Named for Dr. Salim Moizzudin Ali, India’s pre-eminent ornithologist, the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary in Goa is one of the smallest protected areas of Goa. This slice of ornithological heaven is undoubtedly a fabulous insight into the fragile eco-system that is the mangrove marshes.
Ornithological enthusiasts will have a field day being paddled around the sanctuary’s narrow canals in a dugout canoe, spotting rare bird and animal life.
Named for Dr Salim Moizzudin Ali, India’s pre-eminent ornithologist, the Salim Ali hen sanctuary is one of the smallest blanketed areas of Goa. This slice of ornithological heaven is absolutely an excellent perception into the fragile eco-system that is the mangrove marshes.
How To Get To Salim Ali Bird sanctuary in Goa
Located on the island of Chorao in the Mandovi river, the sanctuary is accessible by a ferry that starts at the Ribandar ferry wharf, about 15mins drive from Panaji, the capital city of Goa. Once the ferry passengers disembark, there are boatmen ready to take passengers in canoes around the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary in Goa. There is also a boat service organized by the Forest Department of Goa.
When to Go
The best time to visit the sanctuary is during the winter months i.e. October to March when the migratory birds that frequent the area are also in residence. The maximum number of the sanctuary’s inhabitants can be seen in the early hours of the morning and at sunset. The sanctuary is open from 6.00am to 6.00pm all days of the week
However, it should be noted that the Mandovi is a tidal river, and at low tide, not all areas of the Salim Ali sanctuary are accessible especially by boat. However, the canoes which are much more shallow crafts can usually access more of the sanctuaries watery by-lanes.
Flora and Fauna
Spreading across a vast acreage of approximately 108 sq. Km, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the only bird sanctuary in Goa which is home to exotic wildlife in an estuarine mangrove setting. The diverse flora of this region comprises of Teak, Red Sandalwood, Rosewood, Jungle Jack and many more tropical evergreen and semi evergreen trees providing a safe refuge to numerous birds.
The swampy ecosystem of the sanctuary makes it a perfect breeding ground for fish and insects lying at the foot of the food chain pyramid. The meandering water channels accommodate fish, pythons, Saw Scaled Viper, cobras, mudskippers, crustaceans, fiddler crabs, otters and crocodiles that can be spotted from a safe distance. According to the latest survey, there are about 473 species of migratory and local birds which makes Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary an ornithologists’ heaven in the true sense of the term.
The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Goa is host to a number of common and uncommon species of marsh dwelling birds and animals. Visitors can most probably see white egrets and purple herons, you can expect to see colourful kingfishers, eagles, cormorants, kites, woodpeckers, sandpipers, curlews, drongos and mynahs on a fairly regular basis. Other, more rare inhabitants of the sanctuary include the little bittern, black bittern, red knot, jack snipe and pied avocet (on transient sandbanks).
In addition to birds there are some species of reptile and crustaceans that make their home amongst the mangroves. These include mudskippers, fiddler crabs, crocodiles, otters, flying foxes and jackals. The migratory birds that make their home here include pintail ducks.
The most commonly spotted birds in this park are white egrets, drongos, woodpeckers, blue tailed bee-eater, black kite, spoonbill, white throated kingfisher, sandpipers, brown wood owl, purple herons, cormorants, jungle myna, common redshank, curlews and many more. If you are a keen birdwatcher, you can watch the intriguing behaviour of the birds (coots and pintails in particular) during winter time from the three-storeyed observation tower built inside the sanctuary.
Apart from being a peaceful haven for rare species of birds, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Goa is home to outlandish faunae which include flying foxes, little and black bittern, jack snipe, rodents, jackals and other animals. In a guided tour conducted by the Forest Department of Goa you can explore the length and breadth of the sanctuary. You can also observe the sanctuary’s unique flora and fauna by a bicycle ride along the paved hiking trail or riding on a canoe across the watery canals amidst the mangrove vegetation. Going on a leisurely canoe trip round the shady strips of the Chorao Island will make you watch over the activities of crocodiles, snakes, fish and other aquatic animals from close quarters.
The mangrove foliage of Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary spreading across the banks of Cumbarjua Canal and the Mandovi Mapusa Rivers provides the right conditions for a flourishing biodiversity in that area. It also facilitates the conservation of the park’s unique wildlife ranging from arthropods to mammals that thrive on the tropical evergreen vegetation of this area. Whether you are an ornithologist or a common tourist, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the right place for anything related to wildlife and birds in particular.
The sanctuary boasts a well-equipped Nature Research Centre which is available for public use, so that tourists and locals alike can gain further insight into animal and bird life on the mudflats amidst the rare and fragile eco-system created by the mangroves.
There is also a three storeyed watchtower that keen observers can use to observe bird life at three levels, below canopy level, at canopy level and above canopy level.
The local boatmen are available to take visitors through the canals in dugout canoes that can move easily through the shallow waters at low tide, and give the visitors an impressively close up view of marsh life at its finest. Additionally, there is a boat tour organized at high tide by the forest department which takes about 9 people at a time.
Whether or not you are a keen ornithologist and biologist, a trip to the sanctuary is not unrewarding as the life and eco-system are rare and beautiful aspects of nature that everyone enjoys experiencing. Additionally, there is no need to walk around but rather one can enjoy a leisurely canoe-trip round the shady marshes of the island of Chorao.