Mandovi River in Goa 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 the 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, Goa-based 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 a lunch at a lovely Portuguese house.
Goa Backwaters – Boat 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 Goa Tourism boat ride on Mandovi more than 10 years back when I was visiting Goa. 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 must-see places in Goa.
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 Goa. 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 Goa.
Boat ride on Mandovi backwaters
Once we left the jetty and moved towards the backwaters, 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 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.
On the way back I was looking at the Southern edge of Mandovi. The skyline was dotted with the landmarks of Old Goa. You can see the tall and pristine white churches of Goa, 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 on 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 over Mandovi
It was time to cross the twin bridges again and look at the Panaji city from the Mandovi. The old bridge connecting the 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 as hotels in Goa. 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 down from the boat after an hour-long ride of Goa Backwaters. Multi-colored boats lazing on the sand along with the fishing nets welcomed us back.
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 Goa Backwaters, my own surroundings.
Recommend you read following travel blog posts about Goa Hinterlands and other places to visit in Goa.