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Vazhachal Reserved Forest unfurled in front of us – wet, evergreen, wonderful and, as beautiful things go, fragile. The windshield wipers were ineffective at times and the going was slow. Which was as it should be, for the forest is breathtaking. Here, in Vazhachal, is where ferns still live.

Writer, traveler and photographer ARATI RAO is moved by music, verse and trees, especially those sprawling giants of the Ficus variety. She's also passionately fond of elephants. Explore more of her work at her website

Vazhachal - In the kingdom of the Rain God

1 January 1970

You’ve not experienced the monsoon until you’ve been drenched in the Western Ghats. One morning in August we set off across the Tamil Nadu border and into Kerala’s Vazhachal forests. It rained. Oh my goodness, did it rain! Mist rose from forest floors to spiral up and mix with clouds where you could not even tell them apart. Rain drenched leaves shone verdure and drip-dropped everywhere. Ankle-deep puddles threw up a neat arc of spray as we drove through them. Frogs and tiny toads jumped out of our way and eager leeches sensed us and stood on tip-toe (not really, you know), looking to latch on. Writer and photographer ARATI RAO shares glimpses of life from a fragile rainforest ecosystem.

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