The beginning of monsoon brings relief, and romance, to Mumbai. But in towns around the city, it creates magic. In this season, leaden skies and drenched foliage make the Western Ghats glow in the dark; a king cobra slithers across overflowing streams in the rainforests of Agumbe; hundreds of peacocks dance at once in Morachi Chincholi — all a few hours from bustling, urban Mumbai.
And before the rains set in, you can wade in knee-deep waters at India’s first marine national park just before the rains begin, to let an octopus squirt ink at you; or park into the potholes at Nighoj, a basalt-rock river bed, hollowed out like a giant block of cheese. Or make memories that cannot be captured on film in Devgad, where the beaches glimmer neon-blue on moonless nights, with bioluminescent waters.
“Once you witness a natural phenomenon, like the craters of Nighoj, they stay with you,” says Mumbai-based travel expert Jayesh Morvankar, founder of Odati, an adventure tourism company.
This monsoon, take the road less travelled to marvel at these primeval wonders that could take your breath away — and dance with the peacocks, while you can.
Jungle Book experience
A cloak of mist teems with king cobras, black panthers and crocodiles — welcome to the Agumbe Rainforest Reserve Station (ARRS), located in the second wettest place in the country.
“Walking into the forest is like being inside the Anaconda film. It can be a high-adrenaline activity, especially if you get left behind — until you catch up, it’s nothing but you and the deep, dark forest…” says Akul Tripathi, travel expert and TV anchor.
Agumbe is called the king cobra capital of the world, says Anup Prakash, field director of the ARRS. “Astonishingly, people of Agumbe have lived without conflict among the world’s larget venomous species for decades,” he adds.
To enter the forest, seek permission from the range forest officer at Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Getting there: Fly to Mangalore and take a 2.5-hour drive to Agumbe
Email: email@example.com for details
Call: Anup on 94803-34613
Watch: Agumbe in all its glory of misty mountains and fascinating wildlife
The peacock dance
Four hours from Mumbai, hundreds of peacocks flock Morachi Chincholi. The quaint village guarantees a rustic experience — homestays, bullock cart rides, and home-made meals.
Marketing professional Doli Karmakar, 30, has visited twice since 2014. “After going with my colleagues during the monsoon, I wanted to take my family to this isolated spot. Despite going in March, all of us had so much fun just observing the peacocks going about their day.”
Getting there: Take the Pune-Ahmednagar highway till Shikrapur, and drive to Hivare village. Morachi Chincholi is 3 km away.
Squish, sponge, sting
You don’t need to dive, snorkel or even put on a suit. Just dunk your feet in the sea to see coral reef, dolphins, puffer fish, octopus… the list goes on. At Narara Marine National Park, Jamnagar, there’s enough to indulge the curious.
“Depending on the tide, one can go 2 to 3 km deep into the sea,” says Kunal Munsiff, 38, a Borivli-based chartered accountant and birdwatcher. “It is a great site for birding too. We saw the rare grey hypocolius here, along with flamingos and pelicans.”
Getting there: Drive or fly to Jamnagar; Narara islands are 60 km away
Visit: www.gujarattourism.com for details
Watch: Kunal Munsiff’s video of birding at Narara Marine National Park
The Stone age
The popular Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary holds a secret in its heart. A short hike leads to a world of limestone caves, one of which houses a stalagmite that is worshipped — it is believed to nurture an ancient linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva.
“The oldest gods were those representing natural phenomena. A living linga — a stalagmite — is being continuously formed by limestone. The short trek to the caves features hornbills and malabar giant squirrels for company, and majestic creepers weave through the valley below,” says Tripathi.
Getting there: Take the train to Hubli and drive 74 km to reach Dandeli
Glow in the dark
On a no-moon night, at the Taramumbari beach in Sindhudurg, the water glimmers neon-blue. Botanist Nagesh Daptardar, who has been studying the phenomenon, says this is caused by a type of phytoplankton called diatoms, commonly found here.
In the Chorla Ghats, 60 km off Panjim, the decaying forests take on an otherworldly glow owing to bioluminescent fungi.
Getting there: Fly or drive to Goa; Chorla Ghats are 2 hours from Panjim; Taramumbari is a 9-hour drive along the NH66, call 94049-39870 for details
Call: 8867422078 (Wanshan for the Ghats); 9404939870 (Sagar Maladkar, researcher under Prof Daptardar in Sindhudurg)
You can walk through holes carved into basalt rock that run 40 feet deep, formed purely by the force of water, making the landscape look like a hollowed block of cheese.
Travel expert Jayesh Morvankar says, “We saw the Kukadi river flow through this landscape, when the water levels were low. We drove down to the basin, parked and walked through the potholes, in wonder about the formations nature can make.”
Getting there: Follow the directions for Morachi Chincholi ; Nighoj is 20 km away
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