Author: Gauri Kshirsagar
According to Richard Louv (2008 Audubon Medal Recipient and author of Last Child in the Woods), kids today are becoming more and more removed from nature, at the expense of their own psychological and physical well-being. Children are spending more time in structured activities and on electronic devices, leaving little time for unstructured play in nature. Understanding that many of us live the reality of a hustling, busy day-to-day life, I am not suggesting that we all pick up and move to the mountains, though the idea certainly seems appealing at times, but a short ‘nature’ trip can as well do the trick.
Many of us have heard of the Valley of Flowers in the scenic Himalayas, but how many of us know there is a similar yet smaller version of it in Maharashtra, a short drive from the bustling city of Pune? If you want to take a small weekend or day nature trip with your kids around Pune, this is the place for you. The Kaas Plateau, also known as Kaas Pathar, is a plateau situated 26 kilometres west from Satara city in Maharashtra, India. It falls under the Sahyadri Sub Cluster of the Western Ghats, and it became a part of a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 2012.
About Kaas Pathar:
Kaas Plateau or “Kaas Pathar” as it is locally called is a unique bio-diverse ecosystem. Nestled in the Northern part of the Western Ghats, amidst the Sahyadris, the one of its kind places takes up a different hue during some months of the year, quite literally! Draped in various colours, purple, pink, white etc. a bed of wildflowers paints the lush green monsoon scapes. Thanks to its high density of endemic flora and fauna, it is commonly called as “Maharashtra’s Valley of Flowers”.
The plateau is situated at an altitude of 1200 metres and is approximately 10 square kilometers in area. Kaas has more than 850 different species of flowering plants. These include orchids, shrubs such as the Karvy, and carnivorous plants such as Drosera Indica.
Kaas Pathar is a plateau made from volcanic rocks.The flora of kaas i.e. the entire flowering plants and their related plants are typically restricted to that particular locality only. This is because the plateau is largely formed of basalt which is directly exposed to atmosphere. The basalt is almost covered entirely by a thin cover of soil formed due to erosion and has accumulated a layer of not more than an inch or so.
For those who love change: The Kaas plateau is known to change colour almost every week, owing to the changing life cycles of the wildflowers. If you want to click your selfie against the backdrop of romantic white and purple, go at the time of the Waytura blooms. For those who prefer the peace and serenity of white, look for the Toothbrush orchid, also called the White Habenaria. And there’s something for the kids too—those yellow flowers called the Hairy Smithia which appear to be shaped like a Mickey Mouse. So take your pick of timing and indulge in your favorite color!
Perfect place to enjoy the breezy refreshing monsoon, the Kaas Lake is shrouded in mists on a typical rainy day. It’s like a walk in the clouds, re-energising your very soul and body to the core. Engage in typical monsoon fun like enjoying roasted corn on the cob, or a piping hot mug of tea.
In recent times unmanaged tourist crowds and trampling has led to the uprooting of this delicate ecosystem, making conservation measures necessary to maintain this rich wealth. Today we see forest officials deployed on the plateau throughout, and tourist management measures implemented. A chat with such locals can give you very interesting insights on how conservation is done in such as sensitive eco-zone.
How to reach Kaas Pathar?
Best time to go:
August to October is the best time, but it varies with the local monsoon conditions such as amount and timing of rainfall. Be sure to check out local conditions.
Kaas plateau is a plateau located around 26 km from Satara. Satara is about 112 kms from Pune on NH48. There are two ways to reach Kaas, one the more direct way from Satara and another from Tapola via the link road connecting Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani to Kas Pathar. There are many hotels and home stays near Kaas Pathar, the nearest one being ‘Heritagewadi”. We stayed at “The Fern Residency” in Satara which is located on NH48 and near the connecting road to Kaas Pathar. It takes about an hour from Fern Residency to Kaas Pathar. The road goes by the foot of Fort Ajinkyatara to reach a Y-Section. There is a Tunnel to the left and ascend to the right. Going through this tunnel will take you to Fort Sajjangadh, Thoseghar Waterfalls and Chalkewadi Wind-mills. The road going up-hill takes you to Kaas and Bamnoli. A small sign-board is available.
As you start ascending, you can see the outstanding view of Satara City-scape down on your right. Once on top, prior to the Kaas Plateau, two water bodies are seen on both sides of the road – Urmodi Dam on Left side and Kaanher Dam on Right side.
By the time we neared the Kaas Plateau, it started getting foggy all over. It seemed as if we were driving on the clouds. At 12 noon, it seemed as if its just 8 O’clock in the morning. Just at the point where the plateau starts, they have constructed a check-post tent. In order to maintain the sanctity of the plateau and prevent crowds from trampling over the delicate flora, only 3000 visitors per day are allowed to visit. It is best to book your time slot (3-hour slots are provided) online on https://www.kas.ind.in/. Tickets are at the cost of 100/- per person. After you reach Kaas pathar, the parking place is away from the spot. After you park your vehicle, we need to take another van to reach the main spot. Fencing is constructed on both sides of the roads – legally you cannot trespass on the fields leaving the road, visitors can go on the plateau in a controlled area. We were unlucky as just the previous day it rained and flowers had shed away, but still it was beautiful. There many local people selling Pithla Bakhri and Chaas which you can try and food won’t be a problem as we can find multiple restaurants while coming back on the highway.
The various distances of Kas plateau are as follows:
- From Satara – 25 km
- From Pune – 125 km
- From Mumbai – 280 km
- From Kolhapur – 150 km
Other attractions around Kaas Pathar:
- Kaas lake is on the south of the Kaas Plateau and is surrounded by dense forest. It lies between Sajjangad fort and the Kanher Dam. Koyna project is around 30 km towards the south of Kaas Lake. Kaas lake (built 100 years ago) is a perennial source of Water supply for western part of Satara city by gravity.
- Vajrai Waterfall is also near from Kaas which is one of India’s highest waterfalls. Kas plateau is 20 km away from Northern part of Koyana Sanctuary. The major portion of the plateau is reserve Forest.
- Bamnoli, a very small and quiet village on the banks of “Shiv-sagar”, back-waters of Koyana Dam. Compared to the rush and crowd that we saw at Kaas, this place was much better. Though there is no specified parking space, the road was enough to hold whatever vehicles visited that day. There were volunteers, may be the boat club members, to guide the visitors for parking space.Main activity at Bamnoli is boating. A privately owned Boat Club is functional here. Motor Boats of the capacity of 6 to 12 patrons are operated. Fare and visit route is fixed based on time required – which ranges from 45 minutes to a full day. Places include Triveni Sangam (Rivers Koyana, Solashi and Kandati), Tapola, Datta Mandir, Vasota Fort, etc. Fare mentioned on the board was for a group of either 6 or 12 patrons. However, it is calculated based on total head count at the end. here are small restaurants, actually run by the villagers in front of the spaces of their houses. They provide a typical Maharashtrian Veg / Non-Veg Thali. To save time, you can give the order, go for boating and have your food once you return.
- Ending with a sweet note, if you are in Satara, don’t forget to indulge in the famous ‘Kandi Pedha’
Below is a small clip capturing the moments of our trip:
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