Maharashtra’s glowing forests

Bioluminescent forests near Bhimashankar

Maharashtra’s glowing forests

If you can’t make it to Hawaii this monsoon because of an overwhelming boss or underwhelming bank account, don’t fear. The state of Maharashtra could surprise you with its beauty. You’ve probably read all the listicles asking you to visit all the “offbeat places”, and do all those “offbeat things”. But here’s a listicle that offers just two destinations. Both are home to some of the rarest phenomenon on earth. And both are in our own backyard, the Western Ghats.  

Bhimashankar’s glowing trees 

Bioluminescent forests near Bhimashankar

For a few weeks every year during the monsoon, parts of Maharashtra’s Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve, shine in the dark. The rain-drenched tropical forest gives off an otherworldly glow because of a kind of bioluminescent fungus that grows on rotting bark and twigs on the forest floor.

This fungi belong to the Mycena genus, a group of tiny mushrooms that almost look like moss, and scientists are still not sure how it glows. It could take days before you actually stumble upon the glowing moss, since it has to be observed under the exactly right conditions, but luckily Bhimshankar has a lot more to offer.

For bird lovers, the sanctuary harbours globally threatened species like the Greater Spotted Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon along with restricted range species like the Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and the Southern Tree Pie. For the more adventerous, you could also take a train to Karjat, or Nerul and trek over the hills into the reserve.

The natural reserve is about 230-odd kilometres from Mumbai. The best way to travel there is by car, or bus via Pune.

Purushwadi’s glowing insects

Fireflies near Purushwadi

This one is a little more common, but no less beautiful. Every year, close to 10 million fireflies converge at the tribal village of Purushwadi near Igatpuri, about 220 km from Mumbai. It’s about a thousand feet above sea level.

These glowing fireflies only live for two months, May and June, so if you put if off too late, you might not be able to catch this phenomenon. Grassroutes arranges a month long firefly festival where you can book a tent and go on guided tours into the valley of fireflies. Apart from that, you can enjoy bonfires, jam sessions and traditional organic food to compliment this extraordinary experience.

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