The lazily majestic crocodiles in their own habitat are a site worth seeing on your Goan vacation. Known as ‘Mugger Crocodiles’ these reptiles are native to the Indian subcontinent, but like all else in Goa manage to be unique in that although they are a freshwater species, they have adapted to living in the saline waters of the Cumbarjua canal amongst the weeping mangroves.
Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus Palustris)
This species is mainly found on the Indian sub-continent and in a few areas of Southern Asia. The Mugger is generally held to be less dangerous than his salt-water cousins, and rarely poses a threat to livestock or humans. A medium sized species, they are known for having the broadest snout in the crocodile family today and in that resemble alligators.
The muggers are marsh dwellers, and burrowers. However, since they are cold-blooded like all their species they need to spend plenty of time basking in the warmth of the sun. This makes it easier to spot them. Their mating season extends from November to February and their violent and effusive courtship displays are great fun to watch.Read more +
Mugger crocodile literally means crocodile of the marsh. They are usually found in fresh water lakes and rivers, or swampy marshlands as they prefer slower moving bodies of water. They are medium sized species with the males usually growing up to 4-5 meters long and the females being a little smaller as is usual with most species of crocodiles.
The Mugger has the broadest snout amongst all living species of crocodiles which makes them look more like gators than crocodiles. They usually have 19 sharp upper teeth on either side of the jaw. The adults have a mottled greyish appearance whilst the hatchlings are a tan colour. They can move at a speed of about 8mph in short burst whilst travelling over land but are much faster in the water and reach 10-12mph in short bursts and 1-2mph whilst cruising.
They usually prey on fish and aquatic birds and their eggs whilst their mammalian prey consists mainly of smaller animals like monkeys who come to the waters’ edge for a drink. There has not been a man-eating crocodile in Goa in recent living memory.
This narrow body of water connects the two largest rivers of Goa, i.e. the Mandovi and the Zuari. The marshy banks of the canal are covered with mangroves and form an ideal place for the crocs to sunbathe in peace, whilst providing them with ample camouflage.
The people of the village of Durbhatwadi along the banks of the canal worship the crocodile as their guardian spirit, and children too are quite unafraid to bathe in the river with the crocs close by. The festival falls on the new moon day in the month of January and is known locally as ‘Maange Thapnee’. The crocodiles themselves are used to the presence of humans and if they are feeling anti-social will simply swim away. Read more +
This 15 km long stretch of water that connects the Mandovi to the Zuari is the best place for crocodile watching in Goa. An easy 20 minute drive from Panaji, it is estimated to be the home to about 40 to 50 Muggers. It is theorized that the crocodiles were introduced into these brackish waters about a hundred years ago in order to dissuade invaders.
Also to be found along the banks of the canal are the Peregrine falcon, white-collared Kingfisher and a wide variety of butterflies. These along with the sleepy mangroves and crocodiles have attracted many tourists and nature-lovers who enjoy the bio-diversity that is to be found here.
The Mugger is sneaky and uses lures to catch its prey, thus making it one of the few species, to use ‘tools’. The crocodile balances grass and twigs on its head in order to fool nesting birds, who are looking for things with which to make a nest. Once the bird is within reach, SNAP! And there goes the bird in puff of feathers.
Cruising down the backwaters of Goa and keeping your eyes peeled for a stretch of bank that looks a little different from the rest may not seem like a lot of fun, but when you do get a glimpse or maybe even a photograph of these great reptiles it makes it all worthwhile, all in all definitely something to put on your list of ‘things to do’ in Goa.