And this morning it was a walk in the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Chorao. I was coming to Goa in this season after many years, and had decided in my mind to visit the bird sanctuary at Chorao, as this is the season for the migratory birds. I looked it up on the web, and learnt that it was named after the great birdman, Dr Salim Ali and that I would need to get a permit from the office of the Wild Life Dept at Junta House to enter.
So, I trudged to their 4th floor office on Monday only to learn that they did not issue any permits and one could get it at the site office which opened at 7 am. So, this morning, I drove to Raebander and took the ferry across the River to Chorao. It was just around sunrise and the early light on the peaceful river was breathtaking, the usual traffic of iron ore barges not being there due to the Court ordered shut down of all mining in Goa. I don’t know what this is doing to the economy, but it is certainly good for the river!
At the site office of the sanctuary, I learnt that the walkable part was only a one kilometer stretch (Rs 20 for entry) and the best way to sight the birds and see the sanctuary was to take the boat – at Rs 900 per trip whether one or 16 (maximum) passengers. I was the first visitor (the park opens at 6.30 and not 7am) and was not optimistic that others would arrive to share the boat – as I made my entry in the register I saw that the number of visitors on previous days varied from 5-10 (all were foreigners!). The guy at the office was most helpful, however, and took my phone number saying that if there were any subsequent visitors who wanted to take the boat, he would call me. So I walked into the park, to enjoy the quiet, the swampy undergrowth, the mangroves, the sound of birds, the quick flash of a kingfisher…… Of course, I also learnt, that this is not a site frequented by migratory birds (these could be sighted at Carambolim Lake) and the resident species were few.
I ran into a group of research scholars, who were collecting swamp samples for some kind of analysis – and so I was not the only person in the sanctuary! There was a cultivation of a few varieties of mangroves and the students informed me that it was a growing and expanding mangrove. The time of day was perfect and I resolved to return and take the boat ride on another occasion.