Kids camp to Amba Ghat

Written By Amol Kokane on Monday, April 22, 2019 | April 22, 2019

I just came back from a 3-day (2N-3D) Kids camp to Amba Ghat, Maharashtra. Rather than calling it as "kids camp" I should call it as "Tweens & Early Teens Camp", because that was the age group of children came to this camp. 64 campers in total. I went to this camp as one of the instructor/nature expert/volunteer, whatever you may want to call it.
A view of Amba Mountain Pass

Amba Ghat is a mountain pass on Kolhapur-Ratnagiri highway in Maharashtra. It is one of the many curvy and scenic ghat roads of Western Maharashtra. Amba is right on the edge of Dajipur Bison Sanctuary. Also, it is very close to Chandoli National Park. So, no wonder, it is blessed with rich variety of flora and fauna. Although, personally I did not feel Summer to be a best time to visit this place. According to me, monsoon is the best time to visit this place as this place just comes alive with several waterfalls and very high chances spotting variety of flora & fauna. Well, my opinion could be biased because of my personal affinity towards reptiles & frogs. Anyways..

Day 1

Our first day started with parents dropping their kids at the pre-decided boarding point at Siddhi Gardens at 6am. We boarded 2 buses and left for Amba Ghat at 6:30am sharp. Our route was Pune - Satara - Karad - Pachvad Phata - Kokrud - Malkapur - Amba. Enroute, at around 7:45am we took a breakfast halt, few kilo-meters before Shirwal. At Hotel Vegas, all the campers had a stomach-full of breakfast. The onward journey continued with campers dancing in the moving buses on their favorite Hindi/English songs. Some of them preferred chit-chatting with their friends. We took another short break after Pachvad Phata and on our way towards Kokrud at around 10:45am at Hotel Humbarban. The hotel had a nice location with a small lake in the backside.
We could spot few birds around the waterbody like, few Little Cormorants, a flock of Eurasian Spoonbills, Indian River Terns, Spot-billed Ducks, etc. The break was expected to be a quick bio-break but once campers saw ice-creams & cold drinks in the hotel, there was noway that campers could resist themselves from buying those. Around 12:30pm, we reached the campsite, which was The Amba Resort.
As we were getting down from our buses, we were greeted by a non-venomous Buff-striped Keelback snake in the resort premises. Campers were very excited to experience the first sighting of wild animal and that too on immediate arrival in the campsite.
Buff-striped Keelback
After sharing the information about the snake with campers, we went ahead with room-allotment for the campers and asked everyone to carry their luggage to their respective rooms and quickly get ready for the next activity.
Next, to beat the heat, campers were given an hour to take a dip in swimming pool after which we had a briefing session to explain "How to observe the Jungle?", explaining do's and don'ts in the jungle. After the evening snacks, we left for a jungle trek at around 5pm. We asked campers to carry torches as it could get dark on the way back. The trek was planned to walk through dense jungle uphill till the sunset point. It took us almost an hour to reach the sunset point. On our way to Sunset point, campers got chance to see lot of butterflies like Grass Yellows, Cupids, Grass Blues, Red Pierrot. The most interesting one for me was, Fluffy Tit butterfly. Another fascinating creature sighting was that of a Funnel-web Spider. Birds like Laughing Doves, Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, Larks, etc. We also heard calls from barbets and Yellow-browed Bulbuls. We also saw a pair of raptors but before we could ID it, it caught a hot air current and went high within no time. A wild guess was them being "Black Eagles" but not sure.
We witnessed a mesmerizing sunset. The temperature dropped with cool breeze flowing. As it was getting dark, campers were anxious to go to back to their rooms and settle down. But our plans were little different than their expectations. Our plan was to start the return journey from Sunset point, only after it gets dark and make them walk through that dense jungle at night. As soon as it got dark, we started hearing calls from one of the nocturnal birds named Jungle Nightjar. We asked campers to keep pin-drop silence if they really want to see the bird. We saw two Jungle Nightjars, one flew away, one settled down on a perfect perch. I was so glad that all campers followed the instructions given to the fullest, and we managed to go so close to the bird that some campers could take photos using their point-and-shoot cameras and even with mobile cameras. Everyone was super excited with the experience.
Jungle Nightjar
We left the bird alone and continued our downhill journey through the dense forest. Few of us got the glimpse of Indian Gaur (Bison) for a few seconds before it disappeared in thick forest. Few of us saw, Jewel Beetle, roosting Common Pierrot butterfly. For almost all the campers, this was the first ever experience of walking in the dense jungle at night. We returned back to the resort at around 8:45pm. Even though few of the campers were afraid of walking through the jungle at night in the beginning, later they enjoyed a lot.
That was enough for first day, and we called it a day after tasty dinner at resort.

Day 2

The second day started with a wakeup call at 6:30am, but most of the campers were already up. Campers were asked to finish their morning activities in next 1 hour. In the morning at the resort, we spotted birds like, Orange Minivets (Male & Female), White Eye, Common Iora, Sunbirds, etc. At 7:45am breakfast was served and we were off to a historically very important place named, Pawankhind at around 8:30am. On our way to Pawankhind, we stopped at Konkan Kada point, where campers were explained about how the Sahyadri Ranges were formed.
After reaching Pawankhind, the history was revised about the battle of Pawankhind as to how Bajiprabhu Deshpande along with few soldiers fought invaders till Shivaji Maharaj could reach Vishalgad fort. Then we took campers down in the gorge with the help of narrow ladders built to go down. It was little risky but we managed with ease with the help of my trained & skilful fellow instructors.
After spending some time and taking some group snaps, we climbed up the gorge and returned back to the resort for lunch. Immediately after lunch, we headed to Ratnagiri for next activity (and the most awaited activity by the campers), which is playing at the beach. We picked Aare-Ware beach (which is around 10 kms away from Ratnagiri) for our beach activity. We had already booked for Aare Ware Beach resort, as it was very convenient place from where beach was easily accessible by few minutes of walking. From our resort in Amba to Aare Ware beach resort, it took us around 2 hours by road and we reached there around 4pm. As soon as we reached beach resort, evening snacks were arranged along with a welcome drink. We had asked Beach Resort guy to arrange for Bournvita as well for the campers. But the campers were so eager to go to beach that they just did not want to waste any time in drinking Bournvita. Everyone just ran to beach where we spent next couple of hours.
Even after spending enough time at beach, we had to literally drag each camper out of the water. They were just not ready to come out. After coming back to the Beach Resort, 3-4 rooms were arranged for girls to get them cleaned and change their clothes. While for boys, we had a different idea. The beach resort had a well in their premises, so, to get it over quickly, we filled up buckets of water from the well, we huddled them up closely, and literally doused them with water, that when were done, all the boys were sopping wet from head to toe! In addition to this, we had 2 rooms for boys to change their clothes.
By the time, everyone was ready with changed clothes it was dinner time. Dinner was arranged with Veg and Non-veg option. With so many activities, campers were really hungry and they just attacked the food. One of the campers had birthday on that day, so we arranged for a birthday cake and the birthday was celebrated after the dinner. It was almost 10pm when we left from Beach resort to go back to our resort in Amba. All the campers were so tired with day-full of activities, most of them preferred to sleep during the 2-hour journey back to the Amba resort.
After reaching the Amba resort at midnight, there was no need to give any instructions to anyone, everyone was straight to their beds.

Day 3

Since it was very late last night, we decided to have a lazy start for Day 3. Wakeup call was given at 6:30am but campers were allowed to get ready till 8am. After the breakfast, we went to Ambeshwar Devrai (sacred grove), which was 15 minutes walk from the resort. The group was split into small groups and we took turns to take smaller groups for birding activity around the sacred grove. Surprisingly there was less activity at that time but we still managed to spot birds like Orange-headed Thrush and Puff-throated Babbler, few butterflies like, Common Four-ring, Chocolate Pansy, Cupid, etc. Some of them also spotted Skinks. After the roaming activity, campers were engaged in playing games.
We returned back from sacred grove at around 10:30am and went to Nature Information Center, which was located exactly opposite side of the road in front of our resort. Campers spent some time in NIC and we came back to the resort. Since there was some free time before lunch, we left it to campers to do whatever they want during that time. In addition to the final packing, some of them took a dip swimming pool, some decided to play badminton, cards, etc.
Post-lunch, we boarded the buses and started our return journey at around 2pm. During the return journey, campers preferred to do activities similar to what they did on Day 1 like dancing, chit-chatting, etc. Other than that not much eventful. One thing though. We took an evening snacks break at Hotel Aram near Khambataki Tunnel. During our break, while having snacks, few kids (especially tweens) came to me asking if they can buy a rabbit as a pet. Yeah.. you read it right. A rabbit!
Initially, I thought they are trying to pull my leg, so I laughed at them and ignored. After a while, those kids kept coming to me in the hope that I will allow them to buy one. To verify the truth, one of our instructors went with the kids and found out that there was a person who was selling rabbits. Couple of tweens were so much interested in buying those rabbits that we had to call their parents individually to confirm if their parents are okay with buying a pet. With approval from parents', there was nothing that we could say other than allowing those tweens to go ahead with the deal. The deal was fixed as Rs. 100 per rabbit. 2 tweens brought 2 pets packed in a cardboard box in our buses. Rest of the journey kids were busy deciding the names for rabbits.
We reached back to our final destination at around 8:20pm and our camp ended there with happy faces all around.
When I started for this camp on Day 1, I had only 1 real nephew accompanying with me as one of the camper. On Day 3, I was glad to say that I was with 60+ nephews & nieces. I must thank Insearch Outdoors for that. I was happy for one more reason as not everyone gets a chance when teenagers call you Dada (bhaiya) at this age when most of the time you are being referred as "Uncle"!
That's the team - Eagle Squadran
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