I wish more people knew that Goa is so much more than beaches, booze and parties. The stereotype drives me, and I’m sure, most Goans, up the wall! Those who dare to dust the sand off their feet will find that there’s SO much more to do in Goa – riding past fields on lanes laced with coconut palms, losing themselves in a massive old church, admiring ancestral villas with their arched windows and red tinted floors…
Yes, the Gods have bestowed Goa with far more than golden sands.
So if you’re looking for off-beat things to do in Goa (like the folks on my Instagram Page who DM me for “hidden gems” on a daily basis), it’s time to discover the more quieter shores instead.
ABOUT KONKAN EXPLORERS
Konkan Explorers takes guests on private trips and cruises along Goan backwaters lined with a soothing green belt of mangroves, a crucial component in Goa’s ecosystem. This outdoor tour operator in Goa offers customized boat and kayaking tours in North Goa, specifically in the Chapora River. A professional bunch of people, they are sailing their way to much-deserved popularity for their expertise, uniqueness, eco-friendly offerings and exceptional service. In fact, they’ve recently won the Indian Responsible Tourism Award for Best Outdoor Operator in 2018.
MY AFTERNOON WITH KONKAN EXPLORERS
I was stoked to spend a couple of hours on board a Konkan Explorers Cruise with my friend, Rhea. Once our cruise was booked, I received a Whatsapp message from the team stating the boading time and address with a Google Map, things to bring along, snack preference queries and other details. I could tell that right from the get-go, that the day would go on without a hitch.
As GPS brings you a few meters away from your destination, the boarding point of Konkan Explorer tours, drive slower, as you may miss the tiny cut-off that leads you to the dock, like we did. Once there, a motor boat will pick you up and a few seconds later, you will find yourself on a large, elevated platform in the middle of a river, from where you can board the yacht.
We stepped into the yacht and were met with smiles all around as we were introduced to the team. Pascal, a sailor by profession, his wife Poonam, a livewire with infectious energy, and their crew, Kamran and Sumeet.
An equal amount of professionalism and cheerfulness make them a wonderful bunch to hang out with. Plenty of animated conversation with nuggets of information thrown in made us feel at ease very quickly – which is unlikely, for a pair of introverts like Rhea and I.
The kayaks were tied to the back of the yacht and we set off toward the horizon, on an hours’ ride up to a certain point in the river. I asked Poonam if this is the standard point to stop and if this is the daily route followed. Her answer, “No, we mix things up and do different things depending on what the group is up for.”
As we approached the mangroves, the hum of the engine was silenced and as I put on my life-vest, even a local like me was in awe of the beauty that surrounded us. Sure, tourists say Goa is beautiful, but as someone from the state, we don’t realize in the course of our everyday lives, that there’s so much more of the state to be unraveled and appreciated.
Pascal got into his kayak, showing us the right way to get in – bum first –and proceeded to give us a quick tutorial on the right way to hold a steer, how to go forward, backwards and turn around. And that was that! We were in our kayaks and were off towards the mangroves within a few exciting minutes! Although the team recommends keeping phones and cameras on board, I took mine along so that I could grab some great pics and Instagram stories to show you. That acted as added incentive to not be my usual clumsy self.
It was like time stood still when we entered the mangroves. The splash of the oar and the occasional bird chirping on branches beside us were the only sounds we could hear. We thoroughly enjoyed the idyll as we snaked our way through patches of sunlight and shade.
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After kayaking through the narrow mangrove canals for an hour, we made our way back to the yacht for some chit-chat and quick refreshments. It was almost 5 pm by this point.
I know what you’re thinking – are you fit enough to consider an excursion like this?
Trust me, you can’t be ANY lazier than I am, and I managed just fine! In fact, after an hour of kayaking, I wanted to do it again for 2 more hours! The crew ensures that you kayak at a pace comfortable to you, and if you have any problems mid-way (a highly hiiiiighly unlikely event), they’ll tie your kayak to one of theirs and you can just enjoy the ride as you piggy-back off the pros.
The weather was considerably cooler now – and the sky was turning a lovely shade of orange. It was the perfect time to swim!
I was sitting on the fence and couldn’t decide whether to jump into the water or not, but Rhea was dying to dive in, and with a little coercing from the very persuasive crew, it didn’t take long before I went “YOLO!” and was clipping on my life jacket for the second time. Again, a few simple instructions followed on how to climb on to the side of the yacht and then we just went for it and jumped in! Goa in September-October has hot, terribly humid weather and splashing into the refreshingly cool water felt blissful! So much so, that we got back on the yacht a few seconds later and jumped in again!
Two ropes were fixed to the back of the boat, one on each side, and are tied to a swimming ring at the end to form makeshift barriers within which you can swim. With the lifejacket keeping you afloat and the ropes to keep you in one place, we just bobbed in the water effortlessly. However, the current was pretty strong when we jumped in and we could feel how powerless we would have been had we not had the lifejackets on. So, expert swimmer or not, don those lifejackets!
While couldn’t touch our feet to the river bed at first, but at the end of our swim, an hour later, we could just about touch our toes to the silky soft sand below – a sign that low tide was setting in. Unwillingly, we got back on board and it was time to head back, while watching the sun set in the distance.
Pascal, Poonam and the crew are passionate, knowledgeable and overall, fun to be around and within minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve known them forever. If you’re looking for a go-ahead to book an all-day outing or are scouting for an offbeat experience in Goa, this is it! This is a unique experience in Goa for the young or old, fitness freak or couch potato, backpacker or luxury traveller. Oh, and budget traveller or not, I’m confident you won’t mind opening your wallet a little for a worthwhile value-for-money experience! Go ahead and book a Konkan Explorer Tour and then brag to your friends that you found a hidden gem in Goa. With everything going so mainstream, this is just what everyone is looking for.
Have you gone kayaking in India before? Tell me about it in the comments below!
You may also like to read about the first time I went kayaking in the mangroves of Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu!
Until next time!
P.S. I was a guest of Konkan Explorers, however, views, as always, are my own.