From the distance the parallel ranges of lofty hills stand out imposingly, covered with dense forest except for the craggy summits. Rolling hills and jutting cliffs are to be seen in every direction. The sun rises in all its glory above the billowing rain clouds of morning mist, to set eventually in a crimson evening behind the towering ranges. As if in harmony the moon comes up in pallid splendour, tipping the hill tops, and later the deep valleys through which she rides silently. Below, the dark rain forest in its shades of blue and green unfolds a different story.
The scream of a dying sambar or the warning call of a nervous langur have often gone forth in vain as they spilled their blood on the jungle floor beneath the paws of a hungry tiger! Yes, here still lies the last refuge of the mighty tiger……….. Now that you have in your mind’s eye the background of my story let me site the location. It is set on the border of the southern district of Goa, 74 degrees East and 15 degrees north to 5 degrees 45′ North with a major part lying in Belgaum and north Kanara district of Karanataka in India. The area is contiguous to Molem sanctuary in Goa and Dandeli sanctuary in Karnataka. It is the origin of the Mandovi river in Goa. The forest consists of large patches of climate – evergreen forest mixed with tropical rain forest. Here you find the Black Panther, Tiger, species of deer, wild boar, Indian Giant Squirrel and a lot more.
Jungle path on the way to Krishnapur
We have travelled to a little town called Valpoi at the border of Goa. From here a jeep takes you through a mud track till we reach a little hamlet. This is our base camp. The local people here are warm and hospitable. We now equip ourselves with the basic necessities for survival in the rain forest up ahead. The trek to the interior of the jungle is strenuous even though its a gradual climb up the hills. As you go deeper the jungle gets thicker, until it overshadows you completely in its twilight. Above the canopy the mid sun is at its peak. The familiar odour of rotten vegetation fills your nostrils. The faint rustle in the undergrowth, the indefinable creeping together with the thrilling call of a sambar builds up the excitement. Suddenly you are aware of a presence in this ancient realm – the domain of the tiger.
The trek is about 7 – 8 km through dense tropical vegetation. You have to wade through streams that crisscross the path. Here you may come across the Indian giant squirrel or catch a glimpse of deer. We now reach our destination in a village, which is the centre of this tropical forest. The place is magnificent, there are old ruin forts to explore, the lime stone caves hold a good chance of tiger sighting. The caves are also the last refuge of the rare Wroughtons Free Tail bats unique to the area. Being the source of Goa’s main rivers, the streams and dark ponds makes it a water paradise, and also provides mild river rafting. For bird lovers this is an unmatched opportunity, there is the famous Malabar Grey Hornbill and a variety of rare species also present here. There are confirmed reports of presence and movements of Tigers (Panthera tigris) and the Black Panther (Panthera pardus a very rare species).
There are tiger paths to trek on that are exciting and you are bound to come across some pugmarks, which give you a tingling sensation of lurking shadows. One must however be warned that tiger sighting are not an everyday happening and in fact rare. There are a variety of other mammals including the famous Indian Gaur (wild bauffalo) (Bos Gaurus) and the sloth bear (Melursus Ursinus). Among the reptiles, is the rare King Cobra (Hamadryad) (Ophiophagus Hannah) and many more. One can write a book on this haven, but we probably guess that you have got a fair idea, and we have to leave something for the element of surprise for our future visitors.
As always nature is threatened by time and civilisation marching inexorably onwards, bringing in their wake an ever diminishing appreciation for nature. Our rain forest of Valpoi is of no exception to man’s barbaric atrocities.
Here are some of the impending threats:
Deforestation: several parts in the area concerned have been deforested. Large scale cutting of trees has been observed and actually witnessed. In recent visits to the heart of the area a high level of activity has been noticed where large-scale woodcutting is in progress. The timber on these lands has either been sold or is in the process of being sold to contractors for felling.
Mining: The area is rich in Manganese and Limestone. Large-scale mining activities have been carried out in this region with or with out obtaining the clearance of the Central Government. This is a gross violation of the Forest Conversation Act 1980. Manganese mine are operating near the Barapeda caves where the endangered species of bats roost.
Poaching: hunting of animals like deer, wild boar, panthers, tigers and trapping of bears has dwindled the population of these animals. Professional groups offer hunting trips to the area. This used to happen in complete absence of any watch and ward, leave arrest and prosecution of the culprits.
Fact Sheet :
Best Time: Dec to Jan (the rains are very heavy and place become inaccessible and infested with leeches).
Nearest Towns: Valpoi in north Goa from there one has to take local transport to a small village called Cintol, which borders the jungle. From here one has to trek by foot.
Communications and hotels: None except for Goa. There are no hotels and shops. Supplies have to be well stocked up but the locals provide food and shelter willingly. The locals are also excellent guides.
What to wear: Clothes with earthly colours. The summers are extremely hot and winters cold. Good pair of shoes (preferably trekking boots).
Important things to carry: First Aid Kit especially for dehydration, Torches with extra batteries, camera film and binoculars.
Main attractions: Tiger sighting (please note extremely rare), variety of birds and reptiles, the rare Wroughtons Free Tail bats unique to the area found at Barapeda caves which is a long trek and one has to be accompanied with a guide. The wild Indian Gaur and the Indian giant squirrel.