The mention of Goa brings to our minds beautiful beaches, parties, fun-loving people and some such. However, few know that some of the real beauty of Goa is hidden in its wildlife sanctuaries. Located around 500 kilometres south of Mumbai, the tiny state of Goa is known for much more than just its beaches and being the party capital of the country.
It is also home to dense jungles surrounded by the Western Ghats that are filled with wildlife and offer spectacular landscapes. There are many wildlife sanctuaries in Goa among which we will list the top seven wildlife sanctuaries in Goa here that one should not miss exploring with family. These wildlife sanctuaries are a haven to some rare species of birds and animals that might be at the verge of extinction everywhere else but are still being conserved in these jungles. So, let’s take a look at them:
Wildlife Sanctuaries in Goa
Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary
Open 24 hours
Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary
8 am to 5 pm
Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary & Mollem National Park
8 am to 5:30 pm
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
7 am to 5:30 pm
Molem Wildlife Sanctuary
8 am to 5:30 pm
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
9 am to 5 pm
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
6 am to 6 pm
1. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary
Spread over an area of 211 square kilometres, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the newly established wildlife sanctuaries in Goa. It is located in the eastern part of the state, near the Sanguem Taluka. The sanctuary gets its name from a tributary of the Zuari River that also goes by the name of Netravali.
The Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a range of flora and fauna as well as a wide array of wildlife and terrain. Near the famous Netravali Falls, the sanctuary is full of evergreen trees and is also known for butterflies. The Malabar Tree-Nymph, Gaudy Baron, and Black Rajah are some examples of butterflies you will find here.
In the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, you can spot species such as cobras, panthers, great pied hornbills, slender loris, the Indian giant squirrel, and more. If you’re lucky, you might also spot the rarely found Malabar tree toad. The sanctuary is among the best places to visit in Goa, especially if you are a nature enthusiast.
The best time to visit the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is from the months of October to March. Around this time, it rains less, thus, making it easier for your family to walk around and explore the rich indigenous flora & fauna around the reserved area. Also, it’s the best time to look out for birds. Talking about the entry time, the sanctuary is open 24 hours. However, it is recommended to visit the sanctuary during the day time. The Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is easily accessible via road, and you can drive your private vehicle or hire a taxi from the town of Verlem.
2. Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary
With the number of Royal Bengal tigers that can be found at the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, authorities are considering to promote the place as one of the Project Tiger Reserves. Among the very popular sanctuaries of Goa, it is located near Valpoi town in Sattari Taluka.
The sanctuary is known for its biodiversity, which is also recognised by Conservation International for its high endemism. This basically means that the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a range of species unique to this defined geographic location.
Apart from the Royal Bengal tiger, in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, your family can spot animals such as the ruddy mongoose, Indian gaur, the sambar, Black-faced langur, barking deer, and the Asian palm civet. Some of you lucky ones might also spot species that are a rare sight here such as the black panther, mouse deer, Indian pangolin, leopard, dhole, sloth bear, and the jungle cat.
All you bird enthusiasts are in for a treat too. The Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary offers the sighting of the Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar parakeet, Crimson-backed Sunbird, grey-headed bulbul, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Rufous Babbler, and the white-bellied blue-flycatcher. In total, the forest department claims the sanctuary has 255 species of birds and 257 species of butterflies.
The best time to visit the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is during the months of November to March. Thus, you can avoid the monsoon humidity as well as scorching summer heat. The sanctuary opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 5:00 in the evening. It is well-connected to all the major Goa towns and even has access to public transport. You can catch a taxi or bus from Sattari town’s bus stand, which is located approximately 35 kilometres from the sanctuary.
3. Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary & Mollem National Park
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in Goa and is located in Sanguem taluka. It spreads over an area of 240 square kilometres. Along with the stunning landscapes of the Western Ghats, the sanctuary also encompasses the very famous Dudhsagar Falls and a number of temples from the era of the Kadamba Dynasty. You can also visit the famous Devil’s Canyon View Point, a perfect place to spot wildlife and birds.
The sanctuary is also home to the Dhangar nomadic buffalo herders who have been living in these jungles for centuries. It also offers shelter to a variety of animals and birds who dwell in the vast evergreen forest encompassing the many perennial water streams.
Animals such as leopards, Bengal tigers, panthers, sambars, bonnet macaque, and barking deer can be found at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary. You can also spot a range of butterflies in this sanctuary such as the plain tiger, blue Mormon, common Mormon, and common jezebel.
The best time to visit the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary & Mollem National Park is the months of November to March. The sanctuary and the National Park remain open throughout the year, on all days of the week from 8:00 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. The easiest way to reach Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary is by taking a bus from the town of Ponda to Mollem via Tiska.
4. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Set up in 1968 and spread over an area of 105 square kilometres, the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the southern part of Goa, near Canacona Taluka. The sanctuary is a paradise for adventure enthusiasts as it boasts of eight natural trails spread over the region ranging from 500 metres to five kilometres. One can follow these trails or join an organised trekking group arranged by the forest department.
The forest department also provides cots and mosquito nets if you want to spend the night in the wilderness looking at the stars. Spending time at this sanctuary will surely be a once in a lifetime experience to spend the night under a star-filled sky.
The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the Malabar Trogon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Golden-back Gliding snake, White-bellied woodpecker, and the flying lizard. To spot the wildlife, the sanctuary has a special observation deck set atop the trees at the height of 25 metres, offering a stunning 360-degree view.
The sanctuary is open throughout the week and the best time to visit is between the month of October and March. It opens early at 7:00 AM and remains open till 5:30 PM. The entry fee is minimal (Adult/Child – ₹20/₹10) that is charged by the forest department. Videography and DSLR photography are however charged (Camera/Video – ₹30/₹150) separately. There's no public transport available to the sanctuary. It is hence recommended you hire a taxi or a private vehicle and drive south on NH-17 to Karwar via Chaudi.
5. Molem Wildlife Sanctuary
The core area of Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary is known as the Molem Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located in the Sanguem region and is claimed to house up to 120 different species of birds such as drongo, golden oriole, the great Indian hornbill, three-toed kingfisher, wagtails, and fairy bluebird. There also are wildlife safaris conducted in the sanctuary. This could be a perfect family experience to explore the wilderness making it one of the best places to visit in Goa. Apart from the safari, you can also opt to trek along with your family in the sanctuary.
The best time to visit the Molem Wildlife Sanctuary is between the months of November and March. It is considered to be the best time because it doesn’t rain much during these months and hence is perfect for bird watching.
As it is located inside of Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, the opening and closing time remains the same - 8:00 AM - 5:30 PM.
6. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in the Ponda region, the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is the smallest wildlife sanctuary in Goa. It is spread over an area of just about eight square kilometres. Surrounded by lush greenery and moist deciduous woods, the sanctuary lies in the foothills of the Western Ghats.
The perfect habitat for over 100 species of birds including the common grey hornbill and the golden-backed woodpecker, the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary also boasts of an expansive deer park, botanical & rose garden, and a zoological park that are added attractions for visitors.
The sanctuary is home to a variety of wildlife such as the Indian peafowl, Indian bison, Malabar giant squirrel, and the Sambar. Apart from these, you might also come across diverse species of deer and snakes.
The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is well-connected to different towns of Goa and is easily accessible. The best time to visit the Bondla sanctuary is during the months of December and January. It is open on all days of the week from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening except Thursdays. You can also find accommodation inside the sanctuary. This will cost you ₹1,000 per day for a cottage and ₹600 per head for a bed in the dormitory. The sanctuary also has a minimal entry ticket fee (Adult/Child – ₹50/₹20). Although you will have to pay extra for photography (Camera/Video – ₹50/₹200) and parking (starting ₹100).
7. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary .
Named after the prominent ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali who was known for his affection for rare exotic birds, the sanctuary was set up in the year 1988. The sanctuary is spread over an area of 440 acres and is located on the Churao island along the Mandovi River. It is typically a mangrove swamp. You will need the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden of the forest department to enter the sanctuary.
The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is home to a range of migratory birds such as kingfishers, hoopoes, sandpipers, curlews, eagles, kites, drongos, mynas, and redshanks. The best time to visit the bird sanctuary is winter when the birds migrate here to lay eggs. By spring, these birds start migrating back to their homes with their offsprings ready to fly.
To spot these birds, it is recommended that you reach the sanctuary early in the morning when the birds are flying out hunting for food. Similar to the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, this one also hosts a 3-storey watchtower overlooking the vast marshy canals. It is a perfect viewpoint for bird watchers. Being here, you will know why the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is considered to be one of the best places to visit in Goa with family.
The ideal time to visit the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is during the months of December and January, so you don't miss out on bird watching. The sanctuary, however, remains open throughout the year. As it is located on an island, it is only accessible via ferry.
The opening and closing times of the park are 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, respectively. The entry fee (Indians/Foreign Tourists – ₹10/₹100 per head) is nominal while photography (Camera/Video – ₹25/₹150 ) is charged separately.
So, the next time when you visit Goa with family and wondering about the best places to visit in Goa, think beyond the beaches and the parties. Explore these wildlife sanctuaries of Goa and bring home new memories. After all, could there be a better experience than to immerse yourself in a natural one?
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