Known as the Pearl of the Orient, the small state of Goa is filled with natural and architectural beauty. While its beaches and temples are popular with visitors from around the world, the forests and green spaces that make up its interior are noteworthy. Unfortunately, there has been significant deforestation in Goa over the last forty years; conservationists, the government and local people have begun to work to preserve these inner wild places.
One area where flora and fauna protection and conservation is being increased and intensified is in the establishment and enrichment of Goa’s four nature preserves. Wild creatures, mangroves, evergreen forests, jungles, rivers and streams are all part of Goa and of Goa’s sanctuaries. If you’re planning an unforgettable stay in Goa, they can be part of your experience as well.
Here are Goa’s four wildlife sanctuaries — and what you can hope to find in each one.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Eighty-six square kilometres have been set aside for Cotiago Wildlife Sanctuary, and it holds a wealth of old tree forests, rare plants, gaur (or Indian Bison) and more. Cotiago is a sanctuary, and if you are willing you can stay overnight — the Forest Department will provide mosquito nets and cots. From monkeys and gaur to wild boar, porcupines and sloths, there is no shortage of fauna to gape at, but Cotiago was established to protect the trees. In 1969, it became clear the vulnerable forest in the area was in jeopardy, so the government stepped in to save it. The mostly deciduous woodland is so dense in some places, light barely reaches the forest floor at high noon.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
The smallest of the three non-bird-centred preserves, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is covered with deciduous forest, and it is a popular spot for tourists, children and school groups. Gaur, sambhar deer, evergreens, bamboo, panthers, scaly anteaters and more are a part of this sanctuary, as well as more than 100 bird species. Bondla also offers a number of educational attractions for its visitors, including:
- Zoological Park. This small zoo features exhibits of panthers, lions, gaur, crocodiles and more.
- Deer Safari Park. In this part of the sanctuary, visitors can travel among deer in vehicles to see
- Formal Gardens. Peaceful places to share a picnic or take a walk, the formal gardens have wide lawns, rare trees, roses and other flowers — all in the middle of the forest.
- Nature Education Centre. With several different and educational exhibits available, and a library, the NEC will expand any visitor’s experience.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary covers over 240 square kilometres. The largest of all of Goa’s preserves, it contains the Mollem National Park within its borders. Because the sanctuary is so large, it can be hard to spy any of its wildlife unless you stay a few days and venture into its interior. If you do, you’re likely to see gaur, deer, leopards, giant squirrels, elephants, pythons, birds, wild boar, butterflies, wild dog and much more. There are a number of excellent viewing points and watchtowers throughout the preserve, and a few notable features not found anywhere else, including:
- Tambdi Surla Temple. An active 12th features intricate carvings and pillars.
- Dudhsagar Falls. This 310-metre, tiered waterfall is located in the southwest portion of the national park and is Goa’s tallest waterfall.
- Sunset Point. Easily reached with park vehicles, this point provides a beautiful view of the sunset across the park’s stunning treetops.
Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
Goa’s only bird sanctuary is less than 2 square kilometres in size, but it holds a sizeable amount of local and migratory birds throughout the year — as many as 400 different species. Named after India’s most celebrated ornithologist, the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is situated on the western part of the island of Chorao. Open all year round from 6am to 6pm, the best bird-viewing times are from October to March when migratory birds are more likely to spend time in the mangroves. In addition to birds, visitors might get to see jackals, crocodiles or flying foxes. There is a watchtower within the sanctuary to provide better views for bird lovers. The sanctuary has so much water crossing through it, and there are great opportunities to spy water birds, too.
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