Off the bustling Polem beach in South Goa, lies one of the major nature reserves in the state- the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary that not many tourists come to explore. Since its establishment in 1968, the sanctuary has played a key role in preserving the rich biodiversity of the stretch of moist-deciduous forests in Goa. These woods are home to a number of vulnerable species including flying squirrels, Indian pangolin, hump-nosed pit viper, mouse deer, flying lizards, panthers, hyenas, the Malabar tree toad, sloth bears, gazelles, four-horned antelopes, and avifauna.
The wilderness of the Cotigao Sanctuary has the characteristics of a layered forest. Sky-kissing tall trees grow upto 30 meters forming a thick canopy in this forest, not allowing sunlight to reach the understory and forest floor. There are eight amazing nature trails going into the depths of the forests here in Cotigao that are open to visitors during most months, ranging from 500 meters to 5 kilometers in distance.
Beside taking safaris and trying your luck at spotting some of the unique creatures living here, there is a small nature interpretation center to visit to learn in detail about the typical flora and fauna of this forest, the specified nature trails to go hiking, interact with the aboriginal peoples- the ancient Kunbil and Velip tribes, and simply spend an enjoyable time picnicking on the banks of the sweetly rippling streams of Talpona and Galgibaga in the green shade.
There is a bunch of treetop watchtowers standing blended against the forest landscape near the watering holes in Cotigao. If wildlife sighting is the main draw for your visit here, do not miss staying on vigil from the towers during the specific hours when animals come to drink water. Early morning and late afternoon just before dusk are the best times to visit Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. Schedule a trip accordingly!
Cotigao is noted for the wide range of flora and fauna these forests are home to. It was once the natural habitat of predatory big cats like leopards and tigers, the numbers of which have now decreased due to poaching and natural causes. There still remains a population of panthers and hyenas, but spotting is not common.
Animal life in Cotigao includes Flying Squirrel, Indian Pangolin, Slender Loris, Flying Lizard, Golden-backed Gliding Snake, Sloth-bear, Hump-nosed Pit Viper, and Four-horned Antelope. Variants of interesting birdlife found in this area are the white-bellied woodpecker, Malabar Trogon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, the Heart-spotted Woodpecker, the Malabar Crested Eagle, and speckled Piculet.
Beside jeep safaris conducted for visitors from the forest department, there is provision for tourists to enter the jungle in their private vehicles as per convenience. In such a case, a forest guard will be accompanying you and guiding the tour in beneficial directions, like towards the tree-top perches from where the chances of sighting wildlife is more.
The dense jungles here consist mostly of moist-deciduous vegetation and partly, a forest cover of semi-evergreen trees. The trees are toweringly high, rising to 30 meters and higher with canopies that block the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. Botanical enthusiasts will be thrilled to find a range of old and ancient trees in these forests.
From Panaji- Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary entrance gate on NH 66 is at a distance of 89.9 km from Panaji. You can find many buses from Panaji (KTC bus Stand) to Poinguinim, and from there to the Sanctuary. Alternatively, you can reserve cabs from Panaji straight to Cotigao Sanctuary.
From Goa International Airport- The most convenient way to reach Cotigao from the airport is to book a cab. It will take about 2 hour and 15 minutes by cab from the airport in Panaji. Alternatively, you can reach Poinguinim by taking a bus from KTC bus stand, and from there, take another bus to Cotigao.
October and March are the best times to visit here at Cotigao wildlife Sanctuary. During these months, the weather remains pleasant, with little chances of rain and more probability for wildlife sightings.
The monsoons from June to August are best avoided, since the hiking trails will be muddy or remain closed and animals will not come out from the core area.
- Location: The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in-- Canacona Taluka, Khotigao, Goa-- is on the border on Goa and Karnataka, located 12 km from Palolem beach, 2 km from Poinguinim, and about 12 km from Chaudhi.
- Price: The entrance fee is 5 INR, additional costs for carrying a still camera is 25 INR, while for camcorder, it is 100 INR. The entry fee for a minor is 2 INR.
- Timing: Visiting hours are from 7 am to 5:30 pm. The sanctuary is open all days of the week.
7th Heaven- At a distance of about 0.5 km from Cotigao, this little cafe is a great place to stop by for good desserts in the Caranzalem region. You can find various types of cakes, pastries, and custards at 7 th Heaven, which you may also pack for the trip ahead.
Kismoor- This restaurant in Panjim serves Indian and Goan cuisine. Located at about 0.7 km from Cotigao, near the Sateri Temple Kevnem, this eatery is where you should check in for a delicious Goan-style fish thali. A good place for lunch, this joint is open till 9 at night, so you can catch a bite to eat on the way back from Cotigao to Panjim as well.
The Goan Room- Located on the Primerio Jetty Road near Dona Paula Circle, the Goan Room is another eatery handpicked for great Goanese cuisine. It’s located in Panjim, at 0.9 km away from Cotigao Sanctuary. Check in here for a big lunch before heading out toward the forests!
Waterfront Terrace & Bar- Included in the list for those who likes to lunch at a luxurious outlet, the Waterfront Terrace and Bar serves delectable Indian, Seafood, and International cuisine, and has a pool-side seating. This restaurant is 2.5 km from Cotagio.
1. Come in your private vehicle to enjoy better convenience travelling inside the forests.
2. Arrange for at least two nights stay at the sanctuary cottages to be able to attend the morning and evening safaris in the woods, raising your chances of wildlife sightings naturally.
3. The food served at the forest canteens are absolutely delish, so you may not take the trouble of carrying your own food.
4. Come equipped with trekking gears, like a sun cap and windcheater jackets, in case you want to hike up the nature trails winding inside the forests.