Bhimashankar Forest Area Patrolling Activity

Bhimashankar Forest Area Patrolling Activity
-Jayshri Dumbre
Duration: 8th to 14th October 2016

It was "call of the forest" and I got the opportunity to do patrolling activity of Bhimashankar forest area for entire seven days. 
"Each day provides its own gifts"- a quote by Marcus Aurelius came to alive for me in those seven days. I was truly excited for the forest walk and did not wanted to lose a single moment of it after waiting for nine months for this opportunity. 
It was a sheer joy and bliss to wander in dense forest just after the monsoon. We were lucky for not having rain during entire period of this activity. It wasn't too sunny, hence we could do patrolling activity in pleasant weather.

Day  - 1 
The entire Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is divided in two parts namely Bhima - 1 and Bhima - 2 for better management and control. We were four volunteers to join for the program for this batch. We all travelled to Murbad district location to report to Bhima-2 forest office from our respective locations. We completed official formalities in the forest department office as instructed. We also received a brief instructions and general plan of activities that we were supposed to conduct in next four days in order to cover Bhima-2 forest area. We reached Forest Rest House, Nariwali village by state transport bus (MSRTC) in the evening and could take a small forest walk nearby up to village river before the sunset. Mr. Thakare was the caretaker of the rest house who was also a resident of the village. We stayed at the rest house for next four days and had tasty food at Mr. Thakare's home.

Day - 2
After having breakfast in the morning, we travelled to Khopiwali village. The forest guard, Mr. Raju accompanied us for the day. Our trek to Gorakhgad pinnacle started from Khopiwali. Raju has immense amount of stamina and its him due to which the day was adventurous. Although I had done this trek just 7 months earlier, it was still thrilling to climb the pinnacle again. We visited Sondi waterfall on our return. The waterfall was giant and we couldn't dare to go any closer to it. We could cover beat no. 748 and 750 in this day.

Golden Orb Spider

Few lizards and bats were seen at Gorakhgad. The various species of earthworms, crabs and frogs were abundant. Butterflies and flowers were everywhere.
On our way to return we could spot the Golden Orb Spider (Nephila pilipes).   It is probably best known to the public for its ability to build large, spectacular webs with spider silk that is stronger than kevlar. However, although large webs might mean more prey caught, the trade-off would be its susceptibility to parasites. Like all spiders from the family Nephilidae, female gigantism is extremely pronounced and this results in the large sizes of mature female spiders, achieving body lengths of 40mm to 50mm. 
Day - 3
On third day, we started early morning to cover the entire forest area of beat no. 749. We had planned our day in order to stick to flat terrain of forests and avoided any steep ascent. Mr. Vilas, Forest Guard, was accompanying us on this day and our first spot to visit was Subhedar waterfall. 

Bronzed -back Mantella frog

On our way to waterfall, we saw Bronzed-back Mantella frog. There are about 220 species of Poison Arrow Frogs and Mantella belongs to this family. This a small, terrestrial frog normally found in rainforest. The Bronzed-back Mantella is named specifically because of its bronze stripe which lines its back and travels through to the tip of its nose covering the rim of its large eyes. The Bronzed-back Mantellas are small, reaching a size of 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) in length. 
The Subhedar waterfall was marvellous and high enough, although best part was it is untouched. There were no other tourists and we were the only one to enjoy the place fully. The water was cold and was shallow so that we could enjoy to the fullest. We had a bath in the waterfall followed by some photography and then we moved to our next destination 'the river point' by the lunch time. After the lunch at river (which tasted just yum), we traced the Sidhhagad platue and returned back to Narivali by another route instead of returning by the same route we came. Sidhhagad platue and return journey was longest and took approximately 5 hrs of trekking. We were extremely tired on this day that we slept immediately after the dinner.

Day - 4
On this day, we were supposed to reach to Bhima-1 office by trekking; however, since the staff was on holiday on the occasion of Dasara, we were asked to stay back at Nariwali by Bhima-2 RFO. Mr. Thakare himself made our forest walk arrangements on this day and accordingly, we visited Jambhurde dam after the breakfast and covered a small part of forest adjoining the dam. We had late lunch after coming back to Nariwali and had rest thereafter.

Day - 5
RFO, Bhima-2 arrived Nariwali and had a detailed discussion with us about our next plan. As instructed, we trekked to Ahupe village from Khopiwali via the famous Ahupe Ghat route with Mr. Raju. We observed an unique species of chameleon on the way.

Indian tiger centipede

 A colourful Indian Tiger centipede (Scolopendra hardwickei)  got our attention while walking. One of the bright coloured creature which looks very beautiful. It can deliver a painful venomous bite which is a clear cut message from the orange and black strips. It's venom is very potent and can cause extreme pain, swelling and aches in humans.  Our trek was hectic as we gained the maximum altitude on this day. We also had our backpacks with us as we were shifting our base from Nariwali to Ahupe. It took almost 5 hrs to reach Ahupe. We reached there in the evening but the forest guards had no information about our arrival. However, Mr. Kede managed our stay and food arrangement for the day. He also finalised one forest guard to accompany us for our next day trek. We stayed at Forest Vanarakshak office and had food arrangements at Mr. Kede's home.

Day - 6
We started for Kondwal village with Mr. Laxman Lange, Forest Guard, after the breakfast at Mr. Kede's home. The trek was easy without any hard ascent or descent. Although we had our backpacks with us, this was the least tiring trek. We trekked via Bhatti Forest and then half of the walk was via road head. We observed several wild monkeys on this road-head which made this trek memorable. Kondwal village was the real treat. We enjoyed the Kondwal Forest walk in the evening time with Mr. Pandu Damse who took us in the dense forest where hardly any path was visible. We spotted Shekaru (Ratufa Indica - the big giant squirrel) and their nests and visited several beautiful water streams. This forest was also seemed to be best for various flowers and butterflies species.  We visited Kondawal waterfall on return journey and spent some time there in peace while it turned dark. Our stay and food arrangement was done at Mr. Damse's home and we were pleased to receive very tasty food and hospitality. 

Day - 7
We started our day very early morning to spot few wildlife. We covered entire Ghatghar forest area which included crossing of multiple river streams. The Ghatghar forest is really dense and full of beauty. We spotted various birds, shekaru, snakes, pugmarks of deer and scratch marks of leopard. 

Common Jezebel

I captured Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis) butterfly in my camera. They are very colourful having hues of yellow, red, black and white. Typically the upper side is white with well defined black veins and the underside having a similar pattern in addition to the hind wings having a bright yellow with a series of red spots. Both the male and female look very similar with only few differences. It is found to frequent a wide variety of habitats including tropical rain forests, open woodlands and flower gardens and can be seen in most parts of the islands.

Tree snail

The image shows a tree snail descending down a rough wooden structure. The land snails too are abundant in this forest.
After having continuous long walk for approximately 7 hrs, we decided to return to have our late lunch. Post lunch, we initiated our journey to Bhima - 1, Forest office and reached there in the evening by 6:00pm with Mr. Damse. However, the staff had already left for the day and we couldn't detail out various options available to us. It was anyway our last day of patrolling hence we decided to return back to our respective hometowns. We handed over our reporting documents to Mr. Damse for completing the reporting formalities at office and left for Pune by MSRTC bus.

During patrolling, the information on various flowers/trees and their use, characteristics received from forest guards was very useful. The program could been more systematic if IWC and Forest Department could have provided us a more detailed schedule for seven days to avoid randomness and coordination related issues. 
Overall a mesmerising experience in the lap of nature and I strongly recommend this program for all the nature lovers out there.

(Jayshri Dumbre is a metallurgist by profession.  She is also a passionate mountaineer and trekker, who has completed Advanced Mountaineering Course from the National Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi) 

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