The charm of Amboli, a hill station in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, lies in its staggering diversity of landscapes. There is the emerald forest, the gurgling streams, and the brown, brooding plateau. Each one of these landscapes is unique, as are the species found in them.
In July 2019, photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee and herpetologist Varad Giri went on a memorable trip to Amboli. The days were reserved for exploring the vast plateau, while the nights were for the deep, dense jungle. “We would finish dinner and leave for the forest. The magic of Amboli lies in the chance encounters. You could just be walking around a drain and encounter eggs of a wrinkled frog. A little further, you may find a Malabar pit viper perched on a tree. You then amble closer to the streams and suddenly discover forest crabs scuttering on damp stones. Around the stream, there are the most unimaginable number of insects, reptiles, and water striders,” says Mukherjee. The beauty of a habitat such as Amboli also lies in waiting — patiently and unobtrusively — for nature to reveal itself. “You have to allow the darkness to engulf you, adjust your vision and suddenly you could be startled by the most mundane object — a dry log that has suddenly metamorphosed into a home for the most magnificent bioluminescent fungi.” Day time sojourns to the plateau show you a completely different side. Made of red, iron-rich laterite rocks, the plateau shelters the famous Amboli toad, and many species of geckos, caecilians, scorpions, swamp eels. Every monsoon, small waterbodies form along the rocky outcrops, that turn into ideal breeding grounds for amphibians, and homes for tadpoles.
Amboli used to be a quiet, little-known town till a few decades ago. But now it has been truly discovered by nature lovers, photographers, and tourists. Thousands of visitors flood Amboli in the monsoons — some for its picturesque landscape and waterfalls, and others for its rich diversity of herpetofauna. “Monsoon is a period when most of the faunal diversity is at the peak of their activity. The increasing number of visitors is stressful for many species, especially amphibians and reptiles,” says Giri. With the economy of Amboli being largely dependent on tourism, a few responsible steps, especially by nature lovers will go a long way in keeping this haven and its species protected. “Amboli is still safe because of efforts of the locals and the forest department, but I don’t know for how long it will stay that way,” says Giri.