If you know me, you’ll know that I’m always ranting against the popular image of Goa that the rest of India has – that’s it’s just a place with beach parties & cheap + easily available liquor / drugs / women. I have been going to Goa every year since I was little & I can honestly say that I heard of this ill reputation only after started reading newspapers at 11. This mistaken belief is so widespread that many people actually believe it’s not a suitable destination for families / children. Goa is a stunningly beautiful coastal state.
Do they get a majority of their income from tourism? Yes. But they are so many great things to see, so it’s very suitable for families or friends or couple or even single travellers who aren’t looking for the aforementioned three things. The key of course, is where you stay. For people looking for peace & quiet, skip North Goa completely. The only time I’ve been there was three years ago when some of mom’s friends from overseas were our travelling companions so they wanted to do the touristy thing. My actual home town / native place / whatever else you want to call it is a sleepy village in South Goa, not very far from Margao. I spent most of my childhood vacations in my family home there, either chasing the animals (cats / dogs / pigs / goats; we have them all), fishing with dad (I was much better than him even at age 8 😉 ) or just exploring. I sort of detested those vacations then, but I am so very grateful for them now… it made up for living in a big city as concrete & chaotic as Mumbai, & it’s experiences like these I would definitely want my kid to have (if any, that is).
And I’m rambling. I apologize. There’s something about Goa that makes me very nostalgic & sentimental. Now to the actual point of this post.
When I was in Goa last May I noticed a sign for Garça Branca Botanical Garden on a large maroon two-storey Portuguese style villa (two storey is notable because most Goan houses are just one storey) . It was interesting to see something like that in my sleepy little village – this is not the place you see tourists passing at all. I made a mental note to visit but then plum forgot about it. The next time I saw that sign we were on our way to the bus stop to return home.
I told myself I must go next time. That statement feels a little iffy, because I’ve said that to myself for every Kala Ghoda fest I’ve been aware of (over the last five years) & I still haven’t gone.
But when I was in Goa this January I’m proud to say I actually went. It would have been terrible if I hadn’t because this place is literally 300 mts away from my family home.
So we walked there in the hot afternoon sun (camera bag in tow, of course), not really knowing what the expect. I expected it to be boring, but so what? A change of scene is always nice. Or, ‘At least you can say you went’ in my mother’s words.
We entered in & bought tickets. The ticket includes a free drink (cold frooti). It was rather nice to see that like so many tourist attractions they don’t charge additional camera fees.
Concrete monkey bin. Animal bins always remind me of school because we had large metal penguin bins there.One of the four emus. If you read the above tickets & business cards, you’ll know that Garça Branca sells emu meat too. I remember first reading about emu meat when a restaurant in Mumbai introduced it last year. It has 2% fat and low cholesterol in their meat – so Carlos Mascarenhas, the man behind Garça Branca has started a crusade he calls ‘EMU MEAT FOR THE HEART ‘. He’s determined to make Goa aware of this nutritious meat and to choose it over the beef (42%), Pork (29%), Mutton (27%), Chicken (17%), Turkey (14%).
They are numerous photography points (at least three if I recollect correctly) scattered about the place. They are narrow metal spiral staircases leading up to higher vantage points (either on the main building or on the slightly hilly terrain) those are great for photography or just looking around. I got up at one of those points just above the emus & it was funny/scary to see them craning their necks to look at me.