Goa as a monsoon destination

The monsoons in Goa always makes a dramatic entrance, accompanied by thunder and a rumbling in the distance; sounding like a typical Goan drum beat and streaks of lightning, frogs croaking their welcome urging Lord Varun (the God of Rain) to hurry up with the rains. There is nothing like the smell of fresh wet earth everywhere. These sudden bursts are always succeeded by bright sunshine which lights up the countryside in brilliant colours and if you are lucky you will see a few rainbows too!

Most of you may think of Goa as the ultimate destination for the young, wild parties and casinos. It’s time to break the myth! If you’re looking to truly experience Goa in its essential cultural form, then come experience it this monsoon. As I set out to show  you the real beauty of Goa through its various monsoon sight-seeing platforms… No I am not talking about the common Goan tour that includes the cruises, Churches etc, I am talking about things that are apart from this, through which you can experience the true Goan flavor. 

SAO JOAO and BONDERAM FESTIVAL

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One of the prime reasons many tourists choose to visit Goa in the monsoon is because of the vibrant Sao Joao Festival. Also known as the Fertility Feast of Saint John the Baptist, the Sao Joao festival involves a group of men jumping into village wells (don’t worry they’re not committing suicide!) to retrieve bottles of Feni (the local alcohol). It is celebrated with great fervour and gusto, particularly in Siolim. The young and old alike sing and dance to the beat of the ghumot and kansallem, with lovely coronets of seasonal flowers on their heads. So if you are looking for fun, frolic and a wet-carnival like atmosphere then San Joao is definitely the best place to be on the 24th of June.

Not too long after Sao Jao is the bonderam festival. The “Bonderam” festival is celebrated on the Island of Divar on the fourth Saturday of August every year. Divar being situated at a distance of 12 kilometers from Panjim is away from the hustle and bustle of the city but the island of Divar comes to life on the day of the Bomderam festival. The Bonderam festival starts with a flag parade from the main Divar junction which is accompanied by the brass band and then the declaration of the “Bonderam” festival open. Later there is a fancy dress competition which is followed by the traditional float parade. This is followed by a live band performance by the famous musicians of Goa. This is a very popular monsoon festival and it draws huge crowds from all parts of Goa and the world over. 

WATERFALLS

Upon hearing the word ‘Goa’, one is sure to think about long beautiful beaches and a thriving nightlife scene. While it is surely one of India’s best tourist destinations, Goa’s beaches and nightclubs are not the only places of attraction; the beautiful sunshine state is also home to a variety of springs and waterfalls, and these tend to be the places of relaxation for people wanting a break from the hustle & bustle of Goa’s more urbanized areas.

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Dudhsagar Waterfall:

The majestic and most beautiful waterfall in Goa are the Dudhsagar falls. Situated on the border of Goa and Karnataka, the white look of the water seems to fall as if milk is flowing down and thus the name. These waterfalls are most attractive during the monsoon when they speed up their flow and falls 310 meters down, making it the country’s 5th tallest waterfall. Near the top of the falls, runs the railway line from Vasco to Ponda and out, crisscrossing  the mountainside, with excellent views from the train. There also a couple of pools that you can swim in, making Dudhsagar a great place for a day full of fun and frolic. The alternate way of reaching the falls is only advisable between January and May, when the level of the water in the rivers abates enough to permit jeeps to approach the base of the falls.

Arvalem Waterfall:

A short 10-minute drive from the caves, the Arvalem Waterfalls are worth visiting after the monsoon (in October) when they cascade noisily through the surrounding trees. This fall, which cascades down from the mountains from a height of 50 meters, is not as awe-inspiring as the Dudhsagar majestic spectacle, but is interesting all the same. This waterfall is set amidst charming surroundings, with the Rudreshwar temple in its vicinity. The temple holds importance for the Hindus who believe in releasing the soul on the 12th day after death.

Kuskem Falls:

The name of this waterfall comes from the name of the neighboring village Kuskem, which belongs to Canacona region (Canacona Taluk), South Goa. The peculiarity of this amazing natural phenomenon is that it is not visible from a distance, as the waterfall hides deep in a heavy dense jungle. The best period for visiting the Kuskem Falls is during monsoon season; the vegetation in this period retrieves the succulent rich colour and hence gives it a fresh look. During the summer however, the waterfall dries up.

Tambdi Surla Falls:

Trekking through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary will reach you to the Tamdi  Surla falls. There is a sacred temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which has been built sometime during the 15th century, which should not be missed. The water falls from the hills, giving a spectacular view with greenery all around the bushes and trees.

SPICE PLANTATIONS

Goa is a state which is gifted with incredible natural beauty from her beaches and gently rolling hills to her Vegetation and Animal life. The mild temperature throughout the year and high rainfall favours a variety of vegetation with great richness. As such, a variety of Spice Plantations exist around the interior of Goa’s beautiful rural landscape, so as to cultivate a large plethora of crops and spices.

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Traditional Goan methods of organic farming are conducted in these plantations, such as coconuts, betel nuts, pineapples, different kinds of spices and much more. In fact, one can have a walk in the plantation with a local guide giving one a brief about the crops, roots and herbs grown. You can also make a few purchases of spice during the tour, after which, a typical Goan Hindu Cuisine served in mud pits and banana leaves is served.

A list of Goa’s prominent spice plantations is given below:

Sahakari Spice Farm:

This plantation is situated amidst lush green surroundings at Curti – Ponda, which happens to be extremely popular among the tourists for its rich cultural heritage and magnificently designed places of worship. Spread over 130 acres of which 60 acres of this area being exclusively devoted to the cultivation of Spices, Fruits, Medicinal trees and Herbs, the Sahakari Spice Farm also has a restaurant, along with elephant rides and folk dances. The farm also serves as a nodal place for the farmers and students to carry out different experiments and research for which no fees are charged.

Savoi Plantation:

Located near the village of Savoi, Verem, 10 km north of Ponda, is one of the oldest and largest tropical spice plantations in Goa situated right on the banks of the Mandovi River and is a treat to visit.

Mangal Plantation:

Cradled in the foothills of the Western Ghats that run through Goa is Mangal near Quepem, in area rich in archaeological sites, ancient groves and fabulous bio-diversity.

WILDLIFE 

Goa is the smallest state in India, and almost 580 square kilometers of our little state is covered with lush green canopy of dense forest. The state is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna, from the beautiful kingfishers to the damsel fish and barracuda that shimmer and dance under Goa’s waters, to the water buffalo that wander home come sunset after a hard day of wallowing. I took a trip of the wildlife sanctuaries in Goa and have to share all about the glorious animals and birds that I saw.

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The BhagwanMahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park

It is the biggest sanctuary in Goa covering an area of 240 square kilometers, including the Mollem National Park. The thick forest coverage is home to many animals including the gaurs (Indian bison), porcupines, wild boar, the occasional pangolin (scaly anteater) or leopard, the sambar, spotted deer, cobras, a variety of birds and troops of langur monkeys, who usually show up to cause some mirth and mayhem.

Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary

Spread across 208 square kilometers, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area located about 52 km away from Panaji, the state capital of Goa. The sanctuary is high in biodiversity and is being considered for being elevated to the status of a Project Tiger Reserve because of the presence of Royal Bengal Tiger. The three highest peaks in Goa – Sonsogod at an elevation of 3369 feet, TalacheSada at an elevation of 2664 feet and Vageri at an elevation of 2378 feet – are located in the hill ranges within the sanctuary.Chorla and Surla are the two relatively large villages in this area. Gaurs, sloth bears, mongooses, wild dogs, slender loris, deers and panthers can be spotted here. The sanctuary boasts of a wide variety of birds making it a bird watcher’s paradise. It is also the abode of many endangered species of birds.

Cotigao

Spread across an area of over 86 sq km, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest wildlife reserve in Goa. Set up in 1969 to protect wildlife, the sanctuary is about 60 km from Panaji. The sanctuary which is the second largest in Goa has an abundance of fauna and flora around it. It is bursting with wildlife including the mouse deer and antelope, pangolins, flying lizards, the Malabar trogon, the slender loris, and a variety of snakes like the Malabar pit viper and the hump nosed pit viper. The reserve is certain to inspire tree lovers, but less likely to yield many wildlife sightings: its tigers and leopards were hunted out long ago, while the Gazelles, Sloth Bears, Porcupines, Panthers and Hyenas that allegedly lurk in the woods rarely appear.

Bondla

The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is 38 kilometers from Margao and is the smaller of the three wildlife sanctuaries of Goa. More than a sanctuary, it is an ideal jungle resort, a major attraction for school going children and nature lovers.

The area is covered with Moist Deciduous Forests, with small patches of Evergreens and Canes.The State Tree Terninaliacrenulata (Matti) and Rosewood are common here. The common animals that inhabit the sanctuary are the Gaur and the Sambhar deer. Bondla is home to over a hundred bird species. The Ruby Throated Yellow Bulbul which is the State Bird of Goa can be spotted here.

For the more energetic the Nature Trails provide information simultaneously affording opportunities to see nature as it is.Bondla also has watch towers like the Gaur, Sambar, Wild Boar can be seen at water-holes.

There are few destinations around the world that can rival the year round charm that Goa possesses. Contrary to popular opinion, a vacation in Goa during the rains is sheer bliss!

Once you are here and have are done with the sites, there are plenty of other ways to see Goa like trekking, cycling and much more. Keep a look out for our next blog.

Happy Reading!

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Gigi Martin

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