Maha’s first croc safari, booming since 2019
As part of the Crocodile Safari, daily boat rides are planned during low tides to have the best chance of crocodile sightings
A little-known village in Ratnagiri district – Songaon – has become the centre of Maharashtra’s first ‘Crocodile Safari’, operating successfully since 2019 on the Vashishti river, one of Konkan’s largest rivers which is densely populated by ‘marsh crocodiles’. Typically, these crocodiles inhabit freshwater bodies however the ones found here are rare as saline water from the Arabian Sea enters the Vashishti river for a few kilometres during high tides.
As part of the Crocodile Safari, daily boat rides are planned during low tides to have the best chance of crocodile sightings. Typically, one can easily spot 20 to 25 crocodiles during the 90-minute boat ride. The eco-tourism project has slowly picked up pace and more than 900 tourists have taken the safari from 2019 till date. Not only people from all over Maharashtra but even from other states like Gujarat are coming to experience this unique safari.
Kranti Minde, a project associate from the Mangrove Foundation, said, “The Crocodile Safari was initiated by the mangrove cell of Maharashtra and the Mangrove Foundation. It is part of environmental conservation through sustainable efforts; the project was started in the year 2019 and a committee was also formed to involve local people. We have provided special training to the local people about tour guiding and boats were made available to the people through government aid. Gradually, this safari has evolved as an enriching wildlife safari for tourists as well as local communities and they not only get revenue but also develop a good understanding of the significance of local biodiversity. Over the years, we have received more than 900 tourists and are hoping to get more tourists in the upcoming days.”
“As the safari project is progressing, we are now focusing on improving the hospitality in the safari area; for this, we are in the process of planning various programmes for local communities to be involved or be willing to be involved in the Crocodile Safari. This includes opening up a canteen, providing skills’ development training for the local people, and some other initiatives. The baseline has been discussed but no constructive step has been taken yet in this regard,” Minde said.
Kiran Thakur, range forest officer from the Ratnagiri forest department, said, “This Safari initiative is getting good response from tourists. It is also helping in mangrove conservation in the Konkan area.”
The Crocodile Safari takes place between 7.30 am and 6.00 pm (depending on low tides as the crocodiles are largely visible during low tides). Each safari boat ride costs Rs1,600 for two hours so that people can experience the mangroves and the birding activity in the nearby island/s along with sighting crocodiles, said Minde.