Countyside calling

Spread across 60 acres, in the midst of thick green forest, it's just 16 km from the famous waterfall Doodhsagar that borderlines Goa-Karnataka and thanks to Goa Tourism Development Corporation, those Who Visit Doodhsagar through their guided tours, stop by for lunch here, at N V Eco-Farm. Located at Kirlapal Village of Dharbandora in South Goa, the farm has adopted modern, scientific practices combining them with ancient, traditional knowledge. And yes, takers for such concepts are increasing in Goa, a State that relied mainly on mining and tourism until sometime ago.

After the ban on mining in 2012 the state had to shift its dependency on tourism however, not all would go for beach tourism, casinos, rave parties or music festivals. There's a section in the Visiting tourists, domestic and foreign, who want something different, something more refreshing, real and down-to-earth.

NV Eco-Farm and the like are for those lot, who want to experience the local culture, visit hinterlands, go for home-stays or camp in the forests. So what is it that brings footfalls in such places? After its soft launch in 2015 - 16 NV Eco-Farm is gradually gaining popularity on word of mouth and is now recognized as a favourite spot for school and college students, family 20 picnics and corporate get-togethers.

"We have unique combination of agriculture, horticulture, vegetables and spices, plantation crops, adventure sports, bird watching, butterfly park, moming trails, natural swimming pond and the most attractive of all these is our Nakshatra Vana or astral garden as one may call it," briefs Mahesh Patil Who along With Wife Smita runs this combined concept of agriculture and adventure.

It is based on science where the Patits have tried to combine astrology with Ayurveda. Keeping the six rutu (seasons), 12 raashis (zodiac signs), 27 nakshatras (stars) there are specific trees (kshemkar and dharmodishi) that are meant to be beneficial for the person of that raashi. Identifying the trees as well as the raashi devata (the goddess of the zodiac sign) we have named and planted them in this astral garden, and one can sit undemeath and chant specific mantra that matches With whichever element (earth, water, fire, air, space) is dominant in his body. So is their butterfly park, where the couple has planted host trees that attract 36 types butterflies, who not only come to eat the honey, but to stay and complete their life-cycle on these specific trees.

"We have also created rainwater harvesting in a natural pond, where one can take a swim and the water is later recycled and used for agriculture. There's organic cashew' farm, and live feni making process displayed. Our spice farm produces cloves, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon etc. People today are interested in these and we are happy that we offer something different," says Smita Patil who is happy with the word-of-mouth publicity that brings them business.

Chinmay Tanshikar, an award winning farmer tried a similar concept a decade ago in remote Netravali at Sanguem taluka with zero investment. Irrespective of whether it clicks or not he kick-started it, admitting, "This is not a commercial venture. It's our way of life which people may want to come and view. We still live in a 200-year.old mud house and people are amazed when they Step in. I am not here to show off my farming skills.

We do farming, it's a part of our daily routine and we only showcase that to whosoever wishes to witness. We grow a variety of spices on a large scale including vanilla plantation. One can see the recycling of farm waste, some bird watching, do adventure sports, take jungle walks and stay in wooden cottages. Feel the joy of viewing a natural waterfall. A local provides authentic Goan meals for our guests, thus earning his livelihood too."

Why private players, even Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) has plans to develop the Selaulim dam property as top hinterland tourism attraction and the project is in the final stage of designing and planning. Beach Tourism had reached saturation point and the government now wants tourists to head to the hinterland to discover the state's relatively unknown wonders. Indeed, the concept of hinted and tourism is picking up in the state and many small and big players are testing this. Sawani Shetye, an archeologist points out that tourists are interested not only in sight seeing but in knowing the history of the place they visit, than simply waking through it.

Sawani's passion compelled her to initiate a heritage consultancy Bhoomii Heritage, on April 18 last year wherein she would organize walks and talks on places to visit in Goa. Keeping it free of cost, she now has joined hands with the 30-year old travel group Vinsan World to launch Exclamations Goa. Sawani expresses, "As of now take tourists all over Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra but soon we will expand it to places in India. Tourists must keep their eyes open and identify the stories that lay deep in the monuments or sites which normally skip common eyes. There's so much to see, to feel and to know about the world we live that one lifetime is just not enough. Touring the world is the only way to expand our own boundaries which may limit us."