The Zuari River Safari is a boat safari by Mr. B. M. Kamat and is aimed squarely at visiting birders to Goa.
Mr Kamat, an avid birder himself takes pride in not only demonstrating, but also providing amazing photo opportunities for a large variety of birds including some fairly rare species.
Though he does have a set routine, each one of the three trips I have done over a 2-year period has been different.
The safari is conducted on a 15-seater boat, the ‘Neha’. It is boarded from the Courtalim ferry pier. Black kites, brahminy kites and white belied sea eagles circling the skies give one a hint of things to come.
The boat first heads towards the Courtalim bridge in search of its resident Perigrine falcon. On my first couple of trips I was out of luck and it was only on my third visit that I got a sighting, and a half decent, image of this impressive raptor.
As the boat slowly cruises along the river, egrets, eurasian curlews, wimbrels, redshanks, sandpipers, cormorants and pond herons are but a few of the numerous species of water birds that forage the shallow banks for food. A decent pair of binoculars is strongly recommended.
Even for those not so hot on wildlife the three-hour leisurely safari along the Zuari river and the mangroved banks of the Cumbharjua Canal is a nice relaxed way of spending a lazy morning.
Construction is strictly prohibited in the mangroves and human contact is restricted to isolated fishermen in their canoes or, as in the image below, the occasional lady harvesting oysters. How she manages to go barefoot on those barnacled rocks is beyond me!
The adrenalin rush from sighting marsh crocodiles up close as they bask on the banks of the river is an additional bonus.
If you’re lucky, you may get to see all 6 species of kingfishers that inhabit this area: Common Kingfisher, White-throated kingfisher, Collared kingfisher, Black-capped kingfisher Stork-billed kingfisher and the Pied kingfisher.
Other sightings include striated heron, night heron, painted stork, black-headed ibis, grey heron and wooly-necked stork.
On my first trip we were cruising down one of the canals when Mr. Kamat pointed out to a hollow in a tree in which he said there was an owl. For the life of me I could not see it (I must admit at the time I thought he was pulling my leg!) ‘Just take the shot’ I was advised, ‘and check the magnified image on you computer when you get home!’. Below is the shot I took. It was only after it was Photoshopped to bring out the shadows that all was revealed!
On a recent trip it was sad to hear that the tree was cut down. Why?… no one knows.
The lesser adjutant stork is a large stork with an upright stance and a bare head. It is listed as a threatened species but can be frequently sighted here.
I got some nice shots of an adult with a juvenile.
On sections of the river fishermen have embedded rows of large logs of wood. I’m guessing they are used to secure their fishing nets.
As we approach them, Mr. Kamat’s soft voice breaks the silence: ‘Osprey, third log from the left’
Freezing these magnificent birds in flight or in the process of devouring their prey is high on most birder’s bucket lists!
At low tide, strange looking mudskippers ogle at you with their bulbous eyes. Their ability to breathe through their skins allow them to live truly amphibious lives, their modified pectoral fins giving them the ability to ‘walk’ on land.
Tide and the weather permitting, the boat heads out towards the sea for sightings of the greater crested tern before finally heading back to the pier.
All in all, Mr. Kamat’s Zuari River Safari is a trip that is thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended for both birders and non-birders alike!