Goa has an otter-ly adorable secret

Where to go to see otters in the wild in India. Source: Shutterstock.

WITH coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea from tip to toe and uninterrupted golden-sand beaches for days, Goa is India’s very own exotic slice of paradise.

A major tourism hub in the South Asian country, Goa boasts a bountiful of seaside activities, colonial architecture and heritage, a tongue-tingling Goan cuisine, and just about every other form of spiritual exploration.

It is a real treat for the mind, body, and soul.

This tourist-heavy place is always teeming with both local and international travelers all seeking a quick weekend escape, thus you can expect to find plenty of accommodations, from picturesque five-star resort and spas to luxurious villas tucked away in hidden crescent coves.

That having said, although Goa is no yet-undiscovered destination, it still does have some secrets of its own.

Secrets wildlife enthusiasts are sure to love.

Such as the otter-ly adorable Wild Otters Goa, a conservation research center located on Chorão island, far away from the touristy spots and the pulsating nightlife.

Wild Otters Goa was founded in September 2014 by a group of researchers and proactive individuals and since then, it has already taken long strides in otter research and conservation in India.

While a majority of its research work has been done in Goa, new projects are being started in Karnataka and Maharashtra. The organization has also been pioneering in building capacity for otter conservation in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

At the Mandovi river island, Wild Otters Goa work on researching the Asian small-clawed otter and the elusive smooth-coated otter’s (Lutrogale perspicillata) behavior and rehabilitating their population as the species has been classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Their range and population have been shrinking due to loss of wetland habitat and contamination of waterways by pesticides.

For the uninitiated, the smooth-coated otter is an otter species found in most of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. As its name indicates, the fur of this species is smoother and shorter than that of other otter species.

But like other otter species, the smooth-coated otters are largely aquatic as they are excellent swimmers, feeding on mostly fish.

Although they are protected in India under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Goan fishing folk are not big fans of them as they believe otters steal their fish.

A major part of Wild Otters Goa’s study is focused on the otters’ feeding habits and its effects on the fishing folk’s livelihood.

Aside from accepting like-minded volunteers and interns, and the day-to-day initiatives being done at the organization’s field base on Chorão island, Wild Otters Goa also welcomes animal lovers to stay over.

The base has all the amenities of a cozy homestay, which operates out of a century-old Goan home, complete with hostel-style dormitories and homecooked meals.

The homestay also offers a quick tour of the island upon check-in and accompanied field walks twice a day when the center’s wildlife researchers go out on duty. Tagging along with the researchers will afford you the best way to get a glimpse of the cute but secretive four-legged creatures.

And depending on which time of the year you visit, Wild Goa Otters also offers an interesting roster of workshops such as conservation technology and field methods,  jungle survival, wildlife research techniques, raft building, island exploration, bushcraft, and more.

A stay at Wild Otters Goa will set you back Rs1,100 (US$15.70) per night, inclusive of meals.

For more information, visit the center’s website.