Canacona is in South Goa.
Located in the extreme south of Goa, Canacona was outside the Goa boundaries until the eighteenth century.
Towns and other villages
- Chaudi, the main town of Canacona.
- Palolem, the "Anjuna" (alternativish, but not-so-freaky) beach of South Goa
- Agonda, a quieter beach-neighbour to Palolem
- Cotigao, a wildlife sanctuary
- Cabo de Rama, the 'Cape of Rama', a promontory jutting out into the Arabian Sea.
- Galgibaga Galgibaga is, each year, host to scores of turtles visiting its shores. Nesting turtles come only on certain days of the year. For some reason, of all of Goa's long coastal stretch, they choose to zero in on Galgibaga and Morjim (Pernem).
- Secluded areas touching the shore, like Vaturem and Xendrem
Canacona's aboriginal population, the Kunbis (with Gaonkar or Velip as their surnames) live in areas around Gaondongri, Cotigao, Chapoli (the site for a new dam), Assali, Kulem, Khola and Agonda. Besides the Kunbi, there are also their tribal-priestly counterparts, the Velips.
Route NH17 from Mumbai to Goa going past Panaji and Margao. Driving straight down takes you to Chaudi, the headquarters town of Canacona. A more scenic route is the coastal road (right after Navelim) going via Chinchinim, Assolna, Betul and Canaguinim.
Travel infrastructure is sparse here, except along the main highway (NH17, National Highway 17, going from north to south of Canacona). You would need to be very adventurous to depend on the public buses to make your way around... unless you have a lot of patience or time.
Goa's "seven wonders"
Goa-ologist Dr Nandkumar Kamat says four out of seven "natural wonders" of Goa fall in or around the Canacona-Quepem area.
One giant banyan (Ficus) tree is located just beyond the Vaishnavite Partagal math, a religious centre at Partagal-Canacona. Closeby is the banks of the Talpona river. Some put its age at 2,000 years old, and say its shade could encompass around a thousand people.
Sacred groves -- ancient, protected forests -- are numerous in interior Goa. Kamat sees the one at Morpila (in Canacona's neighbouring Quepem taluka) as the "most interesting of all". It protects the source of a mountain stream.
Chandranath hill is another topographically-interesting feature. It comprises two hillocks of near-uniform contour height. One hillock is 300m and the other is 350m high. Scientists suggest a meteorite fell on Chandranath mountain during the pre-historic period. 'Chandrashila', the iron-meteorite worshipped in the temple, further adds to the mystery of this place.
South Goa's straight coastline -- of a peculiar linear shape -- stretches from Majorda to Betul, just north of the Canacona-Quepem coast. This could be a much "younger" coast (around 6,000-15,000 years young) compared to the rest of the Goan coast, and is a "trekker's dream-stretch".
Canacona's beach belt, 'discovered' only after the 1990s, is among the most scenic. Palolem is a freaky recreation of an east-meets-west Goan beach, with a rich variety of exotic food and accommodation to cater to the international palate.
- Beyond the better-known Palolem and Agonda, there are nearly 20 lesser-known (or even hidden) beaches. So what if you don't find hotels or restaurants there, the idea is fine if you want to escape from it all. In some cases, the road to the beach is nothing but a narrow track.
- Canacona and neighbouring Quepem are rustic areas, with only small towns in the area. These are not the place to go shopping, though Palolem has a growing number of touristy outlets.
- Mallikarjun Temple, 2.5 kms away from Chaudi on the main-road leading to Karwar (take road going left) is where devotees head for advice from the oracles, interpreted on where flower-petals drop.
- Cotigao wildlife sanctuary is located within this area.
- Parthagal math is a five centuries-old monastery.
- Dolphin-watching and fishing trips are what attract foreign visitors to the area.
- Palolem, Agonda and the more deserted Cabo de Rama Fort are current hot-favourites. The first two are still not overdeveloped beach-villages. Cabo de Rama is a place for scenic views of the coast. You need your own transport to reach these places, since public buses are few and far between.
- Loliem has a couple of centuries-old 'hero' stones, etchings on stone to record historic events of the time dating back many centuries. This village's statue of Betal, possibly a pre-Hindu deity, itself goes back to the seventh century if not earlier, according to cultural-historian Phaldessai. Canacona has a total of four Betal deities, according to him.
- Canacona's contribution to Goan tourism is the idea of beach-huts -- temporary beachside thatched huts built on coconut trees usually above ground level, right on the beach, during the fair weather (October-May) season.
Goa's second-largest sanctuary, Cotigao
Goa's second-largest wildlife sanctuary is at Cotigao. It's terrain is fairly plain, with hills in the south and east -- at one very end of Goa. Much of the sanctuary is covered with dense forests, with a few open grass lands. Forest crown density is often over 50%. Some trees, Goa's loftiest, touch 30 metres.
Cotigao is near Poinguinim, some 44 kms from Margao. Take the Panjim to Margao road (32 kms), onto Canacona (36.8 km) and further down for seven km on NH17 upto Poinguinim. At the left is a bold entrance board to the sanctuary. Some two km further is the sanctuary gate at Shristhal. Entry between 7 am and 5.30 pm.
Expect difficulty in spotting animals due to the dense undergrowth, and the fact that they could be scattered across this sanctuary's 86 sq.km. You'll need patience and getting atop one of the watch-towers. Villagers have reported sighting tigers, according to officials. Birds are aplenty. Some 200 species could be spotted, given time and patience. These include the Indian Pied Hornbill, Larger Golden Backed Woodpecker and the Great Indian Woodpecker.
Check out the Nature Interpretation Centre, at the entrance of the sanctuary. Accommodation available at the Ecotourism Complex at Hattipal. The Forest Department's scenic but simple rest-house is on the Poinguinim highway, some 4 kms away. Contact the Deputy Conservator of Forests (South Goa) at Margao on tel 2735361. This place has a four-bed capacity. Food to be booked in advance.
Visits to Anjediva Island are permitted courtesy Station Commander Sea Bird Project. Such requests should be channeled through Fr. Britto D Silva Parish Priest St. Annes Church, Binaga Karwar. Tel No 08382 31132 and email address firstname.lastname@example.org Visits in future could be curtailed due to plans by the Navy to step up security.
To visit the Island from Goa one has to proceed by any bus going to Karwar or Mangalore, leaving in the morning. The journey is about 2-1/2 hrs. From the bus stand to Karwar Port, the charge is around Rs 15 for a shared-auto. A trawler takes you to Anjediv. You might need to alight into a small boat before reaching the shore, due to the shallowness of the island waters.
Visits are usually around October or February, during local feasts.
Goa's emphasis on foreign tourists - all of them are assumed to be higher-spenders by those in business - means that destinations preferred by foreigners are more in the spotlight. Emphasis on the Westerner's food tastes also lends for either an exotic mix of cuisines, or, alternative, a tastelessly watered-down Goan/Indian cuisine.
Some places nonetheless manage to come out of this trap quite effectively.
Dilip Gaitonde's Palolem Beach Resort, bang on Canacona beach, offer a range from different cuisines. Goan dishes are the favourites. Others on Palolem beach itself include Draupadi (Israeli dishes too), German Bakery (health food, German cakes, pies, strudels, six-grain bread, croissants), Sameer Bar and Restaurant (seafood, Indian, Italian), Silver Star (fish tandoor, sizzlers, beef steak), Ciaran's Camp (pre-booked three-course dinner available), Fernandes Restaurant (Goan food, fresh juices), Cool Breeze ("food from around the world" with Jazz), Simba's, Boom Shankar, etc.
Look out for the other 'shacks' that make their appearance on the coastal stretch when the foreign tourist season starts.
Draupadi, on Palolem beach, right next to the main entrance, has a recommendable strawberry cocktail made from freshly pulped strawberries that is only served in the season for strawberries (around winter).
There are two major brands of beer: King's and Kingfisher. Kings brand of beer is local to Goa and is not available outside the state and many locals swear by it. Kingfisher is the nation's best-selling beer and given the fact that its owner, business magnate Vijay Mallya, has several plush properties in Goa, it is hardly surprising that you will find yourself bombarded by Kingfisher advertising. Yet the beer itself is only average and it is recommended that you ask for King's beer first.
- Coastal areas in Canacona are perhaps more used to tourists than the interior. Keep in mind that tourism has opened up here only after the 1990s.
- Avoid drugs, and the mafia that peddles them.
- Take usual precautions with raves.
- Locals are trustworthy, but crime against tourists is not unknown -- more in 'wilder' places like Anjuna, up north.
- Warm food and clean water (bottled doesn't necessarily equal hygienic!) is essential to stay healthy.
Canacona is connected by road and bus with Margao (to the north) and Karwar (to the south). Canacona is also along the Konkan Railway route, though not all fast trains stop here. The railway station is just outside the small Chaudi main town of the taluka (sub-district).