Through the year the understated landscape of Agumbe, in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, exists as a tranquil leafy haven. But it is in the monsoon that it truly comes alive. The forest suddenly takes on rich luscious hues and the rainforest resonates with a magical cacophony. Steams gurgle, frogs let out loud, continuous mating calls. Caecilians crawl, mushrooms spring up from the most unexpected places. And suddenly rain-soaked, the pristine paradise wakes up. It’s like watching a motion picture from very close quarters. While most of the Western Ghats transform miraculously during the monsoons, Agumbe is probably its crown jewel because of how staggeringly biodiverse it is.
Photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee who has travelled to Agumbe in the monsoon several times says that the rains are special because the landscape opens itself up and allows people to take a close look at the smallest of species. “It has a very cinematic quality to it. To give you an example from photography — when you travel to a Central Indian forest like Kanha, it’s like using a wide angle lens. The beauty lies in the landscape — getting that perfect shot of the orange glow of the sun as a deer or a tiger walks though the sal forests. In Agumbe, beauty lies in the little things — like zooming in with a macro lens. And every step takes you a little closer. A stream, a tree, a snake. And then you get a little closer — you find a fallen log with mushrooms growing on it, you upturn a rock and find caecilians and ants under it. Every moment is one of discovery.”
Researcher Varad Giri, who has worked extensively in the rainforest points out that the high rainfall and heterogeneity of habitats is one of the reasons Agumbe supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna. “The king cobra may be the most popular species in the Western Ghats, but it is the lesser life forms which build a strong foundation in maintaining the crucial ecological balance. It is this amazing diversity of lesser, but equally charismatic species that make Agumbe truly special.”
Each one of these beautiful, mysterious species represents how essential inter-connectedness and coexistence is in a habitat like Agumbe. Their health is indicative of the health of the entire ecosystem. Giri explains, “We need diversity among insects to be able to sustain the frogs and lizards. The frogs and lizards are essential to sustain snake species like the pit-vipers and the rat snake. And finally, we need a diversity of these snake species for the king cobra to thrive because it feeds on other snakes.” It is this collective alchemy that creates a habitat like Agumbe.