Go Goa, Go Green

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

My visit to Goa in November (&lsquoThe Gift of Goa&rsquo, p.48, Dec &rsquo17 issue of Outlook Traveller) put me on the hypocrite&rsquos chair&ndashI may have done ethical dolphin watching with Terra Conscious and peddled across ChorÃ&poundo 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&rsquot lie in barhopping, but with the nice folks dedicated to promoting responsible tourism in India. Some of them stand out

Wild Otters

Wild otters[/caption]

&ldquoWhere did all the otters go&rdquo&ndashSpeak with any resident of Goa, especially one who has lived there for a few decades, and they&rsquoll 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&ndashresearch projects, otter documentation, education and awareness programmes, and the empowering of youngsters to take up the cause. All by a small team based in ChorÃ&poundo island, headed by Atul Borker, who works with the International Union for Conservation of Nature&rsquos (IUCN) Otter Specialist Group.

Join the cause you could intern with them, or become a &lsquoConservation Buddy&rsquo. Visit wildotters.com/opportunities.

Terra Conscious

There are about 320 dolphin-watching boats that operate without any regulation in Goa&ndashthey 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&rsquom 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&rsquos Nest, near Dudhsagar Falls on Goa&rsquos 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&rsquot just go by this brief description. We did an entire feature on Nature&rsquos Nest a few years ago (&lsquoNatural Wonders&rsquo, p.58, Dec &rsquo11 issue of OT)

Join the cause volunteer with their &lsquoCanopy Goa Initiative&rsquo. 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&rsquos countryside. But wait a minute&ndashwhat 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&rsquos &lsquoSea to Mountain Cruise&rsquo is not only a wonderful and educative experience, but doesn&rsquot 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 &lsquobohemian&rsquo, &lsquorustic&rsquo, &lsquoartsy&rsquo, &lsquohomey&rsquo 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&ndashplentiful. This is a place of plenty. You enter and it seems that you&rsquove reached the island set of the reality show, Survivor. It&rsquos not hard to imagine why&ndasha 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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