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Despite its small size, Goa has a surprisingly large forest cover with wildlife, bird sanctuaries and national parks ensconced within its borders. From the largest – the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park (240-square kilometers) on the road between Panjim and Margao– to the smallest – the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary ( 8 square kilometers), which is ideal for picnics with its mini zoo, a deer park and botanical and rose gardens. A wide variety of flora and enough animal life like deer, boar, Indian gaur, sloth bears, jungle cats, flying squirrels, anteaters, porcupines, bonnet macaque and troops of common langur are abundant in Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries.

If you’re a bird lover, apart from the wildlife sanctuaries themselves, the 440-acre Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on the island of Charao on the Mandovi river, offers you rare sightings of striated and western reef herons, little and black bitterns, red knots, jack snipes and pied avocets, among others.

Beautiful Cotigao, nine kilometers from Palolem beach in South Goa, has a remote feel to it. Two watchtowers provide ideal vantage points to view the animal and exotically plumed bird life here. While the Cambarjua Canal on the Mandoviriver near Panjim, offers hair raising sightings of crocodiles and birds on a guided boat ride.

Trekking trails offer opportunities to track through the forested wilderness, watch magnificent high-altitude sunsets and to marvel at waterfalls. Like the Dudhsagar (literally, Sea of Milk) Falls in the BhagwanMahavir Wildlife Sanctuary which, at 310 meters height is the tallest in Goa and fifth tallest in India (don’t also miss the water-carved crevices downstream at the eerie, aptly named Devil’s Canyon).

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