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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

India: Goa

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Goa. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document sent to all tour registrants, whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING INDIA: United States citizens will need a passport, valid at the time of entry and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp, and a tourist visa. These can be obtained from the Indian Embassy or Consulates in various major cities.  

Citizens of other nations should contact the nearest Indian Consulate for entry requirements. 

For further information on entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of India at 2536 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 939-9849 or 939-9806 or the Indian consulate in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Houston. The Internet address of the Embassy of India is www.indianembassy.org/.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/india.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on India at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html

PACE OF TOUR:  We will start early most days as birds are most active in the early morning. We won’t have a fixed itinerary and instead our leader will use his knowledge of the area to decide each day how and where the daily 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. The aim will be for the excursions to be good fun, at a relaxed pace, and with the accent on obtaining good views of the birds. We will have very few breakfasts at our own hotel preferring instead to head off birding for a few hours before having breakfast elsewhere. On occasions this will mean leaving the hotel between 05:45 and 06:30 and not having breakfast until 09:30. On at least several occasions, we will head inland to the base of the Western Ghats. This involves a drive of two hours or more and we will start early – perhaps as early as 04:30. On these days we will have picnic breakfasts in the field. 

On a number of days we will return to our hotel for a break during the heat of the day and most days we aim to be back at our hotel before dusk. We usually manage to have about a one hour break before dinner. There may be one or two days when we get back after dusk and we may therefore require a shorter break before dinner. We will have dinner together each evening and complete our checklist at that time. 

This is a relatively easy-going tour and while a couple of the days will be long and tiring many will not. Moreover none of the walks are particularly strenuous. On most days we will be bird- watching from poorly used, paved roads. While most of our walks will be of one or two hours in duration some will be longer, and when we visit Bondla Wildlife sanctuary in the Western Ghats we expect to spend all morning walking slowly down the park’s approach road. We will cover a distance of perhaps four kilometres with the vehicles catching us up at intervals of between one and two hours. Many of these walks will be flat and over good terrain but we don’t anticipate doing any strenuous uphill walking. On a couple of occasions, we will walk through the fields immediately behind our hotel, in years where the monsoon has been particularly substantial these fields will be damp underfoot. We will explore other areas if we consider this area is too wet. 

All the sites that we visit in Goa are at a low altitude – none are above 400 meters (1300 feet). 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid, the latter being particularly important because of the presence in this region of S. typhi  strains resistant to multiple antibiotics. 

Malaria: The CDC currently recommends a malaria preventative. Please note that Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in India. Please consult your physician for the appropriate preventative. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india

Water:  Tap water is not safe to drink and should be avoided at all times. Bottled water (which the leader provides at mealtimes), soft drinks and beer are widely available. Do not eat any salads or unpeeled fruit. 

Mild upset stomachs, often brought on simply by a change of diet, can be hard to avoid in India. We suggest bringing anti-diarrhoea medicine such as Imodium. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhoea. 

Insects: Biting insects are not numerous but may occur locally particularly along the streams at Molem and Bondla: insect repellent will provide adequate protection. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

CLIMATE: Goa is hot. Mid-day temperatures between November and the end of February are frequently around the high 80s° F-mid 90s° F, and its coastal location Goa is very humid. Any rain that does fall is usually as a brief convectional thunderstorm lasting only a few minutes. Rainwear is hardly necessary on this tour. 

Night-time temperatures hardly ever drop below a comfortable 65° F. Arabian Sea temperatures are similar to those of the Mediterranean in summer. All our hotel rooms on the coast have ceiling fans and air conditioning units and can be kept comfortably cool. 

Away from the coast, particularly around Molem and Bondla, night-time temperatures are a few degrees cooler, though it can still be quite hot around mid-day. Most birds and bird-watchers tend to be active in the early morning and again in the afternoon. Birdwatching around mid-day is seldom very productive and we would suggest taking a break then. 

ACCOMMODATION: We stay at just one place during the tour; a small modern hotel with air-conditioned rooms and all the usual facilities such as a swimming pool. 

Internet and Mobile Phone Use  Our hotel has a reasonably good free WiFi connection.  Mobile phone access can be intermittent when in the field. 

FOOD: Throughout the tour we are served a wide variety of good quality Indian food. Salads or garnishes are frequently offered but these should always be declined or left on the edge of your plate. The food we are offered always includes a good selection of vegetarian dishes.  We will eat most of our main meals in our hotel where we will order for ourselves from a menu, and have some breakfasts and lunches elsewhere.  

We appreciate that not everyone likes to eat Indian food (which can occasionally be a little bit spicy) every day or even at all.  Almost all of the places we visit can provide western food. 

Vegetarians can be catered for easily in India, although it can be a little bit more awkward if you cannot eat curries. There is usually plenty of fish on the restaurant menu.

Drinks: Bottled water, a soft drink or a beer (or wine if appropriate) are provided at meals, as is coffee or tea. In addition we keep a supply of bottled water on the tour vehicles. Bottled or filtered water may also be provided in some rooms where we stay. 

Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORT: We will use a fleet of taxis for the daily field trips. These taxis can negotiate coastal Goa’s narrow streets better than a tour bus and offer greater flexibility in that anyone wishing to return to the hotel early can usually do so. Participants should be able and willing to ride in any seat in our “tour vehicles”.

Updated: 23 November 2015