The peak monsoon season makes us realise the wealth of Goa’s natural beauty. Thus, it is an ideal time for trekking, exploring wild flowers, plants and amazing variety of reptiles and amphibians.
But, discovering these beauties through professional guidance is of utmost importance because being in the wild may look exciting online, but the reality is that being out there in the open, on your own, is not easy and can even be dangerous.
RESPECTING THE ENVIRONMENT WITH MRUGAYA XPEDITIONS
There are many guidelines and rules that one needs to follow, especially in protected areas. Thus, it is necessary to take the help of professionals, who are actively involved in such activities.
One such group is Vasco-based Mrugaya Xpeditions, which is led by naturalists like Parag Rangnekar, Shraddha Rangnekar, Omkar Dharwadkar and Shivdas Desai.
Mrugaya Xpeditions started in 2016 as a tour company with a focus on wildlife, ecology, community, education and conservation issues. “We strongly believe in the ethics of minimum disturbance to the areas we visit, while ensuring that the local community is an important stakeholder and beneficiary,” says Shraddha Rangnekar.
Their activities involve nature and wildlife-based programmes like bird watching, herping, night trails for night life and general nature trails to various ecosystems for different age groups.
Their monsoon activities, which are held from June to October, includes nature trails for the exploration of monsoon flora and fauna, night trails to explore reptile/amphibian diversity as well bio-luminescence and macro photography camps and workshops.
From November to March, Mrugaya Xpeditions focuses on birdwatching activities. Along with Goa, they also explore the Himalayas and North east India during the summer, which includes pelagic trips. “We also curate educational and experiential learning activities where students achieve a better understanding of nature through natural experiences. This program helps in nurturing a scientific temperament in young minds by generating curiosity and providing skills and knowledge.”
STAYS & EXPERIENCES
One important aspect of Mrugaya Xpeditions is the stay experience at Amboli, the border town of Maharashtra. This stay is actually at the ancestral house of Parag Rangnekar, which has been converted in order to cater to nature and wildlife enthusiasts. It is a bed-and -breakfast facility, the tariff for which is ₹ 2,400 per room per night on a twin sharing basis, inclusive of breakfast.
Along with this, they have also initiated and supported other community-based tourism initiatives in Goa. Jungletrails Homestay in the village of Talde in Tambdi Surla; and another one in the Verlem, Netravali called Aangan, which is the first registered community tourism initiative of Goa, managed entirely by the locals.
The basic package at Jungle Trails Homestay starts at ₹ 1,800 per person, inclusive of stay and meals. Packages are further customized to suit the guest’s requirements of a community experience, wildlife exploration etc.
They also promote community-based tourism where travellers can closely connect with the local communities in Goa. Here, they encourage travellers to visit local homes and experience the actual local culture, the diversity, local rituals and beliefs.
Along with these experiences, they also focus on education and awareness. The recently commissioned Wildlife Map of Goa, is illustrated by Rohan Chakravarty, depicts various eco zones, endangered species, state symbols and diverse flora and fauna.
Sometime in the future, they intend to engage with the local Biodiversity Management Committees of the areas they work in and share the knowledge that they have gained.
“One of our larger goals is to create a dedicated wildlife lodge in the state that will offer a unique wildlife experience to all its guests,” says Shraddha.
Mrugaya Xpeditions is very aware when it comes to responsible tourism. They try to be sustainable in their operations, and also keep in mind the sensibility and sanctity of the place. They also take ‘eco-tourism’ very seriously. “The real meaning of ‘eco-tourism’ has to be understood and imbibed,” adds Shraddha.
To explain this further, Shraddha informs that at their stays they do not encourage packaged drinking water, as they provide filtered water. They try to reduce their dry waste and compost the wet waste they generate. Plus, at the Jungle Trails Homestay, they have a no-alcohol policy, which is made clear to guests well in advance and the reason behind it is clarified.
“We believe that the guest, who is visiting our state, is here to experience how we live, its biodiversity and what we can offer. This means we will not change for the guest, but the guest has to adapt to our lifestyle. This thinking is contrary to the mainstream tourism mindset, but is important in cultivating a more appreciative tourist. Add to this the educational value in the experiences, and we have a guest who returns home with a little respect for the land, its diversity and its people,” concludes Shraddha.
To know more about the events and packages offered by Mrugaya Xpeditions, log on to www.mrugayaxpeditions.com
Arti Das is a freelance journalist based in Goa. She loves writing about art, culture and the ecology of Goa.