Amboli Ghats, Green Vine Snake
Nature's Wonders - Places

The Night Life In Amboli – With Herpetofauna In Company

Amboli has vibrant nightlife. Or so we heard. And we were looking forward for a glimpse of it. The wettest place in Maharashtra has its charms during the day, too. In 3 days, we could enjoy both.

The term biodiversity has become a well-worn expression, used by all and sundry without really understanding or appreciating its intensity and depth. For some, it means wilderness or a patch of greenery. (What about our precious deserts?) We even have senior forest officers thinking of building artificial nests for birds displaced out of their natural habitat when trees are cut for widening highways. (A community labour room?). And forest ministers claiming planting new trees can compensate the lost forest cover when dams are built. Then, we have the CSR initiatives where trees are indiscriminately planted on grasslands. (Grasslands have grass and no trees for a reason, right?)

That the term biodiversity is vast, deep, and varied was our greatest learning from the 3-day herpetofauna trip to Ambolighat in Western Ghats in Maharashtra, thanks to Nature India’s expert naturalists Adesh and Mandar, with whom we do most of our nature exploration trips. Study tour would be a better term to describe these trips. In Amboli, we also had Shaunak Pal, a scientist with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as our field guide. Tagging along with these passionate people in weather that alternated between rain and mist through the dark and deep forests of Amboli opened up a whole new world to us.

Amboli Ghats, Green Vine Snake
Green Vine Snake – (b) Ahaetulla Nasuta

It made us also realise the intricate connection among the multitude of elements and how less do we know about our natural ecosystem.

Take for instance, frogs. Over the 3 days, we were introduced to 10 different species of frogs and toads, most of them endemic to Western Ghats or some even endemic to the Amboli region itself. The Malabar gliding frog, a tree frog that lays eggs on branches overhanging still water only so that on hatching, the tadpoles fall into the water and survive. The Amboli toad (aka yellow tiger toad because of the tiger-like stripes on its body) that can breed only in rocky pools on laterite rocks, the microhabitat required for the survival of its tadpoles. The wrinkled frog that lays eggs on branches hanging above streams; its tadpoles need flowing water to survive.

TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat Malabar Gliding Frog
Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus)
TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat Malabar Gliding Frog
Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus)
Microhabitat was a new term for us. Several species, after centuries of evolutionary changes, learned to thrive in small, specialized habitats that maximizes their survival rates. No competition for the same space and food by different species—peaceful coexistence!
TravelWithaCouple Amboli GhatBedomme’s keeback
Bedomme’s Keeback Snake


TravelWithacouple Amboli Ghat Malabar Pit Viper
Malabar Pit Viper


TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat Malabar Pit Viper
Malabar Pit Viper

The Amboli bush frog thrives on shrubbery, whereas the Bombay bush frog (aka typewriter frog) survives at a little more higher level on trees or bushes. The Indian rock/leaping frog lives and lays eggs on crevices in rocks and trees.

Body features of these different species are also unique. The Malabar gliding frog has long legs and webbed feet so that it can glide smoothly from one tree to another. Indian bullfrog has thick thighs and webbed feet to jump on the ground and glide in the water.
TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat
TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat
Snakes of Amboli opened yet another charming world for us. The dread and trepidation ingrained in our minds from childhood took a backseat as Shaunak deftly picked up the nonvenomous ones—Ceylon shield tail, Ceylon or Beddome’s cat snake, green vine snake, Bedomme’s keeback—and showed us the details. Two sightings of Malabar pit viper were also exciting though no one touched them. We could spot them in that amazing camouflage was because we had people with us who knew snakes well.
TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat Indian Bull Frog
Indian Bull Frog

Not to left behind are the lizards in Amboli. Prashadi gecko or Bombay leaf-toed gecko, white banded ground gecko, Roux’s forest calotes, dwarf gecko, and Brook’s gecko. Called lizards in general, each of these has unique and intricate features and specific territory that we can only marvel at the staggering variety of life forms in nature.

Bioluminescent fungus was an amazing find during a nightwalk. The pieces of dead wood that glow in dark but looks like any other rotting wood made sure our jaws remained dropped for a while. Caterpillar of Atlas moth, purple crab, pill millipede, glowworm, scutigera (pre-historic centipede), and swamp eel are some of the other fascinating creatures that enthralled us.

TravelWithaCouple Amboli Ghat Wrinkled Frog Eggs
Eggs of Wrinkled Frog
 Amboli, at an altitude of 690 mts, in Swantwadi district of Maharashtra is in the Western Ghats (Sahyadris) and is an ecological hot spot. Amboli receives the maximum rain fall in Maharashtra.
TravelWithACouple Amboli Ghat Ceylon Shield Tail
Ceylon Shield Tail


Travelwithacouple Amboli Ghat


India, the home to some of the world’s most richest & rarest bio-diversity hot spots, is also the fastest in loosing it. We fail to understand and appreciate the fact that our lives and existence are intricately connected to the very survival of these forests and bio diversity. Recognising that our water resources are dwindling fast is more than enough for all of us to get our act together. But then conservation must become a culture and not nice-to-do thing. Hope it is not too late, before it becomes.

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