For a novel experience in Goa, turn to its six rivers: Mandovi and Zuari are the big ones, but there’s also the Sal, Mapura, Terekhol, and Chapora. Together, they support a thriving mangrove habitat, which attracts abundant wildlife. The riverine areas, where slow-moving waters meander through towns, forests, and villages, are rich in biodiversity.
Signing up for a kayaking trip is a great way to soak in its beauty. The pace of these trips is easy, and paddlers can stop often and linger. The small boats give visitors access to the heart of the mangroves, only feet away from inhabitants like herons, cormorants, kingfishers, and frolicking otters. From November to February, visitors may also spot flocks of migratory birds.
Best of all, navigating Goa’s calm waters doesn’t require high levels of fitness or skill. Even beginners can learn to paddle after a short tutorial. Those seeking more of a challenge however, can try more demanding routes on the Mandovi and Zuari. Most trips end at one of the fishing villages, with a meal of crab curry, fried fish, and beer.
Goa Kayaking organises daily guided trips of varying intensity. Two-hour trips on the Sal River backwaters start early in the morning. Guests paddle at their own pace through the river’s shallow mangrove channels. More intensive is a 34-kilometre loop on the Zuari. (www.goakayaking.com; from ₹3,050 per head, ₹4,800 for couples; includes kayak, transport to and from pick-up point, life jacket, and snacks.)
Konkan Explorers organises three- and five-hour Chapora River cruises on a boat, stopping to kayak around the mangroves at Eagle and Seagull islands. Customised trips to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Mandovi, are also possible (www.konkanexplorers.com; 3hr trips ₹3,000 per head, 5hr trips ₹3,500 per head; includes kayaks and necessary equipment).
Wear comfortable clothes, preferably shorts and shoes you don’t mind getting wet and muddy. Carry a hat, sunscreen, towel, and change of clothes.
If travelling with children, enquire about age limits beforehand. Some companies do not allow young children on the kayaks without a crew member, others may tie their kayaks to the ones the parents are on so they can trail along.
Kayaking does not need extensive training. However it demands reasonable levels of fitness as paddling requires upper arm strength. Kayaking tours in Goa can range from relaxed to strenuous.
Appeared in the January 2016 issue as “Skimming the Surface”.
Rumela Basu is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Her favourite kind of travel involves food, literature, dance and forests. She travels not just to discover new destinations but also aspects of herself.