Goa Tourism and Forest Department has collaborated to organize the first-ever bird festival in Goa, from 11th to 13th November 2016. Not many know that Goa is heaven for bird-watching enthusiasts. So, this November, Goa invites not just water lovers but bird lovers too.
The beach state of Goa covers an extremely small space on the map of the world but it is home to as many as 5 percent of the bird species. “Worldwide, bird watching is one of the fastest-growing tourist activities. In the US, bird-watching has already overtaken golf as the biggest outdoor activity,” informs a bird expert from Panjim, Savio Fonseca. He adds, “And to think of it, Goa is home to more than 450 species.”
Savio manages an NGO named Bird Institute of Goa and is also a consultant in the Bird Festival of Goa, which is endorsed by the Goa Forest and Tourism Departments. Bikram Grewal, he is also the co-author of ‘Birds of Goa’, which was released last September. He also started the procedure of recruitment and training of bird guides, “We’re slowly putting all the components in place. First, we did the book. Now, we’ve started training the guides. Next, comes the bird festival in Goa.”
Being an expert, he states that promoting Goa as a bird-watching destination is going to do wonders. “We believe that conservation (of the environment) can be best done through tourism. The bird guides will be from the bird-rich areas of interior Goa, and giving them employment will not only benefit them financially but motivate them to conserve the areas. Visitors will also get to see rare birds, some of which can only be seen in this part of India.”
Though this is happening for the first time the government of Goa is promoting it for bird watching but there are several private tour agencies, which have been offering bird watching in Goa, for the past few years.
Pankaj Lal is a Goa localite who is fond of bird watching. In 2008, he turned this hobby into a business. He says, “The number of bird species is quite high for such a small place which is only 3,700 sq km. Goa, though very small, is a mix of habitats. It allows for a lot of bird diversity in a small area. You get to see sea birds, shore birds, river birds forest birds, etc.”
Fonseca further adds, “Goa has the best infrastructure to be a good birding destination, compared with other Indian destinations like Bharatpur. There is good connectivity to and from Goa. All the good birding spots are within a one- to two-hour drive from the coastal areas which have a large number of resorts where tourists can stay. We’re putting all the required components into place so that Goa is ahead of the curve.” 40 percent of land in Goa is a protected forest. He says that during the bird festival in November, there are going to be a number of certified guides and soon it is going to be a famous outdoor activity.
On being asked whether this 2-week duration is insufficient for the training of a bird guide, he informs, “We’re only taking people who are already interested in birds and are familiar with them. At the end of the course, they have to take an exam. Only if they pass it, will they be given their certificates. Guides are necessary to maintain control – visitors should not be disappointed.” The guides are also going to keep a tab on the movement of migratory birds.
While the main event is at the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, popular for its bird-watching experiences, events would be organized at other spots too including at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary near Panjim and the Carambolim Lake, a popular spot amid migratory birds.
Goa Tourism Department attracts tourists all throughout the year by organizing several festivals, and Bird Festival is the latest addition to it. Other regular festivals include those on religion, music, dance, culture, yoga, food, and so on. Dilip Parulekar, Tourism Minister, says “The idea is to have a calendar of festivals to attract different types of tourists at various times of the year.”
- Date: November 11 to 13
- Bird Festival Registration fee: INR 2,500
- Venue– The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
- Nature/bird-watching trails at Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park (first two days).
- Birding sites at Carambolim and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Chorao (third day)
- Accommodation: Eco-tourism complexes at Bondla and Mollem.
The variety of birds
Rare birds the Malabar Pied Hornbill and the Great Hornbill along with the Ruby Throated Black-Headed Bulbul, the official bird of Goa can be seen here. The Golden Oriole the same size as a crow has 3 species that can also be found in Goa. Along with all varieties of Doves, the Imperial Pigeon- the world’s largest pigeon can also be seen here, near the Ghats. Migratory birds in huge numbers including Seagulls and Terns, come here from the Caspian Sea area.
Sites for bird watching in Goa
The wildlife sanctuaries of Goa are ideal for bird watching- the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary on Goa’s southern tip, the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Goa in the Western Ghats, the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, and the Cumbharjua Canal offer sighting of migratory water birds including the Osprey, and the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary in central of Goa. In Pankim, a rare sunbird can be spotted, the Vigors Sunbird.