On your next trip to Goa, ditch the beaches, and instead head straight to these wildlife hot spots, for a one-on-one with the country’s fauna. The Catigao Wildlife Sanctuary in the far south, just a drive away from Palolem beach, is home to mouse deer, four-horned antelope, Malabar trogon and draco lizard. Herping enthusiasts can visit the place for reptiles like a hump-nosed pit viper, Giri’s bronzeback, flying snake and king cobra. The dense forests of Socorro Plateau in the north are a paradise for birdwatchers, as here you might spot species like golden-mantled leafbird, plum-headed parakeet, lonchura, and new world orioles. Along the Paithona stream and Pilerne Lake, you might also come across the pied kingfisher, woolly-necked stork, bronze-winged jacana, and purple heron. Around eight-square-kilometres away lies the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, which houses the shy Malabar grey hornbill, ruby-throated bulbul, white-rumped shama and fairy bluebird.
2. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Divers take note, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands might surprise you with these beautiful marine creatures. The Havelock island in the Andamans is known for its colourful fish, some of which include parrotfish, surgeonfish and gorgonian sea fans. Another Andaman gem located at its southernmost tip is the Chidiya Tapu, where a dive can land you near a moss-coated shipwreck, a Japanese warship that sank during the World War 2, at a depth of about 80 feet. Among the aquatic creatures, you might spot snappers, ray-finned barracuda and batfish.
3. Tamil Nadu
Valprai, a hill station in Tamil Nadu, is a great way to explore the less travelled, and come across some wild creatures like the lion-tailed macaque, great Indian hornbill, Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur and Asian elephant. Similarly, the moist and dry deciduous forest of Topslip located near Pollachi town in Coimbatore district is home to over 200 species of birds, of which at least 16 are endemic. When here, make sure you go for a trek through the Ulandy range, as on the way you might come across birds like new world orioles, malabar trogon, white-bellied treepie, as well as animals like leopard, Asian elephant, Indian gaur and dhole. Another region called Parambikulam is a major sight to spot birds like Rufous-bellied eagle, Sri Lanka frogmouth, and yellow-footed green pigeon.
4. Andhra Pradesh
If you love ducks, then the Kolleru Lake of Andhra Pradesh is your go-to place. Flowing between the West Godavari and Krishna districts, it witnesses a wide range of these migratory birds flock during the winter season. A trip to this lake in winters might surprise you with species like painted storks, Asian-open billed storks, grey herons, ibises, teals, spot-billed pelicans and more. However, summers also come with their fair shares of migratory birds like egrets, herons, storks, and pelicans.
Odisha’s Chilika Lake, a Ramsar site, and home to Nalabana Bird Sanctuary experiences over a million migratory waterfowl visit its shores ever year. What makes it a delight to the eyes are threatened species such as Asian dowitcher, Pallas’s fish-eagle, lesser adjutant, Indian skimmer and lesser white-fronted goose, that flock here. Moreover, around 20,000 black-tailed godwits are hosted by Mangalajodi village which is located to the northeast of Chilika Lake. The place is also called Bird’s Paradise.