Published On : Tue, Jun 18th, 2019

Misty mornings in the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary

“Who goes for a trek in April?” some of my tech team colleagues had remarked when I proposed a team-building trip to Vasota Fort. While they were right about the fact that April is a bad time to travel across Maharashtra, there were exceptions like the Vasota Fort. The fort sitting in the middle of the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary is one of them. After a lot of debate and deliberations, we decided to do a holistic trip, which would include camping, a short trek, and a jungle safari. Since we were a small group of people and the April heat had started to rise, we opted for rental cars, and fortunately found the cheapest Mumbai to Pune taxi fare online.

It was a six-hour drive from Mumbai to Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, via Mahabaleshwar and we reached quite comfortably, thanks to our rental cars and the experienced drivers. Our corporate booking with a jungle resort provided us with all-inclusive tent accommodations, a safari tour, and a tour to the Koyna Dam, if we chose.

We had a very simple itinerary for the next two days-

Day 1 – Safari ride through the sanctuary and end the day with fun games around the campsite.

Day 1 – Boat ride and trek to Vasota Fort and end the day with the trip review.

Day 1

On our first day, we were right on time for a Safari. The camping resort offered a Jeep ride through the forests. It is a World Heritage Site, with rich vegetation, rare and exclusive flora and fauna, and some of the thickest part of the Sahyadri Mountains. The sanctuary occupied a part of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve in the north and a part of the Chandoli National Park in the south. As the Jeep kept moving towards the interiors of the forest, we felt a drastic drop in temperature. The foliage kept the sunlight at bay, making the forest cool and damp. The tour guide told her about some of the resident animals that could be easily spotted, like the Indian Bison, Sambar Deer, giant squirrels, and more. Although this zone is known for Royal Bengal Tigers, they are endangered now and rarely seen. Every one of us was eagerly waiting to spot some wild animals but in vain. However, we did get to see a few different species of birds. The spring season was not over yet and some migratory birds like the rufous woodpecker, fairy bluebird, or the long-tailed nightjar were still wandering around the forests, giving us a chance for a quick photograph. At certain places, where it was safe enough, the guide stopped the Jeep and allowed us to take a walk around. It was at one of such stops, where some members of our group diverted and ended up at a small river inlet. That was where they spotted a mother tiger playing with her cub in the water. That was a moment I personally missed but was glad at least my team had a good sighting.

Later that day, we gathered around our campsite and engaged in some team games and puzzles. Much to our surprise, the nights were the extreme opposite of the day and it was as cold as winter. The cool weather helped us sleep better and save all the energy that we needed for the trek the next day.

Day 2

We woke up to a beautiful morning with the view of the mountains. It was still misty and cold until the sun came out, awakening us inside out.

Vasota Fort is only a tiny part of the huge forested area of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. I couldn’t think of any better environment for a workgroup to bond and strengthen their teamwork. We divided our group into two, each with their own leader and a route plan to reach the fort. Later, we were to review the same and see if it could have been done differently.

For the trek, we had to take a short boat ride down the Koyna River and reach the base of the fort.

The Vasota Fort lies deep in the forests and sits at an elevation of nearly 4000 feet from the sea level. Local legends say that the fort was built in the 11th century by the Malwa King, Raja Bhoj. The dusty trails through the dense forests led us to the edge of a cliff with breathtaking views of the entire Sahyadri Mountain range, the backwaters of the Koyna Dam on one side, and the wildlife sanctuary on the other. It was a pure delight to see such diverse landscape in one frame.

Overall, it turned out to be a fun, experiential, and successful team outing with everyone working cohesively and as a unit and discovering nature at the same time.

Tips from an HR professional:

Always ensure convenient but economical travel options so it neither hurts the budget nor your team members. Hence, avail a top-rated Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar car rental for a better deal.

If you have a day or two extra in hand, then, also include a tour to the Bamnoli village and Kas Plateau in your itinerary.