The Land of Beauty and Tranquility

Goa is situated on the western coast in the Konkan region nestled and nurtured by the Arabian Sea and the mighty Western Ghats. With an area of 3,702, Goa is the smallest state in the country. Goa showcases a culture and way of life not seen anywhere else in the country. While this culture has been shaped by various dynasties and empires, the natural landscape too has played its part in defining the Goa that we know today.

Being at the confluence of the Northern and the Southern Western Ghats, the Goa section has floral and faunal assemblages that represent both these landscapes thus being unique in its own way. The northern most range of many of the Southern Western Ghat endemic species starts from Goa. The entire stretch of the Western Ghats and its forests within the Goa limits are legally protected by way of four contiguous wildlife sanctuaries viz, Mhadei, Bhagwan Mahaveer, Netravali and Cotigao and harbour some of the best biodiversity in this region. The other sanctuaries are the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary which also houses a zoo and the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, a mangrove forest on one of Goa’s well known island, Chorao. Goa has 33% of its landmass under forest cover of which 62% is legally protected. The Ghats also offer us some unique habitats in the form of Swamp Forests and are some of the oldest and primeval ecosystems on the planet today.

A surprise waiting in every corner of Goa. Discover the real Goa

The Western Ghats, rightly called the Monsoon Mountains, give rise to 11 rivers that nourish the land. As the rivers move downstream through the rugged terrain of the Sahyadri, they give rise to numerous waterfalls that attract locals as much as they do visitors. From the magnificent Vazrasakala Twin waterfalls to the Ladkecho Vozor with a vertical drop of 300 ft and the cascades of the Savari Waterfall to the now famous Mainapi Waterfall, the Goan countryside becomes replete with numerous waterfalls and cascades during the monsoons. And of course, one cannot miss the majestic Dudhsagar Waterfalls, one of India’s tallest waterfalls with a height of 310m.

Between the Western Ghats and the coast are the midlands that are dotted with smaller hills and lateritic plateaus with paddy fields and plantations at the base. These landscapes with its natural and man-made environment supports a wide range of flora and fauna with diversity much higher than undisturbed forests. The ephemeral pools, the carpets of flowers, the insect diversity needs to be seen to be believed. The man-made environment of the mid-lands has a plethora of waterbodies that play host to numerous migratory waterfowl that visit Goa every winter. Hundreds of waterfowl from the far North fly thousands of kilometres to visit the nutrient rich waterbodies and wetlands of the State. One of our wetlands, the Nanda Lake has the distinction of being the first Ramsar Site in the State in the year 2023.

The rivers move further downstream and encounter the tidal effect of the Arabian Sea giving rise to Mangrove forests that line their banks. Goa has claims over some of the best mangrove forests on the western coast. These forests are the first line of defence for the inland paddy fields and settlements from any natural calamity, conserve soil and most importantly are the breeding grounds for many of the commercially important fish species. Goa’s smallest sanctuary, the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, is a mangrove forest. The Cumbharjua Canal that connects two of Goa’s largest and important rivers, the Mandovi and the Zuari has some of Goa’s best mangrove patches. The villages around perform a unique ritual of worshiping the freshwater Crocodile or the Mugger (Crocodylus Palustris) called the Mange Thapni. In Goa, the Mugger has adapted to the higher level of salinity in the coastal rivers and has thrived in the rich mangrove habitats that provides for both man and animal. The mangrove forest also hold a stable population of the Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus Chloris) and Goa possibly is the only place on the entire western coast where one can guarantee sightings of this elusive bird.

Olive Ridley Turtle hatchling making its way into the ocean, at Galgibaga Beach Goa

The 105 kms coastline is much more than just the famous sandy beaches. While it is the beaches that have attracted people from all over the world, it is the rocky shores, mudflats, coral reefs that play host to a plethora of organisms from molluscs and crustaceans, clams and oysters to the dependent birds and the elegant Indian Ocean Hump-backed Dolphins (Sousa Plumbea). The Chicalim Bay on the Zuari harbours the only breeding colony of Windowpane Oysters (Placuna Placenta) on the entire west coast of the country. This bivalve is an endangered species and accorded the legal protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Our coastal habitat while hosting the regular migrants, is also a staging ground for many migratory birds that take a small stopover before moving onwards in their migratory journeys. Birds such as the Crab Plover (Dromas Ardeola), Oystercatcher (Haematopus Ostralegus), Grey-Plover (Pluvialis Squatarola) and many more can be seen at two of the important sites viz., Morjim in the North and Agacaim mudflats in the South. Some of our offshore islands such as the Grande Island, the Bat Island, St. George Island and their surroundings are home to coral reefs that attract tourists for snorkelling and diving. Newer reefs are being found in the North of the State as well and hold immense conservation and economic potential.

Goa’s avian guests enjoy their perch along the mangroves

The mountainous regions along with the varied ecozones such as the plateaus, grasslands, mangrove habitats, wetlands, mudflats and the beaches, collectively support amazing diversity of life-forms. Goa is home to 486 species of birds, more than 35% of the country’s diversity, a big number considering the geographical size of the State. The State proudly celebrates this diversity every year with the celebration of the annual Goa Bird Festival in January. Goa has been on the birdwatcher’s radar since the 80’s when the British and European birders would spend 10-15 days observing and documenting birds during the winters. For that matter, whatever we knew about the birdlife back then was thanks to the visiting birdwatchers. With the tourism scene turning more domestic over the years and more Indians taking up birding and bird photography as a hobby, Goa’s charm as a preferred birding destination has only grown.

Whether you seek a mix of culture, biodiversity, adventure, cuisine, heritage, pristine coastline, night life, art or an all-inclusive experience, Goa has it all and will never disappoint.

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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