A trek in the Chorla Ghat in the Western Ghats along the Karnataka-Goa border turned out to be a nightmarish ordeal for a group of seven schoolgirls who lost their way on Monday.
The girls were trekking with their parents and a teacher from Goa, Times of India reported.
They had reached a village near the Khanapur forest range in Belagavi on Tuesday morning and were rescued by officials of the Karnataka Forest Department after a day-long search operation.
The schoolgirls are now safe and have been handed over to police and forest officials of Goa after a medical check-up.
According to Range Forest Officer, SS Ningani, the girls had taken shelter under a large sized rock in Chorla the entire night.
The schoolgirls had come for a picnic organised by Reverend Brother MM Pinto of Goa's Ribander Church.
The team included 13-year-old Debra Gonsalves, Syeire Fernandes (12), Pearl Fernandes (12) and Swetlana Gomes (12) from Ribander, and Sansha Sampayo (11), Saina Dsouza (12) and Siyana Dsouza from Porvorim. The parents of three of the girls had also accompanied them.
All the trekkers entered the forest range from the Mhadei Research Centre on Monday afternoon, but soon lost their way owing to heavy rain and the lack of light due to the canopy of trees.
“The family members of the girls, who had not accompanied them, became worried when they were not able to contact them. The girls entered the forest for trekking from the Goa side along with an unlicensed guide and without prior permission from either the Goa or Karnataka forest department,” RFO Ningani said.
Early on Tuesday morning, when the parents could not contact their children, they raised an alarm and a team of locals and staffers of two resorts went on a search but were unable to locate the girls, following which the Goa forest officials were informed.
Goa forest officials Girish Bailudkar and Paresh Porob immediately contacted their Karnataka counterparts as the area falls where the borders of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa meet.
“The group lost their way after trekking about 3-4 km into the forest. The girls had not taken any precautionary measures for trekking and were without gloves and proper trekking equipment or mobile phones,” said Basavaraj V Patil, Deputy Conservator of Forests.
A team of 20 forest officials began searching the forest early on Tuesday after being informed by their Goa counterparts.
Around 10am, the girls responded to the loud screams of the forest personnel near Chorla.
“Trekking in the Chorla Ghat during the monsoon is extremely dangerous. The difficulty level of the trek is maximum and schoolgirls must not have set out on their own without a professional trekking guide. Usually, we install tiger trap cameras in heavily canopies areas but due to the rains, the cameras were also not there. It was lucky we caught them,” officer Basavaraj Patil said.