The new 'spicy' face of Goa's monsoon tourism
Friday, 29 July 2011, 10:34 Hrs
Known as a beach tourism destination, the authorities are keen to wean the visitor away from the congested beaches towards the more serene countryside. And spice farms promise one such diversionary experience, especially in the rains. A tropical horticulture plantation, where betel nuts, pineapples, a host of spices like pepper, chillies, anise and nutmeg are grown on terraced hillsides, is now being commercially exploited for tourism purposes.
According to Madhav Sahakari, who runs the popular Sahakari spice farm in Ponda, 30 km from here, the green experience clicks well with the tourists who dare to experiment in Goa.
"I have around 60 hectares of spice plantation and we have been catering to an increasing number of tourists every year. We provide a daylong experience complete with elephant rides and local food served with indigenous culinary customs. It is a slice of very puritan Goa," Sahakari, whose farm lies in close proximity to popular temples like the ones at Mangueshi, Nagueshi and Ramnathi, told IANS.
From the moment they step into the spice farm, tourists are accorded a traditional Goan experience. Right from being garlanded with tropical flowers to being served a refreshing locally made raw mango- based drink called 'panhe' or kokum sherbet. A guided tour around the spice farm, takeaways in the form of fresh fruit and spices and a hot meal are statutory, but there are other surprises thrown in. A Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) holiday package even allows visitors to bathe and playfully frisk a pachyderm at one of the many spice farms, albeit for a premium.
"Clamber up for an elephant ride through the trees and grab the chance to wash these lumbering, loveable giants. Cost for an elephant ride and elephant wash to be borne by guests," a GTDC flier states. Bathing elephants is interestingly a part of the GTDC's four-day 'Honeymoon Package'. At the Raut Spice farm, 35 km north of here, Sanjay Raut says his USP is a manmade waterfall, which removes "the worries from your shoulder blades", even in the peak of summer.
"We had to put in place a lot of water conservation techniques to channelise the waterfall even in summer. I receive anywhere between 500 to 600 people every week. If you have your own tents, you can even camp out on the farm," Raut says, adding that spice farms were now sought after for staging boutique weddings for the lush green canapes and the cavalier experience they provide. According to Tourism Director Swapnil Naik, Goa's monsoon tourism foray is clicking well with tourists.
"Monsoon tourism or raindrop tourism as we call it has seen positive results with over 10 percent of the total tourist inflow into the state coming in during the monsoon months. We have also tapped markets in West Asia, where rains are sparse," Naik said. "This season we launched a new innovative campaign aimed at families. It was marketed extensively through the internet, social networking sites and at travel marts," he added.