18 Jul 2021  |   06:49am IST


Goa’s tourism may have taken a massive hit due to the COVID pandemic this year, with most beaches wearing a near deserted look. Only a few domestic tourists ventured out to check the rough waters despite warnings not to enter the Arabian Sea. However, it’s not just the beaches; the State has lot of hinterland tourism to offer to foreign/domestic tourists as well. TEAM HERALD traversed some spots enjoyed by these visitors for leisure, picnics and sight-seeing, trekking down hills and forests, often to discover how they exploit these touristic places without having any concern for the beauty by destroying the atmosphere organising “liquor parties” without much ado. The government is trying its best to promote eco-tourism, but with these gay abandon tourists destroying the beauty, it looks like Goa’s hinterland tourism too is facing a grave threat

Sitting in Nature’s lap

Sanguem taluka is pretty sitting in the nature’s lap and is bestowed with a large number of picturesque spots hidden in the remote corners of its every village. If untapped and promoted in the right spirits, these spots could well evoke keen interest among local as well as foreign tourist interested in the hinterland tourism activities rather than beaches.

 Right from the famous rock carvings at Rivona, the historic Mahadeo Temple at Selaulim Dam which was relocated stone by stone from old Kurdi village by ASI, the Mainapi and Savari waterfalls in Netravali village, the hillocks of Verlem and Salgini village, the incomplete water front project at Madel, Bubbling lake (Budbudi Tali) at Netravali, Chandreshwar Temple at Rivona are just a few projects in remote Sanguem taluka which if developed to its fullest extent could well change the face of Sanguem taluka and its remote surroundings.

People from Sanguem have been frequently calling for development of the hidden eco tourism spots in Sanguem on a major scale while simultaneously maintaining its natural beauty, shortcomings particularly on the infrastructure sector have left these many projects untapped all these years.

Even the Mainapi and Savari waterfalls which otherwise attract a large number of visitors all around year around fails to benefit the villagers to its fullest extent in the absence of proper development policy on eco tourism sector, said a villager Manoday Phadte.

At present both these spots which are located in the midst of Netravali Wild Life Sanctuary are controlled by the Forest Department and the villagers have hardly any say in the development of these nature given gifts.

The Forest Department, however, benefits on the existence of these water falls in the Netravali Life Sanctuary from the entry fee it collects from the visitors.

Netravali village is also bestowed with the famous bubbling lake (Budbud Tali) where bubbles keeps on emerging from the lake water on the slightest sound by the visitors.

Netravali village which lies on the border of Karnataka State on one side is also blessed with the hilly areas of Verlem and Salgini which could well be developed into mini hill stations, claims a villager Gourish Gaonkar. 

Incidentally in an effort to boost eco tourism in the hilly areas, Mineral Foundation of India through its resources had funded and developed around eight rooms in the villagers residential houses complete with all basic amenities to meet the overnight residential needs of tourists visiting the village.

“The scheme which is run in the name and style as ‘Aangan” and maintained by the villagers under Verlem Eco Tourism Co operative Society was run successfully since its formation except for last two years due to pandemic Corona virus,” said Chairman of Verlem Eco Tourism Co operative Society Dayanand Gaonkar.

Deputy Sarpanch of Netravali Village Abhijit Gaonkar claimed that for some tourism means only beaches and the government also goes with this motto.

However, the real passion in the tourism sector lies hidden in the hinterland areas which are full of natural resources as that of waterfalls, wild animals, birds and other pictureque sites.

A lot of concerted efforts are needed from the government side to promote eco tourism activities in the remote villages which could greatly benefit the villagers in getting regular income and improve their standard of living.

Sanguem taluka is best suitable for trekking activities including that of mountain climbing. The Siddeshwar mountain in Bhati Village and the interiors of Netravali Wild Life Sanctuary would be an ideal choice for mountain climbing and trekking related activities.

Botanical garden at Selaulim

Other important places of tourist interest in the taluka comprise of the Salaulim Dam and its botanical garden and the Vimleshwar Temple at Rivona. The numerous springs and lakes which are found in almost every village of the taluka also cannot be forgotten. The development of this almost forgotten lakes and springs could also boost eco tourism development in the hinterland areas.

If one plans properly with proper homework, Sanguem taluka could be a hinterland tourism hub in Goa given its nature’s beauty. The villagers are awaiting to welcome the eco tourism development projects with open arms as it will lead to a regular income in their hands. But it all depends on the Government and its decisions which ultimately cannot come overnight. Till that time, the people in remote villages will have to continue to toil hard in the agricultural sector for its day to day living.

New trend for youth

Visiting internal parts of the villages, tracking and enjoying the day at a waterfall located deep inside the village jungles in Pernem has become a new trend specially for the youth who go off roading and explore the nature after the monsoon hits the coastal State.

Ozari  in Pernem taluka also has such spot which is not as famous as the waterfalls in Valpoi and Sattari, but attract youth recently. 

Similar to the other waterfalls, there have been situations where local body had to call the police to control the youth who drink and create nuisance and also dump liquor bottles and waste without any concern for nature.

Ozarim Sarpanch Karuna Naik said, "There were instances when we had to call the police to control the youth creating chaos at the waterfall. Now the situation is better."

“Panchayat will have to discuss whether to take up the spot under Hinterland tourism. So far we haven't received any communication but if it is going to benefit or create revenue for the local panchayat and create overall development that we will not mind taking up under Hinterland tourism," added Karuna.

Goa government has its own hinterland tourism policy which is to promote interior untapped spots far from the people from the rest of the world. With the stagnation point coming to the beach line tourism of Goa, Government has made right moves to go and focus on nature, tradition, heritage which have lot more to offer to the tourists who come to visit Goa not just to swim in the sea or get tanned in the sunlight but to explore what’s at the core of Goa.

There are beautiful sites, spots of various kinds with touristic value but to make the hinterland tourism a great success it has to be from both ways where people have to participate positively and government agencies will have to implement the hinterland tourism policy properly with taking locals governing bodies, people into confidence. Time has come for people to stop fighting on the regionalism and understand that the world has become a global village.

Since the first wave of COVID-19 started the concept of barring and isolation has strongly housed in the minds of the people. The trend of barring tourists, people on waterfalls, lakes, springs and other touristic places have been started. This might led to bringing Goa in bad light with the tourists. People need to ask why tourists would visit places which are unfavorable and hostile to them. 

If the Hinterland tourism policy is implemented with the help of people, then it will create seasonal employment to locals, vegetable, fish vendors, small shopkeepers, hawkers, hotels, lodges, resorts, farms, etc and will benefit the locals.

Panchayats, Municipalities could also charge nominal fees for the entry, the revenue generated from this could be used for maintenance of the site. The tourism related image of Goa will have get a new positive look internationally. 

Pilot Point

Pilot Point from Headland Sada is yet another attraction since it is a major attraction for all the people from Headland Sada as well as for those outside Sada area. Tourists used to frequent this place to have a wider "eagle eye view" of the Arabian sea, Dona Paula, St Jacinto, Harbour port activities, new cruise ships and other ships in olden days. Children along with their elders use to visit the place at night some years back and kids use to enjoy the light moving from the lighthouse, lights of the ship and fresh breeze. But sadly the charm has been now lost.

Mormugao Fort is yet another jewel of Headland sada with heritage value. Just around 6 kilometers away from the Vasco city, the Fort of Mormugao is located at Headland Sada, locally known as Harbour region. A brief information on the board has been displayed at the foothill of this fort. As per that information displayed on the board by the Directorate of archives and archaeology, this fort was built by then Viceroy D Francisco Da Gama, Conde de Vidigueira and the admiral of Portuguese India, who laid its foundation in the year April 1624. 

Another beautiful place is the Uder Spring and a Verna lake which are in the Verna panchayat area needs to be made tourist attraction and kept clean and maintained properly. Recently some group of youths did a commendable job to clean the liquor glass bottles, tins, garbage from the site and gave a new look to the spring. This move by the youth have sent a positive message to the visitors that it is good to enjoy the resources and it is wise to protect it for the posterity.

St Jacinto Island in Mormugao has its unique beauty and Goans live them peacefully. The place is beautiful and has got monuments of heritage value. 

Pondaites hate tourists

The scenic monsoon waterfalls in Ponda Taluka have possible hinterland tourism but Saturday/Sunday visitors making noise, having liquor parties, breaking bottles, group clashes with eve teasing leading to disturbance of peace, force locals display “A big No” to  tourist as the locals keep vigil and even send back visitors.

There are beautiful scenic monsoon waterfalls at Shirshirem Borim, Agapur, Bhutkhamb Querim,  Savoiverem, Curti,Shintole , Savoiverem and many places of Taluka. Some are connected with religious sentiments  and so locals never ready to compromise with disturbance 

“Panchayat has opposed tourism at waterfalls due to the Covid pandemic. If government wants hinterland tourism it should see that picnic spots are not situated at waterfalls close to religious sites since devotees don’t like disturbing the peace and serenity of these sacred places,” said local Panch and former Borim Sarpanch Sunil Sawakar.

Tourism is even possible during four month of monsoon but in recent years it is witnessed that picnickers breaks bottle at site which poses risk to other visitors and so no body want tourist in our village. Further this waterfalls are situated close to religious sites and devotees doesn't like tourist coming and destroying beauty with liquor bottles.

Some waterfalls at Borim are artificially developed due to stone crushing activities.

A large number of tourists both domestic and foreign visiting various untapped places in the Sattari taluka gives enough reason for the State government to promote hinterland tourism there.

There are many waterfalls, springs, temples, traditional rivers, serene environment and many historical places which if promoted will ensure job opportunities to the youth and also change the identify of this backward taluka.

From the point of business the last few years have been good for the villagers as number of farm houses are increasing every year in Sattari taluka. Today there are more than 15 farm houses waiting anxiously for tourism to resume after Due to COVID-19 situation subsides.

Saleli, Keri, Morlem, Kopardem, Pali, Charavanem, Hivrem, Surla, Nanoda, Sirguli, Bambar, Satrem, Brahmakarmali, Shelpe, Chorla Ghat and Dabem are some of the waterfalls, which tourists frequent often during monsoon.

All these waterfalls are situated in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary and during monsoon every weekend, thousands of picnickers and trekkers are visiting these spots..

Also the Sattari taluka has emerged as the latest hotspot for shooting films. Bollywood films like Thugs of Hindostan, Saat Hindustani, Dum Maro Dum, Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey, Go Goa Gone, Vastav and many more movies have been shot in Sattari taluka.

Owner of the Raj Farm House, Saleli, Vishwajit Krishnarao Rane said that in the 21st century tourists don’t want the beach life since it gets boring and they want a serene environment which is guaranteed in the villages.

Surla deputy sarpanch Suryakant Gaonkar said, “We had already submitted a proposal to the government to promote hinterland tourism in Surla village with the help of our local MLA Pratapsingh Rane. Now we have reminded Health Minister Vishwajit Rane to take initiative to promote hinterland tourism in Surla village which is nestled in Western Ghats.” 

According to Gaonkar, the hinterland tourism will generate employment opportunities for villagers. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has assured Surla village panchayat that he will do his best in promoting eco-tourism in Surla village. 

(Inputs by Devendra Gaonkar, Asmita Polji, Dhiraj Harmalkar, Alfred Fernandes and 

Santosh Naik)