Mention Agumbe to the uninitiated, and they will wonder if you are talking about a place in Africa. Remote though it is, Agumbe is best known for two reasons: For the highest recorded rainfall in India, second only to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya; and for being the location where the popular 1980s television series, Malgudi Days (based on R K Narayan’s books) was shot. Add to that a third reason, one mostly the province of nature lovers and reptile enthusiasts. It is the site of the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, which has pioneered the study of the world’s largest venomous snake, the King Cobra.
Agumbe may be approached through two routes: from Sringeri in Chikmagalur (26 km) and from the coast via Mangalore (102) and Udupi (55 km). The approach from Udupi involves a steep climb, negotiating 17 hairpin bends through dense forests policed by thieving monkeys. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of an endangered Lion-tailed Macaque, a beautiful black primate with a mane of dirty-white hair.
Agumbe Ghat is a sheer cliff rising up from the coastal plain to an elevation of 2,710 feet, and this vantage makes it ideal for watching sunsets. On a clear day, it is possible to see the shimmer of the Arabian Sea lit up by the sun sinking in it.
In the monsoon streams and waterfalls abound, as do leeches, frogs and vipers. Rain pours in thick ropes, often impeding visibility. This is the season that draws fans of herpetofauna – a term encompassing reptiles and amphibians – who flock to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, which was established here by India’s leading snake expert, Romulus Whitaker. Accommodation is available here, but it is on the steep side and certainly not for the faint of heart, for researchers at the station actually look forward to sharing their modest lodgings with scorpions, snakes and frogs!
There are a few homestays in Agumbe, but most visitors seek accommodation in the nearby township of Thirthalli. If you are seeking creepy-crawlies, go during the monsoon. Else, winter is the time for unblemished sunsets.
View a slideshow on Agumbe.