Birder’s paradise: Far from the maddening rush of the sun and sand
A park less travelled brings out the most amazing photo opportunities.
A part of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot, the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is a biodiversity vault with lush green forests. Carved out of the densely forested hills of the Cancona taluka, the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 86 sqkm of dense, multistoried forestscape, which abounds with a plethora of wild species and is the birthplace of vital rivers like Gal and Talpona, which play an important role in Goa’s water security.
You can experience these forests in many different ways: trekking, driving, cycling. Of course, considering the undulating landscape of the Western Ghats, the option of using a vehicle is often limited and nature lovers prefer easy and invigorating cycles to explore the sheer enormity of these moist deciduous forests with some trees rising almost 30m towards the sky! A long winding trail or a cycle ride within these forests along the eight accessible trek routes will bring you pleasurable birding moments, especially with endemic birds like the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Trogon and the Ruby-throated subspecies of the Black-crested Bulbul. Of course, there are also Malabar Pied Hornbills, Scarlet Minivets, Brown-headed Barbets, Shama, Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Rufous Woodpeckers to keep you company through your sojourn. For the ones who are ready to explore and peer through the lush green foliage, exclusive birds like the nocturnal Sri Lanka Frogmouth and the Forest Eagle Owl will leave you spellbound. And if you’re lucky, specialities like the Great Hornbill and the Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Speckled Piculet are not really hard to come by.
Though large mammal sightings are infrequent, visitors have often sighted Gaur and even the elusive Leopard. For the more adventurous ones, the night brings some amazing wildlife spotting opportunities; Slender loris, Hump-nosed pit vipers, Indian pangolin, flying squirrels dominate the dark hours. Of course, you need appropriate permissions from the forest department and have a good guide for you if you want to hit the forest at night. Velip tribal hamlets are scattered in and around the sanctuary. A friendly lot, the Velips are welcoming and offer you a good look at their lives and culture.
The Goa Forest Department has made a self-sufficient eco-tourism campsite just outside the sanctuary, with an interpretation centre and a wildlife rescue centre (Eco-tourism cottages at the Hattipal Gate: For bookings and enquiries, contact Range Forest Officer, Cotigao WLS on 0832-2965601)
Cover Pic credit: Government of Goa Website
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