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Zen & The Art Of Crocodile Spotting

A mugger in the mangroves can be tough to spot. Photo: Harvey D’Souza

There’s a place where Goa still rocks. I am not returning to Spain until we journey there.

I would like to introduce my children to an old friend who lives there. Were it not for Crocky Wock, I would never have met their mother.

We rent a boat and head out into the Cumbarjua mangroves. Stray muggers have been sighted all over Goa, and hatchlings have cropped up in the unlikeliest of places, such as the Panjim creek and the Dudhsagar waterfalls — but there is no better place than the Cumbarjua to spot my elusive friend, the marsh crocodile.

I should know.

Two decades ago, I ran crocodile safaris here with Neil Alvares.

It was on one of our boat trips that I met the beautiful Spanish senorita Felicia Lopez, then working as a veterinary surgeon for the International Animal Rescue, an organisation involved in the sterilisation of stray dogs in Goa. Ours was a slow burning, susegad romance; we got married four years later in England, in 2004.

This is our first trip to Goa with our three children.

Besides the crew Franky and Royston, who conduct crocodile safaris for small groups from October to May, there are eight of us on this boat: Felicia and I, our three children Javier, Felix and Sofia, their cousin Shannon, Rick Hollands, Felicia´s former boss from England who is holidaying in Goa, and Neil Alvares. After we closed Southern Birdwing, our wildlife eco-tourism venture, I moved to England and Neil migrated to Canada in 2005. He works as an environmental inspector in Calgary and is an avid wildlife photographer. Now Neil is down in Goa for his brother’s wedding. That’s two welcome coincidences.

Franky and Royston impress Neil and I from the start by spotting a Terek’s Sandpiper, a small nondescript wader with an upturned beak and orange legs, out on the mudflats.

It’s 12 o’clock; I preferred a morning trip, but had to settle for a noon start because that way we get the low tide both ways, which is ideal for spotting crocodiles. Wildlife watching depends on two factors: luck and planning. We strike gold on both counts.

Elsewhere in India, muggers are found in freshwater bodies. In Goa, they live in brackish environs. Photo: Harvey...
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