Goa that is known as a beach tourism destination which attracts millions of tourists every year also attracts tourists for its unexplored hinterlands dotted by wildlife and bird sanctuaries. Goa offers an ideal setting for ornithologists and bird-watchers and has attracted attention in recent years as an environmentally-friendly destination all across the world. Goa hosts over 458 bird species and the state promotes avi-tourism on a large scale that attracts high-end tourists through an inherent strength the tropical state always had, but never capitalised on.
Over the years the concept of birding in Goa has picked up with a lot of new birding sites across the state. Goa has now seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified – namely the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Carambolim Lake, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary and Navelim wetlands in Bicholim in addition to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
Many bird trails are being organised during the birding season starting from October to February to boost avi-tourism in Goa and to promote ornithological interest in the state. Many tourists prefer spending their weekends in the hinterlands and subsequently a lot of eco-resorts have opened up in the state.
Menino D’souza, director of tourism, Government of Goa, said, “Avi-tourism is one of Goa’s popular facets attracting tourists to what the state is getting to be known as a birders paradise. Thousands of tourists now throng to Goa to catch a glimpse of some of the exotic bird species found in the state. The state also has many birding sites in addition to wildlife sanctuaries which are encouraging young and enthusiastic ornithologists to come and spot these unique birds thereby giving a boost to avi-tourism in Goa. Bird trails, bird festivals, books on birds of Goa are making it more convenient and experiential for bird fans.”
Parag Rangnekar, the founding president of Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) and presently part of Mrugaya Xpeditions said, “Goa is one of the best state’s in the country for birders and avi-tourism has picked up in a big way over the years. The inclusions of new Important Bird Areas and Goa’s rich bio-diversity make it the first choice for not only ornithologists but for bird fans from across the globe and country.We have introduced a new community tourism project which provides village stays for tourists interested in avi-tourism in Netravali. This concept which is nature based gives tourists an opportunity to explore and experience Goa’s rich bio-diversity in the Western Ghat Complex. We are hoping to introduce this project at other IBAs as well and will give a big boost to avi- tourism in Goa.”
Some of the wide range of migratory birds which flock to Goa’s wetland hot spots include the painted stork, Asian openbill, woolly-necked stork, white stork, northern pintail, northern shovellor and the like. The state’s exotic avian list also includes the Sri Lanka frog mouth bird, blue-eared kingfisher, collared kingfisher, Malabar grey hornbill, grey-headed bulbul, rufous babbler and the state bird – the ruby-throated yellow bulbul.