All of us at some point have visited a sanctuary, either on a picnic tour or an educational trip. We all have memories of a sanctuary. Let us get an insight into sanctuaries in Goa and what all one can do there.
What is a wildlife sanctuary?
A wildlife sanctuary is a protected area or habitat for birds and animals. In this protected area, capturing, killing or poaching is prohibited and these are punishable acts. The aim of the sanctuaries is to provide the animals a safe and livable habitat.
1. Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is located in Mollem, towards the eastern border of Goa. It is around 53 km away from Panjim and 54 km from Margao. It covers nearly 240 sq km area and is one of the largest protected sanctuaries in Goa. It is a rich biodiverse part of the Western Ghats and is also a paradise for bird watching.
The sanctuary is easily accessible via road and rail. Unless you stay at the sanctuary, it will be difficult to catch a glimpse of the wildlife sheltered inside. Some of the animals that one spot are gaur, sambar, leopards, spotted deer, slender loris, jungle cats, Malayan giant squirrels, pythons and cobras.
There are important historical and geographical features connected to the wildlife sanctuary. One can hire jeeps to explore these thick forests and the Dudhsagar waterfalls for which one has to drive for around 9km. The best point to view wildlife is the Devil’s Canon. This is a great place for bird lovers too.
Also, the famous Tambdi Surla temple of the Kadamba period is located around 13 kms from the sanctuary.
If you are looking to stay in the sanctuary, there are cottages and dormitories that have been constructed by the Forest Department for accommodation purpose. The setting of these cottages at the foothills of the Western Ghats makes the stay a pleasant and peaceful stay.
2. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary
This wildlife sanctuary is located in Verlem, in Sanguem taluka, in the southeastern region of Goa. The sanctuary covers around 211 sq km and it lies adjacent to the Dandeli tiger reserve in Karnataka.
The sanctuary is named after the Netravali or Neturli River that originates in the sanctuary. Netravali is a key tributary of River Zuari. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is an extremely significant source of fresh water for Goa.
It is home to some of the diverse flora and fauna that one has to be lucky enough to spot. Gaur or Indian Bison, Malabar giant squirrel, four-horned antelope or chousingha, leopard and black sloth bear are some of the wild animals that roam this sanctuary.
For bird lovers, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the rare Malayan night heron, Nilgiri wood pigeon, great pied hornbill and a few others. The sanctuary is host to some of the rare butterflies seen in Goa.
The sanctuary also has several mountain ranges that hold religious significance where locals from the area perform rituals.
3. Mollem National Park
This national park is also a large part of the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and is home to a vast range of flora and fauna. The national park and the wildlife sanctuary together cover an area of 240 sq km.
There is a 25 km long dirt track which tourists can venture onto to catch a glimpse of wildlife at the national park. It also has a watch tower from where one can spot wild animals.
Gaur, sambar, leopard, spotted deer, slender loris, jungle cats, Malayan giant squirrels, pythons and cobras are some of the animals in this park.
Other things that you can do while you are at the Mollem National Park is visit the Devil's Canon, safari, trekking and visit to the famous Dudhsagar waterfall.
There are jeeps that one can hire to travel to the Dudhsagar falls. However, the vehicle goes up to a certain point and then one has to trek to get to the waterfall.
4. Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is located in the North district of Sanguem taluka near Valpoi town which is around 52 km away from Panjim city. The route to get to the sanctuary is to travel through a valley and streams.
The sanctuary is spread across around 208 sq km. It is covered with thick lush green treetops of semi-evergreen and evergreen vegetation. If one loves to explore the jungle, then there are treks conducted on certain trails of the sanctuary.
The Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is spread within the Mhadei river basin and was established with an objective to protect tigers living in this area. However, the State government is yet to declare the sanctuary as a tiger reserve.
The sanctuary is home to the black panther, which is sighted very rarely. One can also sight sloth bears occasionally, mostly near caves and grasslands. Indian gaur, barking deer, sambar deer and leopard have also been spotted by villagers as of late.
Mhadei is also known for its waterfalls like Vazra Sakla and Virdi located in the lap of biodiverse region of Chorla Ghat. To know more, it is best to visit the sanctuary. However, due to the recent forest fires, entry is banned, unless a trek or trip is approved by the forest department.
5. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is located in the northeast part of Goa in Ponda taluka. Bondla Wildlife sanctuary covers around 8 sq km. This sanctuary is popular among tourists as well as school children, as it is a popular location for picnics.
The vegetation at Bondla is generally deciduous with a few semi-evergreen trees. The sanctuary is also famous for its fauna like deer and wild boars that roam freely.
Bondla is a zoological park where the fauna is kept in moated enclosures. Tigers, wild boars, gaurs, sambars, deer's (spotted, hog and barking), sloth bears and crocodiles are some of the animals that one can see in these moated enclosures.
The sanctuary is considered as one of the perfect locations for those who are looking for solitude. It has a well-maintained garden and lawn that acts as a good spot to have a picnic.
The botanical garden exhibits a variety of plants with explanation boards for all those who are interested in plants and trees. There is also a nature education center that serves as a place for several exhibits so visitors can see, feel and touch.
There are also nature trails inside the sanctuary where designated guides take you through to give an experience of the forest. If you are looking to stay at the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, there are cottages and dormitories. However, one has to visit the forest department at Junta House in Panjim to do the booking.
So ditch the beach plans and head to these sanctuaries to enjoy a peaceful time away from the hustle and bustle. Remember, the sanctuary is a place for animals, and you are just a visitor, so ensure you do not disturb them by talking loudly or make any noise.