Words: Nolan Mascarenhas
GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore
GREAT FOR: Nature and adventure activities
The breathtaking rock-cut, 13th-century Mahadeva Temple – dedicated to Lord Shiva – before you transports you to the time of the Kadamba Dynasty, which ruled Goa between the 10th and 14th centuries. A sense of awe washes over you, as you admire the elephant pillar sculptures carved eons ago that stands tribute to the test of time. Dense foliage surrounds this site while a stream gushes nearby. Welcome to Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary at Tambdi Surla.
You need grit and determination to get to the elusive waterfall nestled within. You enter easily, as the diverse flora and fauna in the jungle tease your senses. Everything you observe warrants a second look – like the blue mormon butterfly, the hump-nose pit viper, the cat snake, the Amboli bush frog and more. The devil, in this case, lies in the details of all things small. True proof that size doesn’t really matter appears (if you’re lucky, that is) in the form of an irate female saw-scaled viper – poised to strike. One of the deadly Big Four venomous species of India, it measures no more than a foot, but is deadly, so step slowly out of the way.
You’ll find a well-defined path in some areas while, in others, you will need to make your own trail. Watch out for the hairy caterpillars perched silently atop branches and twigs. Its silky spines might look tempting to touch, but doing so will send you into a wild itching frenzy. And that isn’t the bad part. The local remedy for this is dry cow dung!
But all of this is worth it when you finally reach the gargantuan waterfall – five gushing streams with two vertical ascents narrowing close to 90o angles await after the laborious two-hour trek. Don’t forget to stop and stare at the smaller, more beautiful wildlife underfoot like the Travancore wolf snake, the Malabar gliding frogs with their massive webbed feet that allow them to leap and glide from tree to tree, as well as the poisonous but mesmerising cup mushrooms and the bioluminescent fungi, which light up the forest at night. There’s also the pretty plum Judy butterfly flitting past and the flame- throated bulbul – Goa’s state bird whose shrill, disruptive calls ring through the jungle. This is an ornithologist’s paradise; with many other endemic species like the Malabar trogon, Sri Lankan frogmouth and the heart-spotted woodpecker.
A great base for your explorationsis Nature’s Nest – an earthy eco-camp in Sacordem with basic amenities in mud-tiled houses set amid betelnut fields. Come monsoon, the area around this adventure camp comes alive with bird calls. You’ll find no mobile phone network except BSNL and that, too, once the single booster is put on at your request; don’t expect wi-fi connectivity either. But the camp makes up for it abundantly in the form of activities – from bicycles on hire to zip-lining across the man-made freshwater spring pool at the far end. Adventure junkies must try rappelling or wall-climbing while aspiring gymnasts should give the Burma Bridge a shot. The food is locally influenced, perfect for an early morning awakening, with a hot cup of tea to prepare you for the day ahead.