Imagine being greeted by endless patches of dewy green and lonely beaches with only the birds for company. There is the natural music of the sea and the breeze in place of the tired trance tracks being belted out from the shacks. And everywhere you drive, the land seems to be in full bloom, its verdant flush quite unlike the Goa you’ve seen in sweltering summers or festive winters. This is a Goa far removed from the New Year’s eve parties and the holiday season revellers. This Goa is serene, breathtaking and a paradise for the nature-loving solo traveller.
If in North Goa…
Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to get an unobstructed view of the sea at the much written-about beaches of North Goa. But if you really want to see whether Baga and Calangute are as beautiful without the familiar shacks and sun-bathers, pay them a visit in the lush months of monsoon. During my post-graduation, we went to Goa every year to attend the international film festival in November. Of course, we did a lot more than just watch films, riveting as they were. During our second visit, my friends and I decided to give the cold shoulder to the beaches. We wanted to see if Goa had anything else to offer.
Churches, bakeries, quaint little pubs and the lovely Chorao Island kept us busy during our week-long visit and it was only in the nights that we hit the beaches to join our classmates. In a bakery run by an elegant old lady, we sampled several decadent desserts, among which was the flaky and smooth bebinca. At Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, we spent more time outside than inside, because its architecture was so charming. The whitewashed structure was fronted by crisscross staircases with interesting views of Panjim’s streets. We spent one evening drinking beer at a tiny little pub tucked away into a street near the church and another navigating the local buses to reach Chorao Island, home to the famed Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
To reach the island, one has to take a ferry from Ribandar ferry wharf. The tiny Chorao Island lies across the Mandovi River and as you near the shore, you will be able to glimpse the mangroves resting just beneath the water. A short walk from the jetty is the sanctuary where you can opt for a walking tour and/or a boat ride in the water channels in the depths of the sanctuary. Make sure you’re carrying insect repellant because there are many strange and hungry creatures lurking in the forest. Binoculars may also come in handy to spot the birds hiding high up in the trees. If you’re lucky, you might even see a jackal or a crocodile.
If in South Goa…
South Goa is known to be the quieter cousin of its northern counterpart and in the monsoons, it might as well lie in slumber. But therein lies its mystical charm. If you’re alone and seeking inspiration for a story or an answer to a question that’s been bothering you, you might just find it in the silent embrace of South Goa’s streets and beaches. Last year in July, we (my friend and I) rode along the Southern stretch and paused wherever we saw a beach, known or unknown. And every stretch of sand was devoid of human presence but for us. If you have to go to just one beach, make it Palolem. And if you have time for more, sink your toes into the sands of Varca and Colva beaches as well.
But the most magnificent offering of South Goa in the stormy monsoons is the majestic Dudhsagar Falls which lies at the border between Goa and Karnataka. The four-tiered waterfall gushes from a height of 600 meters and is located on the Madgaon-Belgaum rail route (you can even walk down from the tiny Dudhsagar railway station). Surrounded by lush deciduous and evergreen forests, you can combine a visit to Dudhsagar with an exploration of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, home to many temples from the Kadamba Dynasty and several species of birds, butterflies and mammals, some of which are endemic to the area.
And if you’re not an adventurous soul, Goa in the monsoons will please you anyway because all you have to do is lie on a hammock beneath the canopy of waving coconut palms and a cloud-heavy sky and you’ll be convinced that monsoon isn’t a bad season for paradise to be permanently frozen in.
Journalist, creative writer and travel blogger at www.trailstainedfingers.com. Written extensively for The Times of India. Been to 14 states, 3 countries and counting. Email me at Ankita@trailstainedfingers.com for travel content collaborations and queries.