|Let a million flowers bloom! - Kaas Plateau|
Picture yourself at a place where there are rows and rows of blooming flowers on a flat land, as far as your eyes can see - different colours, different varieties - surrounded by verdant mountains, lakes and valleys. If you think I am asking you to recollect a scene from some Yash Chopra film then you are mistaken. I am alluding to a place which is only 6-7 hours drive South of Mumbai and about 2-3 hours from Pune.
Kaas Plateau, nestled in the Sahyadris (Western Ghats) in the District of Satara (of Mahabaleshwar fame), is also known as Maharashtra's Plateau of Flowers or the Valley of Flowers (being surrounded by valleys on two sides). As the monsoon sets in, the place comes alive with millions of wild flowers blooming on the plateau and along the slopes of the hills (all naturally occurring). The carpet changes colour every passing day and hour - white, yellow, pink, violet, blue. Add to this the changing hues of the sky, it being rainy season, and you have a magical place - a place fit for the Gods!
For a slide show of complete set of pictures from Kaas Plateau, please click HERE.
|Kaas Plateau - Bed of flowers - countless Smithia Hirsuta flowers|
|Malabar Crested Lark|
According to Dr. Sandeep Shrotri, there are over 1,500 types of plants in Kaas - 156 botanical families, 680 genera, 1452 species, 400 medicinal plants, and about 33 endangered varieties in Kaas and the neighbouring Koyna area. Many of these are believed to be not found elsewhere. It thus becomes imperative to protect this place. As such the Western Ghats are a biodiversity hotspot (amongst the two in India, out of a total of 34 world over). Days after we visited the place, a team from UNESCO visited the site in order to assess it for declaring it a World Heritage Site. Achieving this milestone would go a long way in creating awareness about conserving the place.
Some of the commonly found flowers at Kaas, and which are pictured here & in slideshow are - Smithia Hirsute (Mickey Mouse flower), Senecio Grahami, Utricularia Purpurascens, Dipcadi Montanum, Impatiens Oppositifolia, Indigofera Dalzelli, Cyanotis Cristata, Ipomoea Nil, Celosia Argentea, Drosero India, etc. (unable to label them below since it distorts alignment)
|Endless line of vehicles on an overcast day!|
When we reached the spot on the first day, there were hundreds of vehicles lined-up on either side of the road along the Kaas Plateau - while the next day (being Sunday) there was absolutely no place to park for miles - the cops had decided to halt vehicles headed for Kaas well in advance in order to avoid a traffic nightmare. I have to say that the cops stationed at the place are doing an admirable job of guiding the tourists and preventing any foul play - but just like entries to a national park are restricted, to conserve the place it is necessary to quickly come up with some mechanism to manage the flow of tourists.
With the place gaining in popularity over the last few years, things have only gotten worse. What's more, the place is also rich in minerals and one can only dread what could be the fate of the place if it is not declared a protected area!
|Soak it in!|
Even the drive from Satara City to Kaas Plateau (about 20-22 Kms) is very scenic. One can see the Kanher Dam and Urmodi Dam on either side of the drive respectively - separated from the road by scenic valleys. There are number of farms dotting the place where one can see people going about their simple yet strenuous routines. After visiting Kaas, one can spend a good hour or two photographing the panoramic landscape, birds and other flora around here. Then there is also the Kaas Lake which is a must visit - its azure waters surrounded by forests,and the cool wind blowing on your face provide a nice tranquil and refreshing feeling. Apart from this, I have been told, there are a number of historical temples and gushing waterfalls nearby.
|Kanher Dam panorama (stitched)|
Most importantly do not miss the evening at Kaas Plateau - the sunset and the changing hues of the sky are absolutely surreal and have an out of the world feeling about it.
|Kaas @ Sunset time!|
We ended our trip on Sunday afternoon by enjoying sumptuous Maharashtrian food at a place providing homestay options - located between Satara City and Kaas. These people were very passionate about nature and had planted a number of flowering plants in their courtyard. The flowers you will see towards the end of the slideshow are the ones cultivated by these folks and are not to be mistaken for the wild flowers of Kaas Plateau.
Travel tip... To reach Satara, one can either drive down from Mumbai or hop onto the many buses that ply regularly between the two cities. There are plenty of stay options in Satara. Kaas Plateau is located about 20-22 Kms from the city on the road that leads to Bamnoli village.
Do not forget to carry a sunscreen lotion and an insect repellent cream (if you are comfortable applying it). Being rainy season, carry adequate protection for your photography gear. Importantly buy Dr. Sandeep Shrotri's book 'Kaas - Plateau of Flowers' - it has a wealth of information on the place, flora and fauna and in it he also makes a passionate plea to protect the place. A two day weekend, I believe, is good enough to explore the place - you may want to go more than once to check out different carpets.
|Satara City - through the valley - panorama|
Thank you! Do write in with comments / questions.
Conserve nature! Protect our future!