Episode 084 – Omkar Dharwadkar & Parag Rangnekar | Naturalists, Wildlife photographers, & Partners at Mrugaya Xpeditions


Mrugaya Xpeditions is a nature-based experiential tour company based out of Goa, India. Sign up for day trips, personalised excursions, and study tours to discover the myriad flora and fauna of the Western Ghats. 

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Watch their YouTube channel

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Omkar Dharwadkar is a naturalist and wildlife photographer. He’s the also the President and Founder Member of the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN).

Listen to his journey from growing up in Goa, and spending time alone in the forest, to now sharing his knowledge as a ‘Bird Magnet’ with discerning guests.

Along with local filmmaker Kabir Naik, Omkar has been creating a video series on the wildlife of Goa. They have covered the monsoon, amphibians, odonates, butterflies, and camouflage in the state. Watch their videos to learn more about the native flora and fauna.

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Parag Rangnekar is a naturalist and wildlife photographer. He’s also the Founder Member of the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN). Parag has specific interest in dragonflies and butterflies.

Listen to his journey from growing up in Goa, and spending his holidays exploring the forests of Amboli in Maharashtra, to now rejuvenating his ancestral house into a nature retreat, and offering a platform that showcases the region’s natural wonders.

Parag is also part of several clubs, societies, non-profits, and organizations including the Mineral Foundation of Goa, and the Goa State Biodiversity Board.

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Aangan Village Stay is a homestay in Verlem,, set within the hinterland of Goa, India. Managed by the Verlem Eco Tourism Cooperative Society, you can immerse yourselves in the culture, cuisine, and community here. 

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Jungle Trails Homestay is a quaint accommodation located in Talde village, on the fringes of Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, India. You can explore the surrounding forests and 14th century heritage sites on nature trails with expert local guides.

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Mrugaya Nature Retreat is a bed & breakfast nestled amid the lush wilderness of Amboli, India. This eco-conscious accommodation features rustic interiors and offers three guestrooms with private sit-outs.  You can head out on nature trails to spot birds, reptiles, and amphibians in the forests around.

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Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) is a non-profit society that promotes birding, and serves as an excellent resource documenting the various species of birds in Goa.

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Join in for their bird walks that happen on the first Sunday of every month. GBCN conducts regular surveys and also organises events that help in bird conservation.

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Also mentioned in this episode
All Goa Water Bird CensusAmboliAsian Water Bird Census – Beach Fashion Week – Bhagwan Mahaveer SanctuaryBirdingBird AtlasDr Salim AliDr Salim Ali Bird SanctuaryDragonfly – Dragonflies South Asia – eBird – Fauna of Goa – First NationsFoundation for Environment Research and ConservationGoa GapHeinz LainerIndia Bird Conservation NetworkInle LakeInternational Dark-Sky Association – Invertebrate Conservation and Information Network of Southeast Asia – Jim CorbettKenneth AndersonKerala Tourism – Limits of Acceptability – MahabaleshwarMatheranMatoliMeat EaterMineral Foundation of GoaMokenNaitik JainNilesh CabralNirmal KulkarniQuiet Parks InternationalRahul AlvaresResponsible Tourism CollectiveSavio FonsecaSerendipity Arts FestivalShivdas DessaiShraddha RangnekarSpirit BearTambdi SurlaUttrakhand birdsVelipsWest Bengal birdsWestern GhatsWWFZoological Survey of India

Timestamps for reference
03:25 Uniqueness of the Western Ghats
05:40 The Goa Gap
06:35 Documenting the natural history of Goa’s Western Ghats
09:09 Heinz Leiner & Birds of Goa
13:07 Amphibians in Goa
14:48 Surveys about birds
19:28 Operations of GBCN
20:20 Monthly bird walks
21:39 Birding hotspots in Goa
22:21 Interest of birding in Goa from a tourism perspective
24:30 Possibility of spotting 150 species of birds in Goa over a three day trip
28:58 Infrastructure in natural spaces
32:56 Pricing and carrying capacity of natural destination
36:15 Community-based tourism as a double-edged sword, and Aangan project in Verle
44:03 Spirit Bear & First Nations
46:15 Jungle Trails Homestay
49:03 What’s the intent behind Mrugaya Xpeditions
51:36 Story of Mrugaya
55:05 Hunting, foraging, and harvesting from forests
01:03:24 Different organizations that Omkar and Parag are part of
01:06:06 Making the best of the beach in Goa
01:07:29 Can Goa accommodate more small-group experiences responsibly?
01:12:55 Brand of destination Goa, and new approaches
01:17:49 Personal journeys and influences of Omkar and Parag
01:22:12 The Mollem issue
01:41:26 Government websites are so outdated in India, an IT hub
01:43:34 Goa Bird Festival

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Show cover jingle courtesy of Icons8
Music by Nordgroove from Fugue

Episode background tunes courtesy of YouTube Audio Library
First Class
 by DJ Williams
Song of Sadhana by Jesse Gallagher
Sonic by Lish Grooves

All photographs by Omkar Dharwadkar, Parag Rangnekar, Aangan, Jungle Trails Homestay, Mrugaya Nature Retreat, and Mrugaya Xpeditions, unless otherwise stated.

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