Set on the west coast of India and a fascinating blend of Portuguese and Indian influences, Goa is a destination that's full of surprises. However, away from the sizzling, sun-drenched beaches and the hustle and bustle of the hippy markets, Goa offers some of the best natural attractions in the world. If you're a fan of photography, wildlife, or the Great Outdoors, your holidays to Goa ought to include at least one visit to the Mollem National Park and the Dudhsagar Falls.
Mollem National ParkIf you want to unleash your inner Indiana Jones then put on your Fedora, grab your bullwhip and head for the Western Ghats mountain range, about 70km from the capital city of Panaji. Goa's largest National Park covers around 93 square miles of lush jungle. Also known as the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, it houses hidden treasures such as the elegant ruins of a 12th Century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, the formidably-named Devil's Canyon, and the frothing Tambdi Waterfalls. While it might be a bit of trek to get to the Mollem National Park, you'll be rewarded with some of the best views on the planet. Our top tips are to wear comfortable shoes and whatever you do, don't forget your camera.
Jungle wildlifeGiven its size, the best way to explore the park is from the cool comfort of an air-conditioned 4x4. There are several tour operators who will pick you up and whisk you away on an adventure. Travelling through the dense undergrowth, you can expect to see a variety of exciting and unusual animals such as mischievous macaques, porcupines, barking deer, and the delicate, goggle-eyed slender loris. If you take a night safari, there's even the opportunity to see prowling Bengal tigers, leopards, and black panthers. However, a tour of the Mollem National Park isn't just about jungle mammals; there's plenty for bird-boffins and twitchers to enjoy. Along your route you can encounter Myna birds, Shrikes and barbets, or marvel at the kaleidoscopic colours of over 250 different types of butterfly. In addition, tours will typically include a visit to a local spice farm, complete with a traditional Goan meal. For those who want to cool down, a centrepiece of any Mollem National Park safari features a stop-off at the Dudhsagar Falls.
The Dudhsagar FallsThe Dudhsagar Falls are located about 20 minutes' drive into the national park and are a must-see for anyone booking their Goa holidays at any time of the year. Second only to the Jog Falls in height, the Dudhsagar Falls stand a towering 603 metres and are genuinely one of those ”stop you in your tracks' moments. You'll probably hear the roar of the falls as you approach, or notice the mist created by the sheer force of the waters as they tumble into the pools below.
The Sea of MilkAs with many attractions in India, the Dudhsagar Falls are thick with myth and legend. Translated, the name means ”Sea of Milk'. While this could be a reference to the way the water appears milky white on its journey down the cliffs, it's more likely to be associated with the story that surrounds it. Legend has it that a princess liked to bathe in the pools at the top of the mountain. After washing, she'd drink sugared milk, known as ”dudh', from a golden jug. One day, a prince spotted her bathing and, to cover herself from view, the princess poured the milk between her and her cheeky peeping Tom, creating a white liquid screen while her handmaids hurriedly dressed her. The dudh flowed down the cliffs and continued to do so to this day as a homage to her modesty. Whether or not they believe this tale, thousands still flock to see the Sea of Milk each year.
Getting cool in a poolThe top of the falls offers outstanding views across the jungle's canopy, but what draws most people in is the chance to swim in one of the pools at the base of the falls. The surrounding grass is also perfect for picnics, and it's not uncommon to see families and couples enjoying a relaxing lunch while listening to the sound of the cascading water. Both Mollem National Park and Dudhsagar Falls ought to be at the top of anyone's list on their holidays to Goa. Don't forget to pack some sunscreen and an extra memory card for your camera.