The room overlooks pristine waterfalls and virgin forests. I am in the rain forests of the Western Ghats, in search of the enchanted eerie glowing forests of Goa.
I have always had a fascination for darkness and nightscapes. Night brings with it a sense of mystery and enigma and the darkness transforms landscapes into surreal images of their former daylight selves. Of late, this fascination has extended to things that glow in the dark. After a rather successful trip to see fireflies in the wild trails of Rajmachi, I was fascinated by the phenomenon of the glowing forests in the Western Ghats.
After much research, I narrowed down on visiting the Chorla Ghats section in order to find these mysterious glowing forests. Now Chorla is about 60 Km from Panjim, Goa and is part of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. My destination was Wildernest, which is a lovely eco-resort on the edge of the Sanctuary. The resort conducts a number of eco-trips, including treks to the neighbouring waterfalls. Its superbly located rooms command awe inspiring views of the surrounding forests.
The drive to Wildernest took a little longer than expected and I reached there just as the sun was setting. After checking into the rooms, I made it to the lovely restaurant area for some fresh tea. Looking at some of the photographs in the place, it seemed like I had come to the right place. Some enquiries around and one of the Wildernest employees agreed to show me around the forest, after dark, and help locate the glowing fungi.
We started after the evening cultural performance at the restaurant area. It was already dark, and my new found guide, Krishna, led the way illuminating the jungle path by torchlight. He kept shining the light around in the hope of catching some of the more elusive creatures of the night, such as the frogs of the Western Ghats. While we did not see any, our journey through the forest was punctuated by the cacophony of frogs croaking in chorus !!!
Of the over 70,000 types of fungi found, only about 70 are bio luminescent. Our search for the evening was the Mycena fungi, a group of tiny mushrooms that almost look like moss. Like fireflies and glow worms, Mycena, also produce and emit light through a chemical reaction. However, the intensity of light is very much dependent on the amount of oxygen and moisture in the atmosphere. Therefore, the monsoons are the best time to see this mesmerizing phenomenon.
After a little while, Krishna abruptly stopped beside a tree by the jungle path. “Turn off your torch”, he beckoned. My eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, and lo behold, the forest around was slowly glowing in green, like something out of Avatar. I had finally arrived.
As more darkness fell, the glow of the fungi kept increasing. However, since it was a full moon night, Krishna felt that the glow was not as much as would have been on a no moon night. Still, I was happy on having discovered this wonderful phenomenon. I spent about an hour or two clicking photos of the fungi, unmindful of the leeches and snakes slithering about.
After that enchanting encounter with glowing fungi, we walked back to the restaurant in silence, contemplating the wonders of nature yet to be discovered.
Chorla Ghats are about 60 km from Panjim. Panjim is accessible by road from both Mumbai and Goa. If you are flying in though, the closest airport is Vasco Da Gama. If you are staying at Wildernest, the resort can arrange a pick up and drop for you.
Best Time to Visit
If you plan to visit to see the glowing forests, it is best to visit Chorla during the monsoons. Usually, the fungi are best viewed in late August to September end.
Where to Stay
Wildernest (Rs.6000 per night) is the most ideally located resort for stay in Chorla and probably the only option as well. They have wonderful valley and waterfall facing rooms and their room fare includes nature activities and meals. The resort also includes a lovely pool overlooking the valley and very helpful and courteous staff.