Go to Goa. Spend a week. But not a single beach. Then that could have been the new definition of Original Sin. But that’s a sin worth committing.
This time we didn’t spend a week. And we did go to many beaches. But we also explored the other side of Goa a little bit. The one that most tourists give a skip. Unless he or she is fascinated with hills and forests.
Overlooking Goa’s large coastline and covering a good part of the state is its share of the Western Ghats eco system. Bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka, these lush rainforests are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. Seven* wildlife sanctuaries (including a couple of them that are in the proposed stage) dot this forest area and certainly a dream for any nature lover.
We didn’t have enough time to explore any wildlife sanctuaries. Nevertheless, we checked with our driver of some wild destinations. All he could suggest was a large farm in Ponda area where they allow tourists to spend time, do a nature trail, and have some good food.
We were soon at the Sahakari Spice Farm in Ponda, on the Ponda–Belguam highway. This 120-plus acre private agricultural farm welcomed us with its multitude of trees and plants, gurgling streams, and some good simple food. We reached there around lunch time. A customary welcome drink made of herbs was followed by lunch. After we had our fill, a caretaker took us around the farm, showing and explaining some of the trees and spices. There was a small feni (Fenny or Feni) distillery as well.
We were then let to explore the farm on our own. We did wander around spotting birds, trying to name the trees, and just letting the fresh air in.
A 120-acre farm is perhaps too small. And nothing compared to what this ‘other Goa’ can offer. But this ‘other Goa’ is to be explored soon—before the miners drive up their JCBs to the last hill and fell the trees. Seven wildlife sanctuaries here is not something to be missed.
The Sahakari Spice Farm is in Curti, or the Ponda-Belguam highway. It can be reached by road from most parts of Goa.
* The Seven Wild Life Sanctuaries in Goa – The Bondla Wild Life Sanctuary at Bondla, The Bhagvan Mahavir Wild Life Sanctuary at Mollem, The Cotiago Wild Life Sanctuary at Cotiago, The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Chorao, The Mollem National Park at Mollem, Proposed sanctuaries at Madei and Netravali.