Most visitors to Goa are content to laze around on the state’s beautiful white gold beaches, or perhaps swim in the pool and sea and work up a nice tan. However, Goa is more than the sum of its beaches. Some of the most fascinating places are the wildlife sanctuaries with which the state abounds.
These natural havens are extremely popular with animal, bird and nature lovers alike. The second largest, and most accessible (in all seasons) among these is the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary which lies in the south of Goa, on the Goa-Karnataka border. Although visitors may not see many of the larger species of animals the magnificent trees and brightly coloured birds make this a popular spot for the more adventurous tourist.
Where to Go
The sanctuary is located in the Canacona Taluka of South Goa, along the Goa-Karnataka border. It makes a pleasant day trip from Palolem beach. One can also find accommodation in and around the sanctuary provided by the Forest Department if one requests permission and makes the bookings in advance
This sanctuary boasts an observation deck concealed amongst the foliage of a 25m tall tree. This deck affords the intrepid explorer an uninterrupted view of the watering hole, where the animals congregate at dawn and dusk to slake their thirst
The sanctuary is open from 7.00am till 5.30pm every day. The price of admission is Rs.5 per person, plus an additional Rs. 25 for cameras
Those who wish to make an overnight stay must obtain permission from the Deputy Conservator of Forests (office in Margao), and will find that the Forest Department can provide cots and mosquito nets for the more adventurous or canvas tents and snake proof campsites for those who wish to avail of this facility.
Although most people prefer to visit this natural habitat during the tourist season, i.e. October to March, there is much to be said for visiting during the monsoon season when greenery abounds and whole place has been washed clean by the abundant rains.
History and Description
The Cotigao Wildlife sanctuary was set up in 1968 to protect the exposed stretch of woodland on the Goa-Karnataka border, which was home to a number of species of animal and bird life, as well as some rare, old trees.
The 86 sq.km stretch of woodland boasts impressively tall trees which reach up to 30m and whose branches obscure the sun. So dense is this patch of woods that the sunlight is merely able to dapple the forest floor. Most of the vegetation in this area is of the moist-deciduous type, interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen patches.
The residents of the forest are shy and do not often come out to inspect the visitors, but the area is a veritable feast for tree lovers and nature lovers with its abundance of vegetation and perennial streams.
Wildlife in the Sanctuary
Although the tigers and leopards have long since left this area, there are a number of other creatures that can be seen in this camp. Visitors can look out for flying squirrel, slender loris, Indian pangolin, mouse deer, four-horned antelope, Malabar pit viper, hump-nosed pit viper, white-bellied woodpecker, Malabar trogon, velvet-fronted nuthatch, heart-spotted woodpecker, speckled piculet, Malayan bittern, draco or flying lizard, golden-back gliding snake, and Malabar tree toad.
The more observant may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the shyest residents of the forest which include Gazelles, Sloth Bears, Porcupines, Panthers and Hyenas. However, these animals generally prefer to keep themselves to themselves and rarely leave the safety of the densest thickets of underbrush.
There is more to this sanctuary than just a collection of trees and birds. Some of the other attractions include
The Nature Interpretation Centre – This repository of facts and knowledge is a godsend to those visitors who are curious to know more about the animals and plants that they will encounter within the sanctuary.
Hiking Trails –Although the sanctuary does allow private vehicles within its bounds, some, more energetic individuals may prefer to hike through the park. There at eight trails that traverse the Wildlife Sanctuary and they vary in length from 500m to up to 5km.
Treetop Perches – One experience that this sanctuary is unique in offering is the use of tree top lookout posts that overlook the watering hole/s frequented by the animals. There are six such watchtowers throughout the sanctuary, all of them being at least 25m off ground level.
Meeting Tribal peoples – This land is also home to some of the ancient tribes of Goa like the Velip and the Kunbil. Those keen students of the human condition and culture can further their knowledge by interacting with these peoples and learning more about the culture and way of life.
Visiting a sanctuary like this one inspires us with an awe of the wonders of nature and her bounty in providing for the needs of all her creations. Whatever time of year you choose to visit you are assured of a peaceful land relaxing day out, interspersed with a healthy dose of physical activity and mental enhancement.