Goa: November 2002    iBirdz

Marinha Dourada I visited Goa between 7 November and 29 November. We flew with AIR2000 and stayed at the Marinha Dourada Hotel. The hotel is situated at Arpora, which is very close to Baga. The hotel appeared to be by far the most modern and comfortable in the area and we had hot water and electricity all the time with the exception of the daily 6 o clock power cuts when everyone in Goa switched on their lights. Other hotels in the area seemed not to have hot water a lot of the time as we found out from other birders visiting the area. The rooms were spacious with a fridge and most importantly air conditioning and a ceiling fan, without which the heat would have been unbearable.

The temperatures were in the low 40's getting as high as 45C during the middle of the day. Due to the high temperature and humidity most birding was done early in the morning or later in the day as it was too hot between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.. If in the shade of the woods or forested areas it was bearable to bird watch for longer periods into the middle of the day.

It is vitally important to obtain a good taxi driver who knows the best birding sites and knows something of the local birds. We were extremely fortunate to aquire the services of Abhi Naik who not only knows the regular sites but also has found some sites of his own that most of the other taxi drivers do not know about. Abhi is also an extremely proficient birder with the eyesight of a hawk.
Abhi at Bondla Thanks to Abhi I left Goa with an excellent trip list. I don't currently have any contact details for Abhi but if he's still taking birders around I'm sure he can be found if you ask around. Abhi works with another birding taxi driver called Paresh and both posses a pair of binoculars.
During our stay we bumped into several other birders who we shared taxis with to cut down on cost although we didn't pay more than say 18 for a good day out in the taxi to Bondla for example which was the most expensive trip. A mornings birding out with Abhi was generally around 800 rupees, which worked out at just over 10.
Most days we birded with Len from Stockport. At the beginning of the holiday Adam and Sue accompanied us on several visits whilst towards the end of our stay Stan and Val and Dave and Tina came with us on several occasions. We stayed at Backwoods with Wildwings led by Dave and another couple, Ian and Lynn.

Talking to other birders will gain you a lot of useful information on what's around and how to get the best from some of the sites. Ian had previously visited Goa on 5 occasions and knew a lot about the area.

The highlight of my stay was our visit to Backwoods. Backwoods is a camp in the forest in the Western Ghats close to Molem, the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary. The camp is basic with tented accommodation with shower and flush toilet to the rear of each tent.

Backwoods Camp There are also some wooden buildings affectionately known as sheds. For most of our stay we were in Shed number 4.
The food was fine ranging from fired Chapattis and omelettes in the mornings to various curried dishes for dinner or tea. Each day consisted of tea and biscuits at 6-30 or 7-00 followed by a walk in the forest led by Loven, Pramod or Leio.
We were led by Loven who is an excellent bird guide and has that Goan trait of being able to spot a bird in the middle of a bush through the forest at over a hundred yards. I still don't know how they do it. After the early morning walk it is back to camp for breakfast at around 10-30. After breakfast another walk is scheduled until 12-00 or 13-00 hours when dinner is served. Following dinner is a rest period where you are free to wander around close to the camp or have a nap in your tent or shed. I mostly wandered around birding or checking out the dragonflies and Butterflies. Later in the afternoon at around 3 o clock was more tea and biscuits followed by the third walk of the day, which usually ended at dusk looking for owls or nightjars.
Most people stayed for 2 nights and 3 days. We stayed for 3 nights and 4 days and we had the camp and the services of Loven to ourselves for a day. It is also possible to book in for a single night, which many non-birders seemed to do. A stay ay Backwoods can be booked via there website which is www.backwoodsgoa.com.
Certain essentials should be taken on your visit to Goa such as a good bird guide. I took the Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett, Inskip and Inskip, which I consider to be the best for the area. I also took Goa The Independent Birders' Guide by Peter Harris, which gives details on the best-known sites in Goa, although many taxi drivers will know these sites.

I took several trip reports found on the Internet of which there are many for Goa.
The ones I found most useful were Goa, India Trip Report, Nov-Dec 1999, by Mark and Sandra Dennis and Goa Update by Prasad Anand, both found on worldtwitch.
A couple of more recent trip reports I found useful were Goa: 7th-22nd February 2002 by Ray Thorneycroft and Goa Trip Report - 24th January to 8th February 2002 by Rhion Pritchard. A telescope is also a useful addition to your bins for sites such as Carambolin and Velim Lakes or for Raptor watching at Backwoods and other sites.

My Itinerary was as follows:
Goa Map The map opposite is interactive. For detailed information on each of the sites visited, please click on the areas on the map marked by a purple dot or a blue dot with a purple border. The Cumbajua Canal site (river trip), Chorao Island and Bondla can also be clicked on for information. If your browser is not compatible with this map each page can be reached by clicking on the names in the itinerary above.

To sum up Goa is an excellent birding location. Most people managed over 250 species during a two week stay, whilst in three weeks a total of around 300 species was possible.

The Goans are extremely friendly and will go out their way to help you. There are very few beggars although the market and street vendors can be very persistent with their shouts of "come and see my expensive rubbish" and "cheaper than ASDA price".

It is reasonably inexpensive to get a package holiday in Goa. We paid 750 each for a three week stay at a good hotel and the cost of living is very cheap. A three course meal can cost as little as 200 rupees or about 3 and a
625 ml bottle of Kingfisher beer will set you back around 60 rupees, a whole 80 pence.

Goa is not the cleanest place I have visited as the people are poor and have no sanitation or rubbish collection, so some areas are used for discarding waste and as toilets i.e. the Pitta site at Fort Aguada. Do not let this put you off as the overall holiday was the most enjoyable I have had up to now.

I have produced a complete trip list of all the birds seen in the three weeks we spent in Goa including brief notes on where each species was seen and a photo gallery of some of the insects seen.

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