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Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary

This comparatively new sanctuary area in Goa is located in the Northern Part of the state, near the village of Valpoi. The sanctuary covers a vast area of 208 sq. km. and ensures the protection of the immense biodiversity found in the animal and plant life that resides in the Western Ghats. The formation of this sanctuary makes Goa the only state in the country that protects the entire area of the Western Ghats that falls within the state.

This sanctuary is known for the recent spotting of Bengal tigers within its grounds. There is a proposal to make it into a ‘Project Tiger’ tiger reserve. It is in fact one of the best places try and spot tigers in the State.

In addition to the vast number of animals and plants that it houses, there are other activities that are popular here especially during the monsoon season. These include hiking and white water rafting.

Where to Go
The sanctuary is located in the North-east of Goa, in the taluka of Sattari. The town of Valpoi which is famous for white water rafting in the monsoons, lies fairly close to this area.

When to Go
Like most of the other sanctuaries in Goa, the Mhadei sanctuary too is equipped to deal with overnight visitors, with rest houses and private resorts nearby. One can arrange guided tours, treks and hikes within the sanctuary. Although it is most visited from the month of October till March, the monsoons are also a great time of year to visit. Not only is the scenery spectacular, but the months of July till September are when the Mhadei river comes into its own as the site of exciting white water rafting tours.

This sanctuary was formed very recently. Its official declaration as a wildlife preserve came in 1999. The formation of this sanctuary has made Goa the only state in all of India that has completely protected the Western Ghats that are located within its boundaries. The Western Ghats are known for their extremely high level of biodiversity both in terms of flora and fauna.

The area of the sanctuary is thickly forested with moist deciduous vegetation and some evergreen species too. The sanctuary is particularly well-known for its sacred groves that protect rare and indigenous trees. One of the most unusual trees found here is an evergreen variety of the Ashoka tree with peculiar saffron coloured flowers.

There are also over a thousand species of flowering plants that are found here including rare and endemic orchids.

A number of animals can be seen within the sanctuary. Some of these rarely, whilst others are commonly seen. The animals that you can commonly expect to see especially if you have a guide who can show you the best places, are; Indian gaur, Barking deer, Sambar deer, Asian palm civet, small Indian civet, Wild boar, Indian hare, Ruddy mongoose, Black-faced langur and Bonnet macaque.

The residents of the sanctuary that seen more rarely include the Black Panther, Sloth bear, Leopard, Tiger, Dhole, Jungle cat, Mouse deer, Giant squirrel, Flying squirrel, Indian pangolin and the Slender loris which is an endangered species. The camp is also home to more than 255 species of birds; 53 of which show direct signs of breeding here. It has been declared an International Bird Area because of the presence of the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, Malabar parakeet, Malabar grey hornbill, Grey-headed bulbul, Rufous babbler, White-bellied blue-flycatcher and Crimson-backed sunbird.

The sanctuary is a huge attraction for herpetologists since in contains a large variety of snakes including all of the ‘big four’ of Indian venomous snakes which are Indian krait, Russell’s viper, Saw-scaled viper and Spectacled cobra. Additionally keen observers might encounter the Banded kukri snake, Banded racer, Beddome’s keelback, Black slender coral snake, Brahminy blind snake, Checkered keelback, Collared cat snake, Common bronzeback, Common Indian cat snake, Common sand boa, Common wolf snake, Common vine snake, Copper-headed trinket snake, Green pit viper, Hump-nosed pit viper, Indian rat snake, Indian rock python, King cobra, Malabar pit viper, Monocled cobra, Ocellated shield tail, Ornate flying snake, Red sand boa, Sri Lankan cat snake, Streaked Kukri snake, Striped keelback, Travancore wolf snake, Tree snake, Whitaker’s sand boa and the Yellow-spotted wolf snake. The Mhadei wildlife sanctuary is also home to a number of amphibians including the endangered Marbled ramanella, the vulnerable Maharashtra bush frog, Beddome’s leaping frog (Beddome’s Indian frog) and Malabar gliding frog. There are also a number of endangered caecilians (legless amphibians) most notably Nadkarni’s caecilian, the Mhadei caecilian and the Goa caecilian.

There have also been sightings of a record number of butterfly species within the wildlife park. Of the 330 known to reside in the Western Ghats, 257 have been spotted within the sanctuary. Amongst these are the Southern birdwing which is the largest butterfly in South India, the Striped tiger, Common jezebel, Common Indian crow, Blue Mormon and the Blue tiger butterfly which can be seen till the end of summer.

Other Attractions
There are plenty of other sights to see and activities to take part in on a visit to the Mhadei sanctuary. The most popular amongst these are:
Vagheri Hills and Chorla Ghat – These are some of the highest mountains in Goa. They are very popular with hikers and rock climbers and trekking tours are organized so that enthusiasts can scale their lofty peaks.

Waterfalls – There are a number of picturesque waterfalls within the sanctuary boundaries. The most prominent are the Vazra Sakla Falls and the Virdi Falls. The cliff face near the Vazra falls is notable for being the nesting grounds of the critically endangered Long-billed vultures.

White Water Rafting – the Mhadei River for which the sanctuary is named, is a spectacular place to indulge in this adventure sport. The rapids on the river are class 2 and 3 rapids and are suitable for both beginner and veteran rafters. This sport is mainly available during the monsoon season, and usually starts at the beginning of July.

Hiking and Trekking – Besides the rock and mountain climbing trails in the hilly regions of the sanctuary there are also a number of hiking trails within the wildlife park. These trails vary in length and roughness of terrain so it is advisable to book the services of an experienced guide.

A large and diverse population of plants and animals makes this place a haven for eco-tourists, nature lovers and researchers. Visits at varying times of the year would enable one to see all the different inhabitants of this wildlife park in their natural surroundings. The conservation work undertaken by this sanctuary is also commendable and the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary hopes to soon also gain the title of ‘Tiger reserve’.