What comes to your mind first when you hear the word “Fireflies” ????
Well! this blog is all about reliving your childhood by witnessing the ongoing magical fireflies festival in villages near Mumbai. 🙂
Before getting into details, let us first talk about fireflies. Fireflies, also called as Glow-worm, Jugnu (in Hindi) and Kajwa (Marathi); are winged beetles which chemically produces light from lower abdomen ( Scientifically known as Bioluminescence phenomenon) to attract mates or prey. More than 2000 species of fireflies are found all over the world.
In India, May and June are best season to spot them as they hatch during spring, and flicker in pre-monsoon season for mating, lay eggs and eventually die. During this season, one gets to see millions of these magical things flickering in villages. In Maharashtra, many villages are suitable site to witness kajwa aka fireflies festival. As travelers, we were eyeing this festival since last couple of years, but were unsure of the outcome. Will we get to see the fireflies in good number? are the pictures on internet are real or just photo shopped? these questions kept bugging us.
Summers are in full swing in Mumbai, and no one is daring to step outside, leave weekend getaway aside for that matter. But internet suggested, this pre-monsoon season is best time to go for camping and witness fireflies in great number. After much discussion and planning, this time we decided to experience it by our own and went on a weekend trip to a remote village in Ahmadnagar. Allow me to take you back with me on my last weekend trip to spot fireflies and related adventures. 🙂
The planning and journey
As we are slowly spreading our wings as travelers, we unanimously decided to do this trip by our own and not by any event or host travelling group. We chalked out our plan, route, stay, and contacted a local guide for spotting fireflies. The important point here is no matter what, you need to have a local guide to help you with spotting fireflies. The place we zeroed down is Bhandardara in Ahmadnagar district, famous for resorts and lakeside camping. We were planning to rent tents and stay near lake side. Our local guide Mr. Sanjay Giri, is a cool man, he cleared our doubts and offered us tents on rent so we do not have to carry them all the way from Mumbai. He advised us to carry torches as we have to walk in dark forests to spot fireflies.
As the weekend came closer, two of our friends also joined us and on Saturday 10 A.M. four of us left in friend’s car for our destination. We still were anxious and nervous as now we have two more people who are betting on us for a great weekend. It was around 170 K.M from Mumbai, Kharghar to be specific, a four and half hour drive in total.
The roads were good, and traffic was smooth. We stopped midway to have lunch in a highway dhabha, and the moment we stepped outside the car reality hit us, the scorching heat! We finished our lunch and left for Bhandhardara.
Sanjay’s (local guide) village was a half hour drive from Bhandardara, As we had plenty of time in hand, We decided to see the lake first and then head to his village for stay. We reached Bhandardara by 3 p.m., the dam was inaccessible as per officials, so we went to nearby viewing point to get the panoramic view of the huge lake.
After having a good time we left for the Udawane village, our destination!
When we left for Udawane from Bhandardara dam, we called our guide to know the exact location and he told us to reach Pankaj bhojnalaya (food joint), he will be waiting for us there only. We reached the said village and there was board of bhojnalaya but no hotel, small dhaba, nothing! he came out smiling and told his home is Pankaj Bhojnalaya. As we parked, the village kids gathered to peek in our car. His home was center point of the village, having a big cemented chabutara (platform) underneath a big Jack fruit tree. The houses were made of mud, and beautifully coloured in vibrant tones of blue and pink.
We noticed a beautiful house nearby with an old lady and man sitting outside wearing traditional dress. Paresh asked me to approach for a photo as him asking for photo can be little uncomfortable to them. I approached the younger lady coming out the house in marathi for clicking few pictures. She said why not, and tidied her clothes and of the old couple and sat in attention pose. She was very co-operative and friendly, she even made me wear her necklace, I was overwhelmed by the love 🙂
We sat on platform and were served garam-a-garam chai (tea). While sipping tea we discussed our stay, camping site, food and timings. We had already planned to see Amruteshwar Temple and Ghatghar on the next day. But got confused as few local elderly people told that there is Sandhan valley nearby and this is right time for a complete trek as in monsoon it will be flooded with water. Anyways, we left the decision on next morning and left to see our campsite.
Sanjay, our local guide had already decided our campsite near to his house and took us there. We were not pleased with the location as we wanted to camp near a water body. Much to our surprise we got to know that he owns a good share of land in village and we can set our tent wherever we please. So we left to find an apt place and finalised a place near backwaters of Bhandardara lake. We got busy in setting our tents, and asked for kanda bhajiya(onion fritters)and ice for drinks 😉 Sanjay expressed his inability to get ice as there is no continuous power but left with promises of getting bhajiyas in an hour.
As it is summer the water was very less and still, but the surrounding was so serene with sun setting down on hills. We clicked and clicked pictures untill it started getting dark, and waited eagerly for him to come back.
Our campsite 🙂
He showed up pretty late by 7 P.M. with loads of bhajiyas, thus no complains 🙂 He asked us to reach his place after booze session for dinner and after that we will left for the reason we came; the fireflies 🙂
We wrapped up by 9 P.M. and left for his place and had besan jhunka, bajar bhakhri, sev sabji in authentic mahashtrian dinner. To be honest after having scrumptious meal, all I wanted was to sleep.
The magical fireflies
Fireflies mostly reside on certain trees as they feed on pollen grains and nectar. And one has to be really attentive to spot a tree full of fireflies. Sanjay told us he has already spotted the fireflies site a day before. So we left for the site in our car, while Sanjay on his bike ahead of us. He stopped after 5 minutes and asked us to look on our left. Me in half sleep, peeked and nothing! and then reality hit me, I looked again, there was a tree some 20 meters off the road, shining like a Christmas tree. And I swear my sleep vanished in a blink, we got down from car, literally ran towards the site crossing roads and farm. And there it was, two trees illuminated with millions of fireflies.
What was more magical that the fireflies were routinely synchronising their flashes in a precise manner which made my jaw drop with awe! I could not believe it, is it for real, how it can be?? It was so beautiful, my heart ached and I choked as I got emotional (Yes I get emotional for weird reasons). What we witnessed cannot explained in words, you have to witness it to believe it.
We sat there silently for half an hour, everyone was lost in magic of nature. And then we came to senses as Paresh was trying to capture the scene with his camera but failing, finally after many efforts he relied on bulb mode and was holding the shutter for few minutes to capture the proof of magical phenomenon. It was nothing compared to what we witnessed with bare eyes but still is a fraction of beauty. Sanjay was very happy after seeing the pictures and requested Paresh to send the pic as it will help him in getting more tourists (we have sent the pic yesterday 🙂
We then left to spot more christmas trees (our term) and were successful in spotting few more. We clicked few more pictures, hopped and danced in excitement of the phenomenon we witnessed together. We returned back to our tents by 12 P.M., we called off the night with a smile on our face.
We woke up by 6:30 A.M, still in awe with what we witnessed last night, we left for Sanjay’s place for morning tea.
I and Paresh started doing yoga under the tree.After freshening up, we finally we decided to trek the Sandhan Valley which is a different adventurous story altogether, but this blog is not about trek. Right?
I urge you to plan a weekend to witness this ongoing magical fireflies festival before monsoon hit Maharashtra and these creatures go back to the wonderland it came from 🙂
Tell us your views on this blog in comments below and feel free to contact us regarding any query/ info/ details. we will be more than happy to help 🙂
Edit: many travellers are requesting for our local guide contact, so we are providing his info 🙂
Contact no. 07744924693