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.

Robin & a biscuit 

I remember the first time I laid eyes on a dog. I was in love. Though the thought of having this monster approach me with a mesmerizing gaze in her eyes, did send chills up my spine enough to shudder a bit, I stood still. She towered over me- a Great Dane of course and my frame maxing out at a 1 foot nothing (all of 3 years I was told) was enough to look right into the drool that was about to accumulate high above. Much like a American Bomber about to deploy a weapon of mass destruction.  

But what did eventually follow after what seemed like forever, was a sniff and a nudge which sent me plonking to the ground accompanied by a light whimper and a tear rolling down the corner of my eye. What followed was magic. A reassurance of a slobber laid kiss, (the way one would lick a postage stamp)to say ‘I’m sorry, little one’.  

From then on, began my love affair with dogs and carries on till date. I have a loveable, oaf of a mutt- Mojo, who I dote over with,unabashed, unconditional love and every now and then I’m the Pied piper about town with numerous strays being befriended along the way. I find myself in the land of royalty- Jaipur, for a quick meeting and chance upon an old post office. I decide to write a hand written letter to a special someone. The art of being a purist. I’m old school that way. 

Outside this old torn down post office, I hear a few whimpers under a broke down scooter, only to see a litter of mutts cowered together away from the heat. It is hot here. Scorching to put it lightly. So what needs to be done? Water to rescue, which was welcomed by these pups. And this one inquisitive fellow I christened -Robin (for the mask like Batmans sidekick) followed me around and waited with me while I stood in line without a care in the world. He kept staring up at me the exact same way I did all those years to Laika, the Great Dane and I felt that instant connection of life having come around a full circle. We played a bit, devoured a packet of glucose biscuits (mashed in water) while I sipped on my cuppa. The solace and gratefulness of having this creature next to me was an unparalleled experience. No spas, no reviews, no restaurants, no fancy hotel rooms- just me and Robin exchanging thoughts through the desert sun. I was tempted to take him back with me and inquired about their well being. The guard happened to mention the mother was nearby and right before I departed made her way to her litter. The joy and happiness seen in their faces when they saw mommy dearest approach. The simple things in life. 

And right then before I left, Robin arrested my senses and gave me a look. The look of a thousand words that conveyed one simple message, ‘We are your best friend’. 

A packet of biscuits and a pup- was exactly what the doctor ordered to realign me with purpose. Thank you Jaipur and much love Robin. Till we cross each other’s paths again someday. 

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

A shot down Memory lane 

My first tryst with this magnificent beast (at that time a cub of course) was from an open 4×4. The feeling is rather indescribable when you see this majestic predator descent 100 feet in front of you from the mountain tops. 

Noctorunal by nature we waited patiently for him to descend as the last hints of light were fast dimming thus having to make split second corrective changes to my camera settings. Blurred lines was NOT an option. 

Ill equipped with the basic equipment (no zoom lens/ tripod) I prayed to the heavens to guide my hands a steady. And Voila. Just like magic quite near the feeling of falling in love the first time -your heart skips a beat (mine stopped literally) you perspire frantically, your dumbfounded and fall on words to your rescue but they seldom heed your call. 

All in all Wonderwall…. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

 

A Ride in the Clouds 

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you when your busy making other plans” 

When so many slumber on a Sunday early morning- me along with Anabelle (my Harley) head out with a few biker folk to witness these marvels with a nice cuppa chai and some hot batter fried onion and potato crisps (in India they are called pakoras quite the quintessential must have ‘snack’) 

The serenity and wonder of nature around us. It’s little moments like these that make life worth living. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography  

 

All You need is LOVE

Spent 3 months volunteering- with these amazing Tigers and Monks at the Tiger Temple,Kanchaniburi-Thailand 

It was one of the most humbling experiences ever. Praying,walking,feeding these over sized killer cats with a heady mix of peace and tranquility thrown in for good measure. A Once in a Lifetime experience.  

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography