Goa Backwaters – Panjim To Chorao Boat Ride


Mandovi River is becoming my muse. I like to go and sit by it. My favorite spot is Darya Sangam behind Kala Academy. Where you can sit quietly and watch the sun go down. The lobby of the Marriot Hotel provides a lovely view. Panaji Promenade offers an evening view with glittering casinos and boats. The twin bridges, waiting for their third sibling, stand in the backdrop. On Mother’s Day this year, NGO Goa for Giving invited me to join their event at Divar Island. The event involved some Goan music by Konkani Rocks, a Goa Backwaters boat ride on the Mandovi from Panaji to Divar Island, and lunch at a lovely Portuguese house.

Boat Ride on Goa Backwaters
Boat Ride on Goa Backwaters

Goa Backwaters – Stories from Panjim to Chorao Boat Ride

Ribandar Causeway view from Goa Backwaters Boat Ride
Ribandar Causeway view from the Mandovi riverboat ride

The organizing team picked us up from the Forest Park waterfront in a small boat that took us across the Mandovi bridges. And then we shifted to a larger boat followed by a Jet Ski. I think I took a boat ride on Mandovi more than 10 years back when I was visiting. But since the time I moved here, I have not really been on Mandovi waters except a few times when I took ferries to visit Chorao and Divar islands. So I was very keen to know how the city of Panaji and the islands look to the River Mandovi and its inhabitants.

While Kerala Tourism has promoted its backwaters very well, Goa Tourism is yet to position its backwaters as a must-see, must-experience thing to do in the state.

Divar Island Church view from the Mandovi river boat ride
Divar Island Church view from the Mandovi river boat ride

Boat Ride on Mandovi

On the way to Divar, I was primarily looking at the Northern edge of Mandovi. Our journey began next to a dredging boat right in the middle of the river. We skirted around it and found ourselves in front of lovely Reis Magos with its narrow long staircases cutting through the hill. By the time Reis Magos passed, I was looking at the Casinos up close and personal, they look quite an eyesore from the shore but not so bad from close by. From this point onwards I was all eyes for the twin bridges across Mandovi running across its length, the lifeline of commuters in the state.

Once the bridges are crossed and the city is left behind, all you see is water surrounded by green banks. Mandovi expands substantially and we navigate its expanse to reach a jetty to change our boat.

All this while the Austrian Musician Saskia Laroo in a bright orange dress played some lovely Goan music on her trumpet, completing the experience of being in the state.

Old Goa Churches from Mandovi as seen from a boat ride
Old Goa Churches from Mandovi as seen from a boat ride

Goa Backwaters – Boat ride on Mandovi River

Once we left the jetty and moved towards Chorao, it was the Blue sky above us with shining sun, water all around the boat, and green mangroves bordering the water. A fellow traveler pointed out the centuries-old (could be anywhere between 500-800 years old) wall that keeps the Chorao Island intact. It is like a Jugalbandi between nature and man-nature that protects the island’s boundaries with thick mangroves. And wherever there are no mangroves, a laterite stone wall stands strong.

Unfortunately, we also saw mangroves being cut and surrounding soil being transported out in trucks. As we get closer to Divar Island, the Divar Island church in white with greenery all around appears.

There is not much commercial activity in this part of Mandovi, except the regular ferries. You hardly see anything else between you and the backwaters. On a slow boat, this can be a very soothing environment. Something that would force you to go inwards and think.

Saskia Laroo playing trumpet sailing across Mandovi
Saskia Laroo playing trumpet

Ribandar causeway

On the way back I was looking at the Southern edge of Mandovi. The skyline was dotted with the landmarks of the state. You can see the tall and pristine White Churches of Old Goa, and the tall tower of St Augustine spiraling out of green layers. Bright yellow houses by the river always invoke the desire to live in them, by the river. The Ribandar Causeway with its 400+-year-old road looks like a small rail track on which vehicles are running in a perfectly straight line.

It is from Mandovi that you can see the causeway properly with its arches to manage the flow of water to the salt pans on the other side of the causeway. I have driven so many times on this causeway. But I realized its length and how straight it is from the boat in Mandovi.

The dark spots on this side were the hills that are being flattened to make the ‘river view’ apartments. The lush green hills had dark brown holes in them almost as if they have been raped. This is plundering in full view but not many of us seem to be bothered. I wonder how would this scenery be when the houses have replaced all the greenery. People who came here for the greenery are bit-by-bit eating into the same greenery.

Twin Bridges of Mandovi in Goa
Twin Bridges of Mandovi

Twin bridges over Mandovi

It was time to cross the twin bridges again and look at Panaji City from the Mandovi. The old bridge connecting Panaji city with arches looks a dwarf compared to the big bridges but stands out for its elegance. Colorful old houses thankfully still line the riverfront. Some of them now work in hotels. The city from here looks like a small hill station with its hills overlooking the Mandovi. Passing by the small island next to the Forest Park, it was time to get off the boat after an hour-long ride. Multi-colored boats lazing on the sand along with the fishing nets welcomed us back.

Boats resting at the waterfront on Mandovi at Panaji
Boats resting at the waterfront

A place can have so many views. Change your position a bit and you get a new perspective even for those things that surround you all the time. Thank you, Goa for giving me this opportunity to experience this view of the state’s backwaters, my own surroundings.

Recommend you read the following travel blog posts about Goa Hinterlands and other places to visit in the state.


  1. No doubt Goa is a perfect place to spend holidays, it is a wonderful place for couples or bachelors. Beaches of Goa are so amazing. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing your views with us.

  2. I hope those apartments don’t eat up the serenity and beauty of Goa…

    Thank you for reminding me of Goa with your write-ups, and I won’t stop dreaming about it even in my office cubicles. An abode to spend the rest of my life.

    A Goan by heart

  3. good that u took the reader on a happy, njoyable good backwaters drive… err…sail.
    reminds 1 of kerala.
    but my recent visit 2 goa was better than kerala xperiences and 4 the benefit of all and sundry here it goes-

    hire 2 wheelers , not very xpensive r a joy 2 ride.
    i hopped around, drove merrilly and stopped at various atleast about 7-8 beaches at will over a dist. of may b around 45 kms., or so. also the navy museum on the way 2 1 of the beaches and also a couple of temples.a wonderful amphiboius joy of travel !
    my only word of caution to the adventure seekers-
    1) fill adequate litres of petro,
    filling points r remote,
    some shopkeepers do sell petrol at almost double the price in bottles 4 emergency
    2) police check points 2 c yr. driving licence.
    so, pl. do go with a copy of a valid licence.

    of course i did escape 4 its absence by showin my idcard with a plea that i m on urgent outstation duty……a narrow escape.

    and i m told-
    the goa police r against the navy personnel as far as hr-human relati/…..
    r concerned.

    all said and done..in spite of all these
    1 does feel at the end of the day-
    yaahoo ! i had the cake and ate it 2.

  4. Goa has always been beautiful just like the creator made it. Its all this cheap and uncontrolled tourism that this local goverment has been promoting that has turned Goa into a garbage dump this days. All this tourists who come and drink like there is no tomorrow and break bottles all over the beaches and the others who eat this Pan and spit all over the place should be caught and jailed so the others dont go about doing things the same way

  5. Perfect place for the adventure lovers. I really enjoyed the Speedboat ride with sea water sports Highly recommended for everyone. great service and friendly staff.


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