking picture. But if you are taking at least one (umbrella poncho), that would be all right.
- I use Pentax, which is weather resistant, so I didn’t use any rain cover, but it is something that could come in handy, if you don’t have a rain cover, polythene, or a garbage bag can be wrapped around it.
- You will be taking a lot of picture in night, so a torch/headlamp is highly essential, some people uses mobile torch though. There are mainly 2 uses of the torch. One is to see in the night and the other is to focus.
- Since this is for macro, you would need a dedicated macro lens, preferably in the range of 90-100mm. And you will need a flash (Must). You can also use a 50mm for wide angle macro, but it will be little tricky with the venomous snakes. For macro, you will either need a macro/ ring flash, or you need to diffuse a regular flash.
- Last but not the least, please maintain the decorum of visiting forest, and don’t litter. Don’t throw plastic and garbage in the open, Carry it back to the hotel and dispose in the dustbin.
Also while taking shots of snakes, frogs or insects, try to handle them as minimal as possible, handling them causes stress to them and could cause irreversible damage.
Important contact number :
Contact Number of Mr. Hemant Ogale dor Whistling woods hotel : 9423856724
Contact Number of Mr. Kaka Bishe for guide: 7588447161
This content is written by Mr. Aritra Mukherjee. The photographs used here are clicked by the author himself. He is a Software Engineer by profession. Also, he is an excellent photographer and loves to travel various parts of India.