When it comes to an escape amidst abundant adventure or a calm repose in the lap of nature, do we have a better place than Goa? We probably don't. But while the beautiful coastal state is boastfully popular for its modern-day parties, one of the less explored, blissful locations like Chorao Island is still evolving in its charm. I wondered how the dramatic beauty of the island has been neglected by Goa itineraries.
Located on the Mandovi river, Chorao Island is the largest of the 17 islands in Goa. If you are somebody in search of a place that shows real Goa, Chorao Island is the go-to place.
Soul Travelling hosted me for the Chorao Island nature trail, which gave me many insights into the local Goan life and its various aspects.
Good to know: Chorao Island is an appealing blend of Portuguese and Brahmin culture. Many of the locals (majorly brahmins) converted to Christianity with time. To this day, you can see the Portuguese influence in Chorao, although the Portuguese left in 1961.
How to reach Chorao Island
There is no direct road that can take you to the island from Panjim or the other tourist areas. That is perhaps a boon in disguise as the island has not become touristy yet.
The farthest you can go is till Raibandar jetty at Ilhasm, which is 3.2 kilometers from the outskirts of Panjim by the Ponte de Linhares Causeway, from where you have to take a ferry to reach Chorao Island.
Several ferries are leaving throughout the day, every few minutes. You can park your four-wheelers (at a charge of INR 10) and two-wheelers on the ferry. The ferry ride is free for the public. The duration of the ride is 20 minutes.
Good to know: From my local guide, I came to know that although the free ferry service starts at 6-6:30 am and goes on until 1-2 in the morning, it does not mean that there are no ferry services between 2-6 am. It is only that the passengers need to pay for the ride.
Good to know: Ferry service started only in the 1940s. Earlier, people used to travel in canoe boats.
Places to see in Chorao Island
1. Shree Devki Krishna temple
This is the only temple in India where Lord Krishna is worshipped alongside mother Devaki. The inner sanctum of the colorful temple has the beautiful idol of Devaki and Lord Krishna. The idol of Devaki is in a standing posture with a child Krishna, in her arms, a pose considered unique. On the left, there is a small idol of Lord Ganesha. All the idols are carved in black stone.
Another thing that attracted me the most was the doors of the temple. They are beautifully engraved, with the pictures of Lord Krishna.
2. Boat ride through backwaters of Mandovi river in Chorao Island
A boat ride through the lush mangroves shall give you the much-needed break from the oscillation between the party places in Goa.
The 1-hour boat ride is an absolute delight for bird lovers and photographers as you pass through the renowned Salim bird sanctuary, the largest sanctuary in Goa and one of the biggest in India.
Good to know: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, it helps in riding.
Good to know: Carry sunscreen lotion and shades
3. Feni making process in Chorao Island
To understand this process better, you have to have a local guide accompanying you.
Feni is the traditional liquor distilled from the fermented juice of cashew fruits (also known as cashew apples). Only Goa produces the spirit locally. Goans considers it safe to drink Feni as it does not contain any artificial flavors.
The feni-making process involves stomping of cashew fruits, the fresh juice is called Niro. The cashew apple juice, when distilled for the first time produces Urrack. When the juice is distilled for longer, Feni gets produced.
Good to know: Many Goans prefer shots of Feni to over-the-counter medicines for cough and cold.
4. Chapel of St. Jerome
The chapel of St. Jerome is a historic Roman Catholic chapel built in 1761 on Chorao Island. It was a part of the famous Chorao Seminary but got abandoned due to the cholera epidemic. Despite having been abandoned for centuries, the chapel still stands intact. It is now a state-protected site, designated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
5. St. Bartholomew's church
The Society of Jesus had constructed St. Bartholomew's church in the year 1569. The whitewashed church is a beautiful landmark in Neo-Roman architectural style.
6. Salim Ali bird sanctuary
Salim Ali bird sanctuary is undoubtedly the top tourist attraction of Chorao Island. Spread over 178 hectares, it is the only bird sanctuary in Goa. It is home to exotic wildlife in an estuarine mangrove setting.
7. Feni and Urrack tasting
Of course, the highlight of any trail in Goa has to be Feni tasting. The alcoholic drink has a fruity flavor, a peculiar taste, and a piquant aroma. I somehow found it too strong for my taste buds.
Good to know: If you too find Feni strong, I would suggest taking small shots.
However, I quite liked Urrack, particularly the classic Urrack cocktail. It is Urrack mixed with lime chili, salt, and Limca. The locals consider it as one of the best drinks during the summers.
These were some of the highlights that you should expect when you visit Chorao Island. We all know that Goa has been synonymous with crowded parties. However, a serene day on the island of Chorao would surely change that perception. The Island is a perfect mix of nature, adventure, and history.
Good to know: Please avoid bringing any plastic disposables to the island. Even if you carry one, please take it back with you. Do not spoil the charm of the Island.