Ready.Set.Jump 

“Welcome to the jungle,” said the spider to the fly. You enter at ease, with dense scenic foliage around. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary- a wildlife-protected sanctuary has an eclectic range of flora and fauna species nestled deep in the heart of South Goa. Painted billboards along the way, a guide to the forest dwellers inhabiting the jungle– king cobra, kraits, Russell vipers and the common rat snake and the elusive leopard and many species of spider and scorpion. Deep within the jungle is a hidden treasured extreme activity- Canyoning. An exhilarating technique-oriented sport, its activities range from walking, abseiling, wading and swimming through waist deep and open waters, scrambling, climbing, jumping and sliding down natural slopes. Imagine, Indiana Jones wet dream.

 Three guides, with a cumulative 25 years of experience, direct each expedition. Being a moderately risk defined activity- Safety is paramount. Medical kits are on standby– water, helmets and harnesses with a wet suit provided. Instructions are delivered post the signing, of a surreal consent form. It’s more dissuasive than persuasive. One has to be moderately fit, not afraid of snakes or spiders, and have no fear of water or heights.

 The jeep meanders an uphill road, a few grunts and shrieks later; arrives at the destination. You tread the off beaten path no more than a few feet wide with loose gravel and strewn spider webs on the earth’s floor for company. It’s humid and the smell of wet earth engulfs the air. There are ascents, which run 75o inclines that get you huffing & puffing. Itchy cacti stand guard to the river like militia. It gives you the sense of a quest for lost treasure – a secret to be discovered. One is allowed multiple breaks and the guides – Clement, Vlad and Philip – are an enthusiastic laugh riot. Their jabber makes the trek bearable. The sound of cascading water can be heard beyond the dense foliage ahead. The course charts 3kms in total, yet having barely crossed a kilometer, the lactic acids in ones legs start to build up.

 Standing at the cliff’s edge, one realizes there’s no turning back. Once underway, the way out is seeing it through the end. The Sauri River majestically makes its way over rocks and boulders with numerous waterfall drops in the distance. 

At a point in a deep cove, resides Brian- a water snake. Luck in their favor, the guides catch the elusive irate reptile and can make a formal introduction on request. The canyon puts one to the test, and chances to conquer it are high, though with a few minor nicks and scratches and a multitude of tumbles in tow expected. The ending for this beginner course is far more theatrical, to say the least. The last rappel against gushing water from up above, one is informed of the rope holding self is a few meters short. The only way left, is to let go!! Fear not, the water below embraces the fall tenderly much to the impish grins of the guides above. A sense of accomplishment beckons on departure amidst tired bones and muscle aches – which would have one ready to repeat this again. Or maybe it would be the adrenaline talking; longing to see Brian, once again.

 A great place to stay at is La Mangrove. A blink-and-miss eco resort in Katebag, it offers a modern tipi concept opposite a serene mangrove. An idyllic, tipi accommodation and river lounge garden in South-Goa, only 5 minutes by cycle from the beautiful protected Galgibag Beach, also known as Turtle Beach. It’s located in an authentic and charming Goan Catholic village, 25 minutes from the famous Palolem beach. The river lounge is a ‘bubble of fresh air,’ a place to escape from the hustle & bustle of life. 

A panoramic view of what expects you at La Mangrove 

The view transcends your senses to an alternate realm of peace and calm with only the occasional egret and Brahmin kite for company. Being an eco resort that’s one with nature, the tipis come with open-to-sky bathrooms and thatched walls right behind each with a common meeting and dining area right next to the mangrove. The reception is good with free wi-fi and a delectable organic menu to choose from.

 Perfect for an early morning awakening, with a hot cup of tea to watch the sun rise from behind the riverbed far ahead.

La Mangrove has an exclusive sitting area facing the river and mangrove. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared daily with organic foods by their chef from a set menu. Serving a range of Indian, Tibetian & Continental -a must try is their La Mangrove Momos, Pasta a la carbonara, Tentuk soup. 

The deep fried chocolate momo’s with vanilla ice cream is a must try. 

The breakfast is part of the package with a choice of continental and a healthy option. The food prepared is fresh and wholesome. 

A scrumptious continental spread to start the day at La Mangrove 

Another option is 10 minutes away on Turtle Beach at Santosh Bar & Restaurant. Known for his fresh fish and recommended by Jamie Oliver you should ask for the catch of the day. 

Fresh catch of the day. Basic. Scrumptious. 

An unforgettable sunset amidst the crashing waves

Word of Advice: 

  • Avoid Canyoning if you suffer from arachnophobia
  • Canyoning is best done between October and March
  • If you suffer from any serious medical conditions it is best to avoid this activity as it is very strenuous on ones body.
  • There are a variety of levels to accomplish depending on fitness levels.

Tour Operator: It is recommended you book your stay through the website http://www.lamangrovegoa.com for the best deals. Thibault can be contacted on +91 8408086365 or lamangrovegoa@gmail.com

For the canyoning experience it is best booked with Emanuel Ferre the owner of Goa Jungle Adventure. He can be contacted on +919850485641 or manu@goajungle.com


 This article was written for Lonely Planet Magazine as part of their Easy trips. No part of this publication  can be reproduced without prior consent/ approval of LPMI. 

Chocolate momos, Fresh catch, breakfast, panoramic views, hammock Pic courtesy by Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. Shot on Iphone6. Images for main article shot by Sameer Mangtani.

And then there was ‘Light’

This is going to be a pictorial representation for the primary purpose of ‘art’. After all, art, is interpretive and can never be solely explained. Whilst the dishes do the talking, I shall parallel echo my sentiments of a night at Ziya at the Oberoi Mumbai. Persian for ‘splendour & light’ and the labor of love from thrice Michelin star Chef Vineet Bhatia this restaurant is tastefully clad in its statement for understated regality. 

This being my second meal at the hands of a Michelin chef and being quite the avid follower of a few starred restaurants, I arrive early. After all, it only takes a few months to procure a reservation at these establishments when abroad and,I ,suffer from being German about time. The restaurant is being set for the big culinary ‘Jugalbandi’ night ahead. Prep and checks are being made between the Chef & Manpreet Kaur Dhody- the commandeer restaurant-in-charge for the evening. Everything has to be perfect. I’be been told it’s a one sitting affair (just the way chef wanted it).  

Rested in plush opulence with Chef Vineet’s book in hand, the dominant color of the evening is clearly ‘Gold’. I felt under dressed however my Iphone6 was at ease in the surroundings,playing its part all decked up in its gold case. Attention to detail is at its minutest best. From the 24 karat gold plated cutlery, (a limited placed order from the crockery house in Italy – Industria Vetraria Valdarnese Italyin of only 200 sets) to the ceilings adorned with 24 karat leaf gold paper there is a pattern at play. 

Attention to details has mr. NObody be a ‘somebody’ that evening. 

I am engrossed in the book, till the time I am ushered to meet the man himself, Chef Vineet- a gentle and unassuming culinary extraordinaire. His kind eyes and gentle smile put me at ease instantaneously thus avoiding any faux pas, I was about to commit. A brief discussion has him explain his humble beginnings and awe inspiring story of how he started out peeling 200 potatoes in this very kitchen many moons ago, only to head the same restaurant today. Humility and simplicity at its best. 

I was explained that tonight’s Jugalbandi was at the hands of Chef Adriano Baldassarre, Chef Rubén Santos and himself with a confluence of Indian, Japanese and Italian flavors over a 5 course menu. 

 24 karat gold plated cutlery (200 piece limited set) 

I am escorted to my table and requested at my own pace to inform my attendant as and when ready to begin. I try to hold back my glee and over enthusiasm and gently whisper ‘please begin‘ in the most monotone baroque voice possible. Pulled that off rather well, might I add.

Each plating had a story to tell. It was well explained and to the point. The San Danielle ham and Parmesan maki with a roll of saffron khichdi and sweet shitake was something I would relate to an extra marital affair (not that I would know off first hand, hearsay at best). Two pieces of sinful delight each captivating my senses over the other. The Good wife vs the provocative mistress and before ones knows it, the affair consumes you onto the next course.  

San Danielle ham & Parmesan maki

It is the season for porcini mushrooms in Italy all this month. And yes, I know a few Italians who are anal in their consumption of the freshest produce and dining with them have learnt to expect the same. It’s simple,wholesome living yet plentiful as to how structured they are in their eating habits. 

The Miso porcini soup hit the spot. The pairing of the crunchy shrimp fritters over sun dried tomato chutney, struck a perfectly poised balance between the two. My use of the gold cutlery for the first time did have an awkward geek moment wherein I wrestled with the thought of taking a selfie, luckily the deer in headlight stare from my observant server had me compose myself at the awkward immediate last second. Missed my selfie-Darnnit!!!

Miso Porcini soup 
 

The next course was a delicate Chilli & Burnt garlic Chilean Seabass. Accompanied with a dust of carbon mash (yes you heard right carbon!!), zucchini scapesce and black bean sauce this was a treat to the senses being paired with the 2002 Chateau Margaux. You do not want to know the price of a bottle- (hint; it runs into the six figure range INR). 

What is amazing and refreshing is the art on display at the table in perfectly sized portions. Not too little not too much. Each dish presents itself with a story that arrests me. To others, on several occasions I might have looked like a gawking Buffon, as I marvel and reveal in these painstakingly handcrafted pieces- a part of me not wishing to consume it and bid it farewell but another craving to devour it the minute it arrives. Due respect must be adhered too merely as protocol. We shall let Mr Hyde slumber for now. 

Chilli & Burnt garlic Chilean seabass 

After a refreshing ginger sorbet to cleanse the palate with some fine Moet poured over it, I took a few minutes to digest and read the crafted menu more elaborately. And the last line arrested me. ‘Close your eyes and explore a myriad of sensory dimensions’. Indeed. 

However I had to move along to the next course. The Curry leaf and crusted lamb loin with spaghetti puttanesca, sesame wasabi pak choy steamed white asparagus. 

By the time, I was playing Sherlock trying to deduce associating the dishes to the personalities of the chefs inside. On a wild note, I’ve been chased down the streets of Rome for the misunderstanding of the word ‘putta‘ so I find it hilariously funny when spoken about spaghetti that way. 

Curry leaf and crusted lamb loin   

I have taken the liberty to articulate this last piece of culinary art as the Art Platter. Though the name is as simplistic as the concept behind it Chef Vineet calls it the Matcha- rasmalai cheesecake, Coconut panna cotta, Matcha chocolate truffle and black sesame Kulfi. I just stared and then some upon its presentation, and wondered how Chef managed to get a rasmalai in between a cheesecake!?! 

Simple, yet awe inspiring and brilliantly executed. Perfect and moist right down the centre. The chocolate truffle was a loaded cannon with the explosion hitting all the sensory spots. And the cute puzzle moulds of Panna cotta and kulfi were a playful delight. 

Art platter  

Indeed an enlightening affair. Thank you Chef’s and the entire team. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography Shot on IPhone 6