Birding on the beach in Goa Photo: Sunbird
Lying on the Arabian Sea well within the Tropic of Cancer and approximately 250 miles south of Bombay, India, the restful haven of Goa offers balmy seas, cloudless blue skies, endless white sand beaches fringed with palms, and stunning sunsets coupled with a novel blend of European culture and Indian ambience.
Goa is also a birdwatcher’s paradise with many excellent habitats: wide river estuaries, mangrove swamps, marshes, scrub-covered hillsides, arid fields, rich forest reserves at the foot of the majestic Western Ghats and a spectacular bird-thronged lake at Carambolim. We’ll explore most of Goa’s major birding sites and familiarize ourselves with a wide selection of its birds. We’ll encounter many species endemic to peninsular and south India as well as a large number of wintering species from farther north and more widespread Asian birds.
Wonderful birds, exquisite beaches, delicious food and the easygoing Goan lifestyle: it’s almost too good to be true.
Day 1: Participants should arrive in Goa no later than this evening. Night near Goa.
Day 2: Arriving in Goa we’ll immediately drive north to our hotel in Baga, which, apart from the three nights we spend at Backwoods Camp, will be our base for the next two weeks. After a break, we’ll offer the option of late afternoon birding close to our hotel. Here birds should include the ever-present Brahminy and Black Kites, Indian Pond Herons, Cattle Egrets, Indian Rollers and Black Drongos. Night in northern Goa.
Days 3-4: We’ll spend an enjoyable few days getting to know Goa and its birds. Good birding starts within the hotel compound where numerous large trees at the rear attract a variety of birds. In fact, it should be possible to see well over 100 species within walking distance of our hotel! We have great flexibility and our daily birdwatching trips can all be considered optional. From the comfort of a poolside deck chair, cool drink in hand, we can overlook a series of paddy fields and a small marsh, a superb area that on our previous tours has held Cinnamon and Black Bitterns, up to 15 Greater Painted-Snipes, Small Pratincole, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Pacific Golden-Plover, Pintail Snipe, Watercock, Slaty-breasted Rail, Ruddy-breasted and Baillon’s Crakes, Rosy Starling and a host of pipits including Blyth’s, Richard’s and Paddyfield. Elsewhere, the common birds we can expect to find include dazzling Little Green Bee-eater, Asian Koel, Long-tailed Shrike, Indian Robin, Wire-tailed Swallow, Ashy Swallow-shrike, and Greenish Warblers, while an Oriental Honey-buzzard or White-bellied Sea Eagle may drift overhead. Nights in northern Goa.
Days 5-7: We leave the coast behind and head inland for a three-night stay at the famous Backwoods Camp. Actually the word ‘camp’ is rather misleading as this fairly comfortable lodge has a variety of accommodation options, from small cottages to large safari-style tents.
Backwoods Camp is located in Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from the village of Dhargem which boasts a Hindu temple dating back to the 11th century. The mixture of woodland, paddies, and small fields around the camp offer a wonderful selection of birds. We’ll search the undergrowth for a star of the region, the jewel-like Indian Pitta, and may also come across a stunning Orange-headed Thrush, or White-rumped Shama which is possibly the best songster in the world. Amongst the open woodland and bamboo groves we hope to find such charismatic species as Grey Junglefowl, White-bellied and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Oriole, and Malabar Whistling Thrush.
We may find ourselves in the middle of a mixed feeding flock full of such gems as Yellow-browed, Grey-headed, and Flame-throated Bulbuls - this last stunning species being Goa’s state bird. These in turn may be joined by the equally stunning Asian Fairy Bluebird, Dark-fronted Babbler, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher or Indian Blue Robin. The birding does not stop when night falls either and we’ll go out at least once after dark in the hope of finding Oriental and Indian Scops Owls, Brown Fish-owl and, with luck, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. However, perhaps the star of any nocturnal birding will be the strange Sri Lanka Frogmouth whose equally strange grating call is so distinctive.
Days 8-14: We return to Goa’s tropical coast for the remainder of our tour. There is no fixed itinerary; instead the leader will use his knowledge of the area to decide each day how and where the excursions will run. At the same time he will ensure that all the main birding habitats in Goa are visited - some of them several times. All the sites are within a comfortable two hour’s drive from our hotel and most are much less. The excursions are fun, with a relaxed pace, and with the accent on obtaining good views of the birds.
Sites that we’ll visit will include the Baga fields; Fort Aguada (where we’ll look for Indian Peafowl, Sykes’s Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush); Fort Tiracol for the elusive Jungle Bush-quail; Candolim marsh, the Nerul bridge and the Santa Cruz pools and paddies for shorebirds; Dona Paula and Neura for arid grassland species such as Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Ashy-crowned Finch-lark; Mayem lake; Tikanem, Chorao and Divar Islands for Lesser Adjutants and Carambolim lake, and Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. We will also spend time sightseeing in Old Goa, and possibly at the Hindu temple of Mangueshi.
And of course there are Goa’s famous white sand beaches. One in particular, Morjim at the mouth of the Chapora River, is relatively quiet and normally holds thousands of gulls and terns. We will visit this beautiful site at least twice and hope to see up to six species of gulls, including several impressive Great Black-headed Gulls, and perhaps as many as nine or ten tern species, including both Lesser and Great Crested. Both Brahminy Starlings and Barred Buttonquail are occasionally found here, and the river mouth also holds a large gathering of shorebirds, which with luck might include an elusive Crab-Plover. On one day we’ll travel by boat to the backwaters and creeks of one of the State’s larger rivers where we hope to encounter the endemic Goan subspecies of Collared Kingfisher as well as Woolly-necked Stork and the aptly named Mugger Crocodile.
We’ll visit a harrier roost that contains good numbers of ghostly Pallid Harriers, while Booted Eagle and both Greater and Indian Spotted Eagles are fairly common. We also have a couple of reasonably reliable sites for Black, Rufous-bellied and Crested Hawk-eagles.
For non-birders Goa offers a great variety of activities and entertainment. This lively, friendly resort has numerous shops, restaurants and bars as well as abundant sunshine, sandy beaches and varied sightseeing opportunities. A variety of optional sightseeing trips are included, one of them out to the former Portuguese capital at Old Goa, which in its fifteenth-century heyday was the largest and richest city in the whole of Asia and whose a population then exceeded that of London! Other excursions will include a backwater river trip in search of crocodiles and the endemic Goan subspecies of Collared Kingfisher and trips to the local craft markets. Nights in northern Goa.
Day 15: The tour will conclude in Goa this evening in tiem to connect with international flights home.
Updated: 13 December 2012
- 2013 Tour Price : $2,800
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $440
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
* This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Please review the explanation of our Sunbird pricing here.
This tour is limited to 12 participants with one leader.