The name ‘Mystic Woods’ conjures up images of a fairytale forest, something straight out of an Enid Blyton fable. And indeed, it is an ocean of greenery, brimming with a variety of plants, flowers and trees. So, it is hard to imagine that not very long ago, the area was virtually devoid of vegetation.
When nature-lovers, Dr Jyoti and Yashodhan Heblekar, acquired the spot in 2006, it was a barren hill slope with a couple of cashew trees, and little else. And, that was exactly what they wanted! It perfectly suited their plans – the couple firmly believes that the role of butterflies in nature is to repair and regenerate the damaged sections of forests, and so, they decided to experiment on this bare patch of land by planting trees and shrubs, on which butterflies can feed and breed.
In 2009, the Heblekars started an NGO, called Butterfly Conservatory of Goa, which aimed at replicating this experiment in different locations. Two years later, in 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was re-named ‘Mystic Woods’, and also went commercial in order to sustain the place financially.
NOT JUST BUTTERFLIES
In the early days, they documented 144 species in approx 12 months. These days, however, it is not unusual to find 20 to 25 species per day, during butterfly season. In spite of this, it is interesting to learn that butterflies are not the pièce de résistance of Mystic Woods; rather the fact that it is probably India's only house with a rooftop garden and integrated rainwater harvesting system.
The 90 sqm sloping roof garden is beautifully landscaped and is just as fascinating, if not more, as one on the ground. It was created with the purpose of demonstrating an effective waterproofing solution, which also helps to maintain the temperature inside the house, and hardens the harvested rainwater, to boot.
That apart, Mystic Woods also boasts of Goa's only fossil museum, mineral display and exotic plants (such as the insectivorous pitcher plant).
SO MANY SPECIES
Some of the endemic butterfly species of Goa, which have been spotted at Mystic Woods are the Malabar Banded Peacock, Southern Birdwing, Tamil Lacewing, Blue Oakleaf, Clipper and Plum Judy, to name a few.
Butterfly season is from August to November, and each butterfly species has its own preferences when it comes to plants, on which they lay eggs. These are called host plants, and several such plants are grown at Mystic Woods. Besides that, butterflies also have their favourite plants on which to feed (for example, Clerodendrum paniculatum or pagoda flower), and these can be found on the property, too.
Flowering plants such as Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, gardenia sp, barleria sp are other butterfly favourites found in plenty in this butterfly paradise.
Mystic Woods’ butterfly conservatory is designed like a park, and visitors can enjoy strolling and watching bees, birds, butterflies, flowering plants and more. The rooftop garden, fossil museum and mineral display are also worth checking out.
LOCATION: Mystic Woods, Ponda
WHEN TO VISIT: Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays)
VISITING HOURS: 9 am to 4pm (9 am to 12 noon is the best time to see butterflies)
ENTRY FEE: Rs 590 for a family (2 adults and their children) for a 1 hour guided tour
BEST MONTHS TO VISIT: August to November
CONTACT: 099755 92347