Sunday by the Sal

Goa is so much more than just a beach destination. The backwaters here are simply stunning with rare birds, plenty of fish and natural beauty all around. We took a boat ride down the serene backwaters of the River Sal in South Goa and got crabby along the way…

It was the perfect day, not too hot not too humid just about right to step out early evening and get a bit adventurous downsouth. A chance meeting with Charlie and his lovely family at a friend’s place over dinner led us on an adventure we always thought we would undertake but never got around to it. Charlie, who is one of Goa’s few and first government certified guides, is a man who likes the outdoors and is famous for his nature oriented trips. His company,Goa Green Tours and Travels is a pioneer of many off-the beaten- track nature activities. So when he offered to take us on a crab fishing afternoon there was little or no resistance on our part.

Armed with oodles of sunscreen, hats, and tons of excitement we rendezvoused with Charlie and his family at the Cavelossim Ferry Point. The prospect of crab fishing was a hard sell to the kids, especially girls, who were mortified by the idea and one look at a baby crab in Ethan’s hand (Charlie’s son) there were shrieks and eeks to be heard until all of us packed ourselves in the boat. Once out on the water Charlie took time to explain the topography of the river, our man was in full guide mode as he explained to the kids and moms the ways of the River Sal. Moving upstream we saw many a fishermen casting their nets out as Charlie explained the nuances of Crab Fishing and how we were going to go about it.

River Sal in South Goa is one of the most prominent rivers here, a lifeline for the south she meanders her way into the Arabian sea at Betul and has many tiny fishing villages, mangroves, a plethora of birds such as the Kingfisher (we were able to spot a rare Pied Kingfisher, a black and white variety found only in some places), Egrets and the majestic White Bellied Sea-Eagle. The river is not too wide so you have the advantage of a cozy boat ride without too much rolling and pitching as the waters are normally calm and with the vistas of the Western Ghats in the background the scenery is as soothing as it is relaxing. However, with nearly seven kids in tow we may have upset the quiet tranquility of the river.

The traditional method of crab fishing is to let down a circular ring with bait in the middle and a net attached to it. The crabs make a beeline for the bait and enjoy their meal until they are pulled out to become meals themselves. We had about 10-12 nets that were cast in advance and Charlie and his little girl, Emma, who is a preschooler with the energy and courage of a seasoned fisherman, explained to the rest of us novices the techniques of pulling the nets in. As the first net came up with a crab or two the boat began to rock with excitement. All of us wanted a go at the nets, and those who pulled up crabs were seen as heroes, while if your net came up empty your score remained woefully lesser than the others. After the first round of crab fishing we cast our lines into the river for some normal fish and though we had hopes to pose with award winning catches we all came out empty handed with only Ethan managing to pull in a rather odd looking fish making him the hero of the Sal for that day. As our buckets of crabs were bubbling over, Charlie brought out the refreshments. The picnic on the river was even more exciting as we poured wine into our routes and enjoyed a perfect evening as the kids munched on their snacks and counted the crabs with Emma being the star crab catcher of the day.

On the way back Charlie introduced us to the Seaman’s Nest restaurant team who he swears make the best crab masala in Goa. We picked up our portions of crab masala from them and headed back to the ferry point to disembark. With the crabs up for grabs we each took some home but I do suspect that crab veterans Charlie and Nicole would have done a far better job with cooking theirs than we did with ours. As the sun set on the Sal we said our goodbyes and headed back home with a trunk of crabs and exciting tales of fishing on the Mississippi of Salcete, the river Sal.

Did you know…

River Sal is the 3rd largest river in Goa running for almost 35 kms.

It is the only river that fl ows in the north-south direction.

Locals here have been fighting against too much dredging of the river by the authorities.

Apart from cruising the river by boat, kayaking is also a very good way to explore the Sal.



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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