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!
Flora and Fauna at Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
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.