Away from the popular tourist and party circles in Goa, nestled quietly on the small sleepy island of Chorao is the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Named after India’s most prominent ornithologist, Dr Salim Moizuddin Ali, this tiny piece of bird paradise is a refuge for a wide array of birds and butterflies, and naturally a paradise for all nature-lovers!
The sanctuary itself is spread out over some 420 acres, on the Mandovi river - the mangrove ecosystem of the area is the perfect breeding ground for varied species of local and migratory birds. To reach the sanctuary, get on a ferry from either Pomburpa or Ribander, and worry not, you can take your car, two wheeler or bicycle on the ferries and once you're on the other side, there is a whole new world waiting for you!
The Salim Ali BIrd Sanctuary in Goa, to its credit has a very well-maintained Nature Research Centre - where you can scour all the information you want about the birds, animals and the extensive flora and fauna the sanctuary boasts of - several exotic species of kingfishers, white egrets, purple herons, cormorants, eagles, kites, woodpeckers, and mynahs, and if you're lucky you might even spot a few other animals like marsh crocodiles, pythons and fiddler crabs that live in these marshes . No wonder, nature lovers and birders flock here in huge numbers. You'll find several serious birding groups heading to the three-storied watch tower to observe birds and their habits at length.
The best time to visit is in the winter, when a horde of migratory birds also make the sanctuary their home. The sanctuary is open from 6am to 6pm every day, and the earlier you go for your birding trip the better chances to catch more birds. Also keep in mind that the best time is during low tide, given that you'll get an opportunity to spot a lot more of the thriving mangrove ecosystem. The mangrove marshes inside the sanctuary actually give you an insight into the ecosystem that serves as the first line of defense against the raging of the seas.
At the sanctuary, you can paddle around in the narrow canals, or just walk around. There is a well-paved hiking trail that leads through the entire sanctuary. If you're looking for an in-depth experience, you can also hire a guide, who will tell you all about the extensive ecosystem the sanctuary supports. The Forest Department of Goa offers boat tours through the dense mangroves, that you can completely book out or share with others. many chose to explore the park on bicycles, and again you can choose to do this yourself (you can carry the cycle on the ferry) or pick from the bicycle rides curated by various private companies.
At the island, you can also take a tour of the adjoining village and observe the Goan life as it unfolds unperturbed, or hike to Christ Hill, and if you can time it well, you might be able to catch a gorgeous sunset. So go ahead, treat yourself to a marvellous day in the midst of rejuvenating nature and do not forget to carry your binoculars!