Wildlife Trekking


Wildlife Trekking

Trekking and Goa is a combination not many think of. It’s usually the beautiful beaches that hog all the attention.

However, Trekking can be a nice alternative to the partying, the sun, and the sand.

A little farther inland from the coastline lies a paradise that begs the attention of trekkers. From dense forests to old plantations and valleys to mangroves, Goa offers something for both the most casual of trekkers and the seasoned explorers.


Goa’s beautiful trekking options attract many corporate and non-profit organizations. For example, the participants in the Youth Hostels Association of India’s recently organized National Trekking Expedition Goa also trekked through Goa’s largest wildlife sanctuary and the rugged Doodhsagar Falls region.

The northernmost part of Goa a few kilometres inland is one of the many scenic places ideal for trekking in Goa.

Private operators and hotels can arrange trekking expeditions for small families or large groups. They also provide outdoor gear and trekking accessories as part of the package.

Somewhere something rumbles, the blue sky goes gray. At altitudes ranging from 46 meters to 819 meters above sea level, visions of lightening too seems to flash like a celestial dancer between heaven and earth. A crackle, a burst, and an indefinite silence. When the rains come calling in Goa.s hinterlands, everyone’s invited!

From the incessant call of the hanuman Langurs to the display of mating colors of the Forest Calotes lizard, and the fluttering of the Southern Birdwing butterfly, and the sprouting of varied species wild mushrooms, the Chorla Ghats seem to be the center of activity, like any other forest patch in the Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary.

This is a time for Burrowing frogs to take over the plateaus and announce the arrival of the monsoons, a time for forest crabs and slugs to venture out in search for mates and prey, and thereby proclaim the arrival of the season of plenty! 

With over 10 waterfalls, a myriad of exquisite Western Ghats landscapes and of course Nature’s glorious phenomenon, the South West monsoons…these forests are nothing short of a paradise be it a regular Goa loving tourist or an intrepid traveler seeking to explore the wilds!

Having trekked here time and out again and mesmerized by their sheer diversity of plant and animal life, I squat amidst the clouds on Vagheri, a peak that offers a panoramic view of my Goa, on one side and the Anjunem backwaters on the other, even as these Ghats celebrate the birth of its twin Vazra Falls, which dominate these forests and cascade into the Valvanti River to breathe life into the hamlets of the plains and later feed the Mandovi to bring prosperity for our small state.

Walking through these forests time and again, for study or admiration, every single ecologist, botanist or nature lover alike has acknowledged the fact that these Ghats are home to an array of biodiversity, most of which requires urgent cataloging and of course appreciation. One can view over a dozen plus species of rare butterflies her alone including the Plane butterfly, the Banded Peacock and the Blue Oakleaf amongst others.

Take a walk on any of these forest trails that dot the Chorla Ghats in the Mhadei region and the call of the sambar or the sight of the Gaur welcomes one. It is a season of plenty and large mammals gorge over available greenery.

Elsewhere, in the Mhadei, the birth of a zillion monsoonal springs and rivulets is taking place, and the villages of Charavne, Keri and Rive are gearing up to welcome the annual cycle of Rain and Shine…the next two months lives will revolve around the moods of the monsoons and it is a welcome sign.

The region itself has a treasure trove of community protected sacred groves and the ones at Brahmakarmali, Surla, Nanorem and Copardem are of great ecological value. These areas have been conserved by village folk for ages and are a type of nature’s textbooks for those who wish to surrender to nature’s subtle surprises and delve into the realm of the magical Rain Gods that bless these serene tracts. Age old deities, dedicated to the forest Gods stand guard in these forests and these include folk deities like Mahishasurmardini, Gajalaxmi, Betal and Vaghro Dev.

A haven for photography, the Nirankarachi Rai that is located on the village boundaries of Bambar and Nanoda is unique in nature. The principal deity here is the Spirit of Nirankar and is considered to be the guardian of the villages of Nanorem, Maloli and Ustem. The Sacred Grove has unique Knee or upturned ‘U’ shaped roots that belong to the Family of Myristica swamp forests and are rare to the Western Ghats forests. A perennial spring flows through the sacred Grove, which provides water to the nearby homes in the village of Nanorem and supports a diversity of local fish and forest crabs. One can see the Malabar tree Nymph, Indian bullfrog, paradise flycatcher and the Tickel’s Blue flycatcher with equal ease in this sacred grove.

But for those who wish to go birding in the monsoons and be mesmerized by other natural wonders for a day trip, there is Bondla-our smallest sanctuary. Bathed in rain, this small haven will provide a glimpse of Goa’s rich avian diversity even in the monsoons. A Malabar whistling thrush heralds its presence on arrival while minivets, barbets and hornbills give appearances by turn. The trails around the cottages and gardens help sight Giant squirrels and Flying Draco’s while Spotted deer and langurs can be observed and admired from a close distance near the deer safari. The rains in Bondla give birth to a variety of mushrooms and fungi, and some like the lace and bracket fungi are a treat to marvel at too! Look out for interesting creepy crawlies here including the elder cousins of butterflies-moths of various sizes and shapes as this is an area where the Atlas moth, the world’s largest moth and the Lunar moth, my personal favorite can be sighted. I recommend folks to halt overnight at the eco cottages too as nights bring alive a completely different world of color and shapes of wild denizens including civets, flying squirrels and a assortment of moths and preying mantis…awe inspiring creatures that are unique to the Western Ghats of India.

But the epicenter for all creatures small and natural in Goa is the Mollem National park and the Bhagvan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary. Seventh heaven for reptile researchers like me, Mollem National park offers trails of various degrees from easy to highly difficult, and regular sightings of Leopard, Gaur and sloth bears amongst others. While raptors like crested serpent eagle and Black eagles rule the skies, amphibians like the tree toad and Malabar gliding frog occupy the shrubs. The forest floor is teaming with activity too with exquisitely colored painted grasshoppers and skinks of varied sizes. Take a trek to the Devil’s canyon or the Vasant bandhara…mind you the waters are risky to swim in at all times in the rains but the sheer visual beauty of this place is mind blowing. Nature trails maintained by the Forest Department help in great sightings and easy walking so enquire about the same at the Range office. Must sees here are the Tambdi Surla temple on the borders of the Park and of course a list of lesser fauna including the Hump nosed pit viper (venomous), the Lantern fly, (an insect) Sri Lankan frogmouth (a bird) and the Indian Gaur (Goa’s state mammal).

For those with a wild desire for adventure and trekking rendezvous, drive down to the magical forests of the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in Sanguem taluka and trek to the Netravali or Tudov waterfalls, as it is known as. A dramatic setting for a day out in Goa’s wilderness, this sensitive nature locale offers an array of opportunity for birding and as well as nature watching. I recommend a small nap for the tired urban soul, as the boulders are pretty inviting and relaxing too! The high tree canopy and gushing waters contribute to the aura of the place and is worth a visit for anyone who likes nature at its serene best. Dragonfly and Butterfly haven this area is an ideal location for those who want to indulge in nature photography and appreciate smaller wonders in the animal kingdom. However please do bring back your plastic waste and other non-biodegradable matter as this is a sensitive habitat and littering it would be a sin.

As Goa’s forests present before us nature lovers, fresh blades of grass that appear from every niche available, the rock balsums and utricularias paint the landscape in shades of purple and pink, and deer seek open areas near fringe forests to give birth to their young.

In the villages that dot our wild regions its time for celebration, of the monsoons and its subsequent miracles, amongst the communities too, and while the fields are ploughed, wild vegetables are collected by village youth and womenfolk light up kitchen fires. Men folk huddle around these anticipating blessings from Gajalaxmi, the Goddess of Rain and Vegetation, while children head out to catch forest land crabs and collect mushrooms, confirmed delicacies amongst these parts. The Rains bring with them moments of joy and delight and coupled with nature’s palette of vibrant colors they are nothing short of a festive season in almost any part of Goa’s vast hinterlands. Visit our villages in Canacona and Quepem in South Goa and Sattari in North Goa to get a flavor of village life where nature still rules the way of life. Small hamlets like Nadki and Kuske in Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Satre, Derode, Surla in Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary must figure on your itinerary if you want to sample true Goan village life

Working as an ecologist in Goa’s wild lands has given me this opportunity to gasp and wonder, awaken and be enlightened amongst some of the most pristine wild lands in the Western Ghats and it is these lands that are at their zenith during the monsoons, especially in the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, one of Goa’s oldest and most important wildlife sanctuaries. Land of the fabled King Cobra and the black form of the leopard Cotigao wildlife sanctuary is a birders paradise as a combination of high canopy tree cover and water availability. In the rains, this is amphibian heaven, with gliding frogs and tree toads, marbled frogs and bush frogs and an assortment of species to choose from, many of which are endemic and rare.

I have been privileged to take the trail to Kuske waterfalls and its precincts just right for that sense of solitude and tranquility that one seeks when one walks the Western Ghats forests at the height of the monsoons and the trip has been forever etched in my heart.

Nature reigns supreme here in Cotigao, and even the fall of a solitary branch of deadwood makes a sound that evokes response, from all things wilds and wonderful be it jewel beetles and pill millipedes that scurry the forest floor or Slender Loris that scour the canopy heights.

The sheer richness of these forests and their undergrowth, the very thought of which still sends shivers of joy down my spine is hard to explain but one must visit the tree top Machan at Cotigao to comprehend my feelings. Seek a local beat guard from the Forest office at Hathipal for this purpose if required and be prepared for an awe striking experience in one of our finest forest habitats.

And yes, if you are out in the night, doing a night trail with an experienced wildlifer or Forest officer look out for the luminescent fungi, which illuminate rotting wood and even trees, creating exotic designs and glowing wonders that are an experience in itself. This is a feature that will seal your choice for visiting Goa’s unsung wilds as the encounter itself is mythical to say the least.

Besides which our farmlands and paddy fields across the state, wetlands like the Carambolim lake and mangrove forests like the Dr. Salim Ali bird sanctuary offer stunning landscapes and wildlife watching opportunities too. A small but dedicated network of eco-entrepreneurs does operate in the state and includes birding guides, wildlife tour specialists, trekking groups and adventure professionals and nature heritage tour operators. Get in touch with them through your local travel agents for more details of the wild side of Goa and its magical natural wonders that have till date been conserved for posterity.

It is this magical time that is ideal though, to visit any of Goa’s wilderness habitats… when the Rains are ruling the lands and the skies of these forests, and be touched by their magic, as a single trek or drive through any part of our wilds will make you come again and again into its realms.


Place Categories: OutDoor Activities and Wildlife TrekkingPlace Tags: Wlidlife Trekking in Goa

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