Wildlife Sanctuaries in Goa
Goa is a state which is gifted with incredible natural beauty; from her beaches and gently rolling hill to her vegetation and animal life. To protect some of this natural beauty from rush of modern development, Goa has set aside four wild-life sanctuaries nested in the wooded areas of in-land Goa. The Bhagwan Mahaveer, Bondla, Cotigao, and Dr.Salim Ali Wild life sanctuaries are open to visitors interested in a glimpse of Goa’s natural environment.
The Bondla Wildlife sanctuary lies on the border of Ponda and Sanguem talukas in the North East portion of this state. Though only 8 square kilometers in total, Bondla is home to some splendid and picturesque landscapes of lush tropical vegetation. Monkeys, jackals, wild boar, peacocks, a variety of deer and snake species, in addition to roaming herds of Indian Bison, inhabit this area, though again, do not expect to see these animals in their natural habitat with only a quick drive through the sanctuary. The sanctuary does have a zoo and botanical garden, however, where elephant rides are available to tourists. The zoo contains tigers, bears, lions, crocodiles and snakes among other animal/reptile species, though they do not seem to enjoy being cooped up in small cages for the duration of their lives.
The Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary lies in Ponda and Sanguem Talukas of Eastern Goa, bordered by the Eastern Ghats and Karnataka. It is a total of 240 square kilometers of tropical forest land dotted with occasional grassy Savannah’s and tribal villages. The animals are allowed to roam free in the reserve, and it can be difficult to spot them in their wild habitat unless you come prepared with hiking boots and plan to spend a few days trekking in the more remote areas of the sanctuary. The Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla is one of Goa’s most sacred stone temples whose origins date back to the Kadamba Dynasty. Devil’s Canyon, which requires permission to visit from the Interpretation Center (near the entrance to the sanctuary), is a lovely gorge near the town of Molem. It is a popular picnic spot visited by locals and tourists alike. Some members of the Dhangar community of nomadic buffalo herders also inhabit this reserve, and can be seen tending to their buffaloes in the grassy plains and winding rivers. The highlight of a trip to this sanctuary, however, is a visit to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls, in the south-east region of the park. They can be reached via train from Margao and/or Vasco, which is expected to be up by the next season beginning in October of 1997.
Located on the island of Chorao, one of the first to be conquered by the Portuguese in 1510, is the Dr.Salim Ali Bird sanctuary. This reserve has few roads, but can be reached by ferry boat from Ribandar. The sanctuary is home to mangroves, an unusual mudskipper fish variety, and a variety of coastal birds which inhabit Goa. Near to the sanctuary, is the village of Chorao, a quaint village of Portuguese-style villas surrounding a white-washed church from that same era. Chorao is a lovely island whose scenery dates back to the early Portuguese days and has been by-passed by the rush of modernization and expansion which seems set to engulf the nearby island of Tiswadi. A visit to Chorao island is a worthwhile trip on its own and is best enjoyed by renting a motorbike or hiring some form if transportation as public transportation is less frequent on the island.
Cotigao is Goa’s fourth wild-life sanctuary and encircles 86 square kilometers of deciduous forest and picturesque natural vegetation. The park, created in 1969, lies 12 kilometers from Palolem, a popular southern beach resort in Canacona taluka, and is best seen with private transport. It is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm, as are most of the other sanctuaries, and has a small rest house where visitors can spend the night if they receive permission in advance. Wild-life may be harder to observe in this park, however, owing to the presence of human inhabitation, scattered throughout the country are the Kunbi and Velip tribal communities, The “Kunbi”, a popular folk dance of Goa, originated from this tribe who are thought to be the descendants of the aboriginal communities of pre-Aryan settlement. Guides are available in this park and may be helpful in locating various animal and plant species, including a small waterhole known to attract the reserve’s wildlife.
Article by Karin Larsen
[Fullbright Research Student]
& Photograph- Vivek Naik & Karin Larsen