We often go to Goa thinking it’s all beaches and parties, but that’s far from the truth. There’s a whole other side of Goa that remains relatively unexplored till date. And on top of the list are the islands of Chorao and Divar, just a short distance away from the capital city of Panaji. Both these islands are truly worth a visit, if you want to get a taste of the tranquil and picturesque setting of rural Goa.
To reach Chorao Island, you can take the ferry ride across from the village of Ribandar, about 5km from Panaji. More than half of this island is a reserved area for the famous Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. It is full of dense mangrove swamps and the best way to navigate here is by a canoe. Don’t be surprised if end up feeling like you’re in the backwaters of Kochi.
Visit the Chorao village on the island; which is nothing but a small collection of mud and thatch houses and some exquisite Portuguese villas. There is also a small village Church than can make for a great postcard photograph. If you’re into wildlife, check out the sanctuary. It is home to a variety of birds, and some exotic and elusive animals such as the Goan crocodiles and otters. Another unusual inhabitant here is the Mudskipper, a mid-sized bulbous headed fish which skips through the mud at low tide.
If you do visit the Saptakoteshwar Temple on the mainland, then on your way back you can take the ferry ride which takes you to Divar island. The ferry ride to Divar is especially memorable: you pass through picture postcard Goan countryside; full of rice and paddy fields and wooded hills, before you reach the village of Piedade. Piedade is a typical Goan where you’d find the exquisite Church of Our Lady of Compassion and well-maintained, elegant Portuguese villas dotting the countryside, just like in Chorao. From the top of the hill, you can witness superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including Old Goa and the meandering Mandovi river. The place is best experienced on foot or on a cycle.