Go Goa, Go Green

Go Goa, Go Green

The spectre of rapid urbanisation once threatened Goa’s rich biodiversity. But these and many other responsible tourism initiatives were there to save the day

Manek S. Kohli
May 16 , 2022
05 Min Read

My visit to Goa in November (‘The Gift of Goa’, p.48, Dec ’17 issue of Outlook Traveller) put me on the hypocrite’s chair–I may have done ethical dolphin watching with Terra Conscious and peddled across Chorão island with CyclingZens, but went, the same evening, on a rambunctious booze-fuelled nightlife trail. Travails of my travels, I suppose. My heart, though, doesn’t lie in barhopping, but with the nice folks dedicated to promoting responsible tourism in India. Some of them stand out:

Wild Otters


Wild otters

“Where did all the otters go?”–Speak with any resident of Goa, especially one who has lived there for a few decades, and they’ll be wondering the same. The semiaquatic mammal was rampant in Goa, but as the state experienced swift development, its population began to dwindle (illegal sand mining and iron-ore mining definitely helped).

Wild Otters, established in 2014, is one of the organisations working to undo this. Their efforts are tremendous–research projects, otter documentation, education and awareness programmes, and the empowering of youngsters to take up the cause. All by a small team based in Chorão island, headed by Atul Borker, who works with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Otter Specialist Group.

Join the cause: you could intern with them, or become a ‘Conservation Buddy’. Visit wildotters.com/opportunities.

Terra Conscious


There are about 320 dolphin-watching boats that operate without any regulation in Goa–they overstep dolphin habitat, disrupt dolphin movement and incessantly dump garbage (and partake in a dozen other condonable practices). Good thing Terra Conscious, a responsible marine tourism initiative, exists. I went along co-founder Puja Mitra for their ethical dolphin-watching excursion. We maintained a safe distance from the dolphin pods, and yet spotted eight or nine humpback dolphins swim and forage along the Goan coast. Bonus: I learned a world about this magnificent social mammal.
Terra Conscious also provides scuba diving and non-motorised sports services.

Join the cause: they have plenty of conservation programmes and an internship programme. Visit terraconscious.com.

Canopy Goa


In Goa, it is one of two things: you either set up a resort with complete disregard for environmental concerns (I’m looking at you, North Goa establishments) or you accept the fact that you owe something to the environment and must give back something. Canopy Goa exemplifies being the latter. They have an eco-tourism lodge, Nature’s Nest, near Dudhsagar Falls on Goa’s eastern border. Here you can go for photography tours, birding, herping, trekking and learn all about their solid waste management and conservation research. Canopy Goa also organises birding tours and many corporate training programmes. Bonus: don’t just go by this brief description. We did an entire feature on Nature’s Nest a few years ago (‘Natural Wonders’, p.58, Dec ’11 issue of OT)

Join the cause: volunteer with their ‘Canopy Goa Initiative’. Visit canopygoa.com/canopy-goa-initiative.

 Sea Eagle Cruises


Rent one of their two luxurious yachts, choose among their five cruise packages (or create your own), and sit back for a thrilling cruise ride along Goa’s countryside. But wait a minute–what is a luxury yachting experience doing in a list of responsible tourism initiatives? Well, luxury can come with a conscience too. Puja Mitra told me that Sea Eagle’s ‘Sea to Mountain Cruise’ is not only a wonderful and educative experience, but doesn’t allow playing music or dumping garbage along the mangrove trail. It has you disembark from Karapur village, which has a rich ancient history. It takes you up the Sahyadris, and you can spot unique flora and fauna along the way. A short nature walk is the cherry on the top.

 Join the cause: cruise with them rather than the other operators, who play loud music, pollute the surroundings and create quite a ruckus. Sheesh. Visit seaeaglecruises.com

 Saraya Ecostay


You can throw around ‘bohemian’, ‘rustic’, ‘artsy’, ‘homey’ and a bunch of other adjectives to describe Saraya, an ecostay-cum-café-cum-art gallery-cum-creative space, but you really just need one–plentiful. This is a place of plenty. You enter and it seems that you’ve reached the island set of the reality show, Survivor. It’s not hard to imagine why–a location amid nature, an in house café with an authentic wood fire oven for pizzas (that can conjure up a splendid three-cheese mushroom), living spaces consisting of tree houses and earth houses (that make complete use of the natural surroundings), and a colourful art space which, when I visited, displayed works by local artist Godot (in a blend of provocative themes and imaginative colour schemes).

 Join the cause: Attend one of the events, and support the artists who exhibit here. Visit saraya.in

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