10 THINGS TO DO APART FROM THE SUN N SAND
The sun, sand and the sea. Goa is all that. There are very few places in India a native can loosen ones hair, the ambience of being footloose, carefree is very contagious, feels like being abroad! There is only one place in India that exudes all this and more to mark it as quintessentially Goa! Goa is universally known for its beaches, its colorful markets, laid back village life and picturesque landscapes. Having visited Goa during all its seasons our recent visit a few weeks before Christmas led us to discover another facet to Goa distinct from the sun n sands.
For the first time we shifted focus on activities that we never attempted for the past 17 years of our annual pilgrimage to Goa. Here are the listings for ten “to do” things in Goa other than the sun and sand..
1- HOME STAYS- are great options and value for money even if on the higher side. Most home stays operate in family run sprawling farm settings, landscaped gardens, a large swimming pool and the best part, very private exclusive rooms tucked away, even from in- house guests! Offering few rooms some as many as five cottages, guests that check in often come through reference. We stayed at Olaulim Backyards, a delightful place at Pomburpa, North Goa. Managed by Pirkko and Savio Fernandes, Olaulim is a three-acre farm property facing the backwaters of the Mandovi skirting 100 meters of this beautiful place. Chic cottages yet maintaining the rural setting and eco friendly materials used, some of the cottages have all the natural elements intact like the rock boulders within, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Farm Off The Grid is another great home stay owned by John Pollard.
2- REIS MAGOS- is a village located on the northern bank of the Mandovi River in Bardez, Goa, across the capital city of Panjim. The village is renowned for two of Goa’s famous structures, the Reis Magos Fort, and the Reis Magos Church –Reis Magos is the Portugese name for the Three Wise Men from the Bible. This Portuguese fort surrounded by sturdy laterite walls with several turrets was erected in 1551. It was enlarged subsequently on different occasions and finally completed in 1707. The fort was used as accommodation for visiting viceroys and other dignitaries from or en route to Lisbon. In the 18th century this formidable fort staved off attacks by the Marathas, who were never able to capture it. This bastion was later used as a prison. Here an interesting gallery renovated by Goa’s famous architect Gerard da Cunha displays Mario Miranda’s classics and another building which houses the Goa Museum. Open on all days closes 6pm.
3- BIRD SANCTUARY-Dr Salim Ali Bird sanctuary is just 3 km from Panjim on the southwestern tip of the island at Chorao. The backwaters of the Mandovi provide ample mangrove vegetation for birds of nearly 300 species. Bird watching is normally done on a canoe and no motorboats allowed. Chorao mangroves are zealously protected and no one knows this 2 km stretch as well as Uday Mandrekar, the tour guide. Cruise between October and March for the best sightings of migratory birds at this Sanctuary ideally before dawn. A 50 Rs ticket, extra for camera. Boat trip charges extra.
4- BUTTERFLY PARK is an additional must see, showcasing the healthy eco system that Goa maintains with its natural abundance of flora and fauna. Goa Butterfly Park & Conservatory is located in Rajnagar, Ponda, near Khedekar Industries. Dr. Jyoti Heblekar and Prasad made this park a home to some very rare species of butterflies. If you are a nature lover then this is a great place to unwind.
5- RIVER RAFTING-
Goa offers exciting river rafting. You need not travel as far as Rishikesh for that. White Water Rafting has been a nascent adventure sport that has gained major new attraction to the state of Goa. Southern River Adventures, founded by John Pollard takes rafting trips into the beautiful unknown wilderness areas of the State. John is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of rafting in South West India, having introduced 6 new stretches of rafting to this part of the country since 1999 and safely rafted countless people accident free.
Goa boasts of two different rafting trips, making this adventure available almost all year round. The first trip borders the Wildlife Sanctuary nestled in the Western Ghats and open July to September in association with Goa Tourism.
The second rafting trip is the most advanced bordering between Maharashtra and Goa on the Tilari River. This is open between October and May, Log in www.goarafting.com
6-DIVING-Barracuda Diving Centre- since 1993, Goa continues to surprise and amaze with its wealth of ever changing aquatic life. Grande Island and Sao Jorge Island host a variety of dive sites from calm sandy bays to pretty coral fields, exciting shipwrecks to challenging pinnacles. What’s even more conducive are warm waters, shallow dive sites and an absence of strong currents, Goa is an ideal location for beginners as well as experienced divers. While diving in Goa is not exactly world class due to limited underwater visibility (generally in the region of 6 to 12 meters), and lack of big coral reefs, there is an amazing amount of marine life, which attracts even the most experienced divers from all across the world. Owners Venkatesh Charloo (India) and Karen Gregory (U.K.) are both highly qualified PADI Instructors and Emergency First Response Instructors with extensive diving and teaching experience internationally.
7-MAYEM LAKE-Water Sport Lake=this is the most famous lake in Goa and also one of the most popular tourist destinations. The Lake is located in Bicholim , north Goa, east of the market town Mapusa, surrounded by picturesque countryside, sleepy villages, wooded shores and landscaped hills. Birdlife is plentiful here, with a variety of birds on the shores of the lake. The placid waters of this lake are ideal for boating, and many water sports game boats. Water cycles, the most popular Electric Leisure Boat Cruises, Bumper Boat with Water Guns, Float couple boats that one can peddle away, Zorba Ball which is very well-liked among youngsters looking for adventure, Sailing and Kayaking form a wide range for the family. Packages of 3 to 10 rides ranging from Rs 900 to 4000 can take up the whole day, restaurants within and around for lunch breaks as well as dinner.
8-POTTERY-Pottery in Goa is a traditional art form, has both utility as well as decorative products to offer in both clay and terracotta. Situated in the Industrial Estate, North Goa, Bicholim, started by a group of skilled potters and craftsmen. The industrial complex has some famous artists such as Sylvia Kerkar, a studio potter who lives and works in Nachinola, a neighboring village of Olaulim. She makes glazed ceramic tableware like cups, crockeries and figurines. Another studio unit Azulejos has Portuguese hand painted tiles. Mario’s creations painted on large panels and single tiles with the trademark caricatures capturing Goan life are available too. Great place to shop for pottery, ceramics, and terracotta.
9-MARKET HOP-It was Anjuna Flea Market that planted Goa on the map for talented locals and expats to showcase their wares. But now there are other famous market replicas that are equally a must visit. Along the hundreds of stalls ranging from food, clothes, jewelry, to knick knacks, household items, some of them as good as designer stuff are all on sale. With the demand for exclusive goods many such markets sprang up in different pockets of Goa with the sole purpose of generating a commercial activity for anyone who could sell varied products, exclusive yet reasonably priced. A festive air permeates these weekly markets that have colour, glitz, glam, music and lots of food stalls. The Anjuna Flea market is the mother of all is on Wednesday, Arpora Night Market on Saturday, Mapusa market on Friday.
10-FONTAINHAS HERITAGE WALK- Anyone visiting the capital Panjim cant miss it, Fontainhas is as if time stood still. Its quaint, neat rows of colourful building, superb Portuguese architecture, every twist and turn of narrow lanes and streets, you wont regret giving the Sun n Sand a detour. Fontainhas is a reminder of a bygone era that makes Goa forever attached to its Portuguese past.Start the walk from Panjim square bordering the Mandovi river and the Head Post Office, leading to Altinho hills, each of these Mediterranean houses (17/18th cent) are colorfully dressed in bright orange, yellow, blue, some even purple! Don’t miss the cobbled paths, soak in the Latino flavor, these sights and sounds are rare to find in India.
Casa da Moeda Festival, hosted by the Dias family, which takes place each year features musicians, recitals, discussions, heritage walks and more in one of the large Yellow houses at Fontainhas. Another bright single yellow building nearby has an interesting history. Nanu Pednekar (lane), a social activist of the time, is credited with the launch of the public library. The Panjim Inn is Goa’s first heritage hotel, drop by for a Goan lunch on the upper floor veranda overlooking the creek. Viva Panjim and Venite are other options of fine dining at Fontainhas..Many of these well-preserved homes have changed hands, while others have doubled as Cafés and Art Galleries.
TEXT- Jyoti Shetty and Nala Ponnappa
PHOTO- Nala Ponnappa