Wed, 16 Oct, 2019

Monsoon tourism in Goa’s forests

Goa’s forests never disappoint the monsoon visitors. From Sattari to Sanguem, the Sahyadris are inviting and mesmerizing and make for a surreal experience

Story: Manoj | Sumati | 09th August 2019, 02:32 Hrs

Manoj Sumati R. Borkar

It’s been a little over two months since rains have arrived in Goa, but precipitation received has gone well beyond the expected mark. Presently the skies are overcast, winds are furious, sea is swollen and the land is destructively inundated in many parts of the state. Incessant downpour in the last few days has thrown life out of gear; and even caused loss of life and property due to landslides, collapse of old and weak structures, uprooting of trees, floods, and electrocution. Supplies of essential commodities have been hit due to loss of interstate connectivity. State has responded to this exigency by deploying the Fire and Emergency services and by advising the civil society to stay indoors. If the forecast of the IMD weathermen is to be believed, this wet spell may continue for a few more days and add to the agony of sun-loving Goans.   

On a positive note; with the onset of the rainy season extensive emerald green carpet has invaded the state in every nook and corner. The thunder, lightning and drooping clouds eager to burst and let down a shower are essential ingredients of this season. Farming community is toiling in the fields in anticipation of a good harvest. The parched summer soils are copiously hydrated, the thin dry  tree canopy is rejuvenated into dense green foliage, and the silent shallow ponds are teeming with vocal life, all of which is a magical transformation triggered by the rain.     

The damp, dark days give reasons for some to stay indoors and enjoy mugs of steaming coffee reminiscing in the romantic monsoon melody of the yesteryears with background scores of Kishore Kumar lip-sung by Rajesh Khanna; while munching deep fried onion pakoras. The only connect these individuals have with the rains outside, is the window through which  they occasionally look out, but spend long hours lazing in their cozy beds wrapped in thick pull-overs. For these ‘ombrophobic’ individuals, rains bring confinement, inactivity and boredom. 

Of course there’s the other segment of ‘rain freaks’ who start unfolding their rainwear and mending their umbrellas with the first drops of the sky-elixir striking the soil and spreading the fragrance of the wet earth far and wide. For them it’s time to explore the outdoors and soak in  the wet season; while splashing water from water ponds, rafting in swollen rivers, getting drenched in the spray of the waterfalls, trekking through the surreal forests of the Western Ghats to witness the wonders of the wet wilderness!  

Goa’s forests never disappoint the monsoon visitors. From Sattari to Sanguem, the Sahyadris are inviting and mesmerizing. The forest floor is transformed into a cushion of mushy leaf litter that provides residence to a host of ground dwelling creatures like Giant millipedes, Forest centipedes, Scorpions, Spiders, and Tree Crabs. But all that dwells here is not innocuous, one must tread carefully to avoid stepping on to a Hump-nosed Pit Viper that remains camouflaged  and still. If one is patient and scans the shrubbery, Green Vine snake is a sure catch. Checkered Keel backs often swims through the forest streams at night actively searching for frogs.   

The birds are at bay when the forests are wet, except for some species like Peafowl, Malabar Trogon, Pied Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Munia, Baya Weaver  and White-throated Thrush. 

By the dusk,  a variety of frogs erupt into a cacophony of croaks of varying pitches and diverse acoustic solfege . In the wet months Goa’s forests best showcases the ‘Foam-Nests’ of the endemic Malabar Gliding Frog on branches overhanging water bodies.  This arboreal frog wears a leaf green colour contrasting with blood-red webbings and is visually striking. The tree trunks offer perch to the Draco or the Flying Lizards that best conceal their silhouette but are spotted when they flick their bright yellow Dewlap. 

There is plenty to observe in our forests, both for the naturalist as well as a casual visitor seeking to break free from the stress of urban life. Needless to say that the forests are  best visited in the rains with proper permits and guides to experience  the exuberance of the season and witness the rich diversity of flora and fauna that it offers a refuge to.

When the rains take intermittent breaks, butterflies like Mormons, Barons, Yellows and Pansies congregate on wet soil for ‘salt lick’ to replenish their minerals.  The mud-puddling butterflies exhibit a frenzy and can be photographed at close quarters without being disturbed.  

A walk through the forest in the rains at night is not only an adventure but a surreal experience. The fireflies display their ‘silent fireworks’ in a synchronized lighting of the forest foliage, a sight one cannot forget once witnessed. ‘Cold light’ is common in the wet forests, due to proliferation of bioluminescent fungus growing everywhere. 

From the  crevices in the tree trunks and mud embankments along the forest path emerge a queer  procession of rare species. Banded Ground Gecko, an endemic Lizard with yellow bands cannot be missed easily. Forest centipedes crawl looking for an unsuspecting prey like frogs. 

If deeper in the forest around the meadows and bamboo clumps, amidst a light drizzle it is not uncommon to be encountering a sizeable herd of Goa’s state animal, the Gaur. 

Goa’s semi evergreen and moist deciduous forests also offer habitat to some bizarre  species like the Whip Spider and the Whip Scorpion, that are normally reclusive and escape notice. Goa has its own share of Tarantulas too! If accompanied by Trained Biologists, Goa’s monsoon forest trails turn out to be far more educative than just entertaining.

The nosedive in tourist arrivals for conventional destinations in the recent times has been a matter of worry for the state, as tourism driven revenue is an important driver of Goa’s economy after the quagmire in the mining sector. State must refurbish their tourism products. And it is here that Monsoon treks and trails in Goa’s forests can offer a novel option to the visitor. 

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