If one wants to see multi-storeyed forests with tall trees and rare plants, where hardly any light reaches the ground, Cotigao Sanctuary is the place to go to. It touches the border of Karnataka state and in the lean season, several gaurs are known to come into Cotigao from its neighbourhood. The vegetation is mostly moist-deciduous type, interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen patches.
It is situated in Canacona Taluka, in the south of Goa. It lies at about 2 kilometers from Poinguinim , which is 10 kilometers away from Chaudi, the main town of Cancacona on NH17. So the approach is very convenient.
The Nature Interpretation Centre run by the Forest Department is a valuable repository of knowledge. At present, the Department is capable of providing rudimentary facilities like snake-proof camping sites, canvas tents, reference material and loads of goodwill. For those who really want to rough it out, there is no end of possibilities.
If you are brave enough, the Forest Dept can provide cots and mosquito-nets. So that all that lies between you and the jungle is a thin mesh. Otherwise, the Forest Department has one two-bedded suite available at Poinguinim, 2 kilometers. away from the Sanctuary. The dense forests, perennial streams, and picturesque undulating terrain provide for a unique wildlife refuge.
The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1969 to protect a remote and vulnerable area of forest lining the Goa- Karnataka border. Encompassing 86-sq-kms of mixed deciduous woodland, the reserve is certain to inspire tree lovers, but less likely to yield many wildlife sightings: its tigers and leopards were hunted out long ago, while the Gazelles, Sloth Bears, Porcupines, Panthers and Hyenas that allegedly lurk in the woods rarely appear.
Visitors however, stand a good chance of spotting at least two species of Monkey, a couple of Wild Boar and the odd Gaur. The sanctuary is best visited between the months of October and March. Cotigao is a peaceful and scenic park that makes a pleasant day trip from Palolem beach, 12-km northwest. The wardens at the reserve’s small Interpretative Centre will show one how to get to a 25m-high treetop watchtower, overlooking a waterhole that attracts a handful of animals around dawn and dusk.
Any of the buses running south on NH-17 to Karwar via Chaudi will drop one within 2-km of the gates. However, to explore the inner reaches of the sanctuary, one really needs one’s own transport.
Written permission for an overnight stay, either in the watchtower or the forest department’s small rest house must be obtained from the Deputy Conservator of Forests, 3rd Floor, Junta House, Panaji, as far in advance of one’s visit as possible.