Amboli – The Heaven in Distress…

Amboli is a famous hill station and monsoon tourist destination in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Renowned for its famous waterfall and picturesque landscapes, this place is equally famous for its rich diversity of herpetofauna, amphibians, and reptiles among nature enthusiasts. This small hill station is visited by thousands of tourists, especially during weekends in monsoon months. This is a period when most of the faunal diversity is at the peak of their activity.

Although nature enthusiasts take due care, their increasing number is invariably putting stress on many faunal elements, especially amphibians and reptiles. The economy of this place solely depends on tourism and hence a few responsible steps, especially from nature enthusiasts are essential.

Thanks to the efforts from the local community and the Forest Department, Amboli is still standing safe, but how long? This is one of our small efforts to discuss the interesting diversity of this landscape with a short note on issues they are facing through tourism.       

These are my personal observations here at Amboli. I too did many such mistakes in the past – do not deny that. But is it the right way to proceed is the question. If things continue like this, one day all these interesting species will disappear and hence, tourists will turn their backs on Amboli. Can we afford any of these?

I am raising a few questions here only to raise awareness…  

Cryptic hunter 

Equipped with a pit to detect its prey in pitch darkness, this variedly colored nocturnal Malabar pit viper merges with the surrounding and wait for its prey, like this individual, which was waiting on an exposed root near a stream. A Malabar pit viper encountered on the nature trail is either removed from its natural habitat and posed for hours or clicked in natural setup for hours using glaring flash to get a crisp photo.

Imagine 100 people doing the same and is it right?


Pristine to tainted

The forest around Amboli is predominantly semi-evergreen with a few patches like this that are still pristine and undisturbed which supports a rich and endemic biodiversity. Owing to increased tourism, many pristine patches getting altered with plastic waste and liquor bottles and losing their charm.

Do we really expect such transformation?



This landscape has many perennial streams that are active during monsoon. They not only maintain the water table of this landscape but are the abode to rich aquatic biodiversity also. In recent years these streams are getting polluted due to increased tourism activities.

Can we afford the slow death of these lifelines to increased pollution and disturbance?


Threatened king of Amboli

The exposed lateritic rocky outcrops in this landscape support unique biodiversity and one species of an amphibian that is confined to this habitat is Amboli toad (Xanthophryne tigerina). During the early monsoon, the Amboli toad dominates this habitat. Due to their restricted distribution and loss in the quality and extent of their habitat this toad is considered as Critically Endangered by IUCN.

Will the increasing anthropogenic pressure on this habitat wipe out the remaining populations of this toad?


Beauty leading to brutality 

Although none of them are poisonous, the most hated vertebrates are the lizards. But photographing this nocturnal White-banded ground gecko (Cyrtodactylus albofasciatus) licking its eyes is on the bucket list of many nature enthusiasts visiting Amboli. In getting this ‘stunning’ capture, the gecko is harassed for hours.

Is it worth disturbing this endemic and beautiful gecko for hours merely for a photograph?


Losing the posts

The males of this Castle Rock Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus petraeus) occupy a breeding post and advertise their presence with a melodious call every night. If not disturbed, they retain these posts for months. A successful male can have many egg clutches on his breeding post, as seen here in this image. There is a rush to photograph this behavior in Amboli. In a personal observation, I observed three males disappeared from their posts after being continuously photographed by 23 ‘photographers’ in a span of two hours.

Is our love for getting a stunning capture is worth than the species?


New additions

Amboli is home to many interesting species of amphibians and reptiles. Thanks to the continued efforts of various researchers over the last two decades – many new species were described from Amboli. A few of these species are presently only known from Amboli, highlighting the importance of this place.

This landscape still has many such undescribed species and but are we giving due attention to other life forms as well?


Mascot conserved…

The Malabar gliding frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) is undoutably the mascot and the famous tourist attaction of Amboli during the monsoon. This species, need temporary rainwater puddles with overhanging plants for their breeding. Once disappeared, but thanks to insitu conservation efforts of a local resident, Hemant Ogale, they are safe.     

But what about other amphibians, are they doing well? 


Varad Giri

Director, Nidus