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.

Gone ba-na-nas

I’m going to sing a song. You have one guess to get it right. It goes a little something like this;

Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-nanaBa-ba-ba-ba-ba-nana banana-ah-ah 

togari noh pocato-li kani, malo mani kano chi ka- baba, ba-ba nana 

It’s Minion time. And while I’m on the subject of these lovable hilarious characters, I must say after a hectic trip to Jaipur, rather spiritual and fulfilling in nature, I’m back to doing what I do best – going bananas at Off the Wall in Sinquerim near Fort Aguada. A quaint and creative Art-Bistro wherein one can witness the art of food and art in general medium. It’s a rental space where one can even hold their own exhibitions. The food compliments it perfectly, at the hands of Ian Marc De Souza . Creatively inspired. A man who shares a similar penchant for travel, rather a sufferer of wanderlust like yours truly, he is back from one of his jaunts, to lands of mystery and unfulfilled quest for discovery. He delights me as always by catering to my sweet tooth apart from other delicacies he has picked up from his worldwide travels. Let me get these delicacies mentioned out of the way before I head on, first is a must try, the Pan-Pizza. A  pizza with a southern Italian salsa, red onions, bell peppers, Home made goan chouriçe, topped off with oodles of mozzarella and American cheddar, thin crust style. The sweet delicate balance of sweet and tangy with a crunchy bite sends one into a stratospheric gastronomic realm. And I insist as a personal favorite there, to consume the succulent Grilled Tenderloin Steak with pepper n garlic , delicately finished off in the oven served with grilled cherry tomatoes, sauteed Greens with olive oil & smoked paprika and oregano. As Ian recommends it best served Medium. Do check out and subscribe to my Instagram feed to see these delightful images. The handle is @nolansatwit, for those unaware.

Having merely mentioned in conversation of my backyard banana tree yielding fruit and not knowing what to do with an abundance of butter bananas in my kitchen, he scoots off into the kitchen to come back with a simple yet scrumptious , Banoffie  Pie– a biscuit texture-NUT crumble base, laden with banana caramel toffee, and fresh butter banana slices, served with a side of crème Chantilly! Now that’s just putting words, not to mention bananas in my mouth.

Banoffie Pie   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

And with his impish smile he carries on to call for the second dessert to grace our table – fresh banana slices and sauteed in butter, with bruleed brown sugar accompanied by an almond crumble. Now while this may seem simple (and mind you it is enough for me to consume it as a 3 am sweet craving snack) and unassuming it is a power house dessert that will leave you wanting and unfortunately pining for a second helping. Better hit the treadmill post. I had to roll out of his joint. Literally.

So before the minions head on over there after reading this on the World Wide Web, I suggest you make a Gru line towards this place. Are you drooling like Kevin yet? Go and grab some ba-na-na!

Fishing for Mermaids 

Ever lived in a fishing village? Its the gate to the seas -much like the keepers of the land, from an invasion far from told, waiting in abeyence to happen. The smell of fresh salt in the air with the waves thrashing against jagged rock a defense fortitude used to protect them from the vehement sea trying to grab what is hers.

A mermaid perhaps?

I used to read about fisherman and mermaids when I was little. Those glorious fairy like creatures who would lure men to their demise far out in the blue. Around village camp fires, men would regale tales of delight and horrors of the deep as they braved winds and tide to make it home to their loved ones. This would be lauded over some local moonshine (country liquor) and some good old spicy food.

One preparation that stands out is the prawn koliwada a spicy fiery dish relished as a starter. In contrary to popular belief of its origination on the Konkan coast, it actually birthed itself from the Sion fishing village (koliwada) by a North Indian immigrant from Punjab.

These deep-fried crunchy prawns can be identified by their signature red color due to the use of Kashmiri red ground chillies. Mouth watering as is, I chanced upon an invite to a friends house for the same without a moments hesitation.

Desolate spots where one finds oneself 

Koliwada refers to a colony of Kolis (fishermen). A fish market is usually located near the entrance of the Koliwada locality. This is predominantly found in Mumbai till date and fisherfolk have lived across the seven islands off the Arabian Sea that subsequently merged over time to form the city of Mumbai.

Believe you me, savoring fish at a village table is something one must try at least once. Sans the fancy and the razz,  it’s home made fresh food at its best- no frills attached. In its most crude and humble form it’s literally straight from the frying pan onto your plate. The aromas drive you to a tizzy and your fight within to curb your enthusiasm is paramount to avoid searing your mouth.

A day well spent (we ate, we laughed, we sang karaoke, played monopoly, and some gully cricket) with an invite for dinner in tow here’s to some added belches and a whole load of smiles over the meeting fireplace.

Gone fishing. Back in …… 😉

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Angel in a bucket 

At a monastery once in deep conversation, a monk asked me “Do you feel blessed?” 

I never really understood the magnitude of that question until a few years on. I am known to be deeply spiritual, far less religious. It took me sometime to fully realize the depth of that answer and it so happened in Cambodia of all the places. 

On the Tonle sap commonly translated as “The Great Lake” to the natives of Cambodia this river is truly a wonder for unusual reasons. The flow changes direction twice a year and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks with the seasons. I happened to be there during the heavy rains with the river up to form in all her enormity. 

To my delight was the inhabitants of the river. Not the fish or the gators or the exotic snakes the locals keep as household pets rather the ecology of the way of life to all around. Houseboats, boat colonies, ferries, fruit vendors and snake charmers on boats it felt like a scene from Waterworld. 

With the tide rising and our boat docked for a quick tour of the gator farm (crocodiles reared for their skin and meat;yes as cruel and barbaric as it sounds I like to think of it’s perspective and relativity of the way one looks at it) I had some time to ponder over my thoughts when out of nowhere in a distance came Devi, a local native paddling feverishly to reach my boat as if his life depended on it. I urged our captain to steer closer to him to ensure his seemingly tiresome journey be cut short. I was curious to know the meaning of the word as in Hindi it meant “goddess’. A rather unusual name for a male child. I was told it meant ‘angel’ in Cambodian. 

Upon conversation with the captain I was told he invited me to his house. No reason, no questions asked. It was a rather unusual request which got the captain to suspect his behavior but something in his eyes steered me to willingly oblige. 

It took us ten minutes to get there as the tides turned with the onset of threatening clouds looming above waiting to burst at a moments notice. I kept preening backwards to see Devi sitting comfortably in his bucket tied to our boat and enjoying the mist splash against his face. Upon entering his house i had a lump in my throat and found it hard to swallow. The family of 4 lived on a wooden boat the size of my washroom back home yet they were so welcoming and humble. 

His father was a 40% disabled war veteran currently bed ridden. His younger sister had a pet yellow and black snake. She used it as a source of income from tourists. USD $1 got yourself a photograph with it. I dared not ask if it were venomous as she playfully inched closer to hand it over to me -while I acted calm on the outside I was petrified deep within. Much like a duck on the lake, calm on the surface but paddling a mile a minute underneath to stay afloat.

Devi’s mother has prepared food which was simple and homely. We all sat around his fathers bed to eat together. 

When I asked Devi what was the purpose of getting me to his place he explained to the captain that he spotted me a mile away looking at my camera slung around my neck. I was invited to meet his family to share a meal only to ask for a favor in return – A picture of his family since he had lost a brother earlier that year to diarrhea and had no record of how he looked from memory. 

It’s the little things that make up the biggest constructs of this ‘blessing’ called LIFE. 

Cherish every minute you have cause tomorrow,my friend, is promised to no one. 

P.s. Devi received his family photograph. It took almost a year to get there but I am told he is thrilled with the outcome. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography