The moment someone mentions Goa, we think about beaches but Goa is more than beaches and churches. When I visited Goa, I explore many beaches and all the popular churches. On my second trip, I decided to visit some offbeat places and I visited a spice plantation in Goa. The spices of Goa are not very popular and when we refer to spices or spice gardens we think about Kerala.
Interestingly the spice gardens of Goa are big and they have developed a system for tourists. These spice plantations are more like a farm in Goa for a picnic where they provide good information about the Indian spices. A tour to a spice garden is not only fun but it is educational also.
Also, read about Other offbeat places in Goa
We were staying in Candolim and after spending a lazy morning at the beach we decided to explore the Ponda area of Goa. We visited Mangeshi temple and Shanta Durga Temple, two most iconic temples of Goa before going to spice gardens.
There are few spice gardens in Ponda area. There are two well-known spice gardens in Goa, One is Tropical Spice Plantation and other is Sahakari Spice Farm. Both spice gardens are very similar and I had more or less the same experience.
What to expect from a Spice Plantation in Goa.
A traditional Welcome
We arrived at the spice plantation and bought a ticket. The ticket cost is 400 INR and it covers entry into the spice plantation, a guided tour of the spice garden and an unlimited traditional Goan buffet lunch.
As we entered in the main area, they welcomed us with a flower garland and put vermilion on our head.
They served a Ginger Lemongrass tea with some spices. This drink is made by boiling different spices and its medicinal properties are good for the stomach.
We have been informed that in a short while they will take us for the tour after the return of earlier batch.
The sitting area is surrounded by trees of fruits and spice plants. I can hear the chirping of birds in close proximity. I got the feeling that I am sitting in the middle of a forest listening to the chirping of birds.
The sitting area has electric fans for cooling and this the place where we took rest and had lunch after the tour of the spice garden. It is constructed with locally available products like wood, bamboo, leaves of coconut and palm trees. We relaxed for some time, then went for our guided tour.
A Guided Tour of Spice Garden
Our guide came and we went for our educational tour, just joking. I recognize the spices as we see these in our kitchen everyday but seeing how these spices grow is a different experience. The spice tour is an interesting activity and it’s fun to see the trees & shrubs of spices. I especially recommend this tour for kids because it will give them the opportunity to connect with nature.
This 30 minutes tour is very informative and our guide showed us plants of various spices, herbs, and fruits.
The spice plantation of Goa have 50 different kinds of spice plants and various variety of fruit plants in the plantation. The main spices are cloves, nutmeg, curry leaves, cinnamon, pepper, star anise, vanilla, ginger, black cardamom, Bay leaf, coriander, and turmeric. They have many fruit plants are banana, coconut, pineapple, mango, pomelo, jackfruit, bimbli, guava, papaya, and citrus.
The cashew of Goa is the most popular product of these farms and there are many big plantations growing Cashew only.
There are several medicinal plants in the spice plantation and guide explained which plant is used for which ailment.
We also saw how they make Goa’s famous cashew feni. The feni is made with the outer shell of Cashew fruit, it is fermented and then vaporized by the distillation process. Feni contains a certain percentage of alcohol but they don’t add any chemical in it. It may sound funny calling an alcoholic drink organic but feni is an organic drink and it doesn’t give morning headaches like other alcoholic drinks.
Some Fun after the Tour
After coming back from the tour we were feeling hot and sweaty. Our guide called everyone and asked us to make a queue. Some of the people who visited the spice garden for the first time thought maybe they get some souvenir. But this queue is for a small fun activity.
They pour a ladle of slightly cold water from an earthen pot on the nape. When this water trickle down the spine, it feels very funny and rejuvenating. The whole thing takes about a minute but it is so much fun after the walking tour.
Traditional Organic Lunch in Spice Plantation
These farms are not using any pesticides or other chemical products to grow the plants and fruits. They claim everything here is 100% organic.
They told us that all the items served for lunch are grown in the farm except for the Pav, which they get from a local baker. The food is served in flat bamboo baskets lined with banana leaf.
Food is mainly vegetarian with 2 to 3 nonvegetarian items. During my trip, they served 2 vegetable, a gravy dish, salad, Papadum, rice, Pav, Rawa fry fish and chicken xacuti. For dessert, we got rice pudding and small fresh banana.
The food is buffet style and you take whatever you like.
Free Tasting of Goa Feni
During lunchtime, our spice garden tour guide offered us a small peg of Feni. It was a bit bitter in taste and he recommended us that we should drink it with some aerated lemon flavor drink. They offer a small peg and if someone wants to drink more then buy a bottle from the shop inside the farm.
Elephant Bath in Goa Spice Plantation
They have elephants in the spice garden and I was told that they keep the elephants with care. They offer elephant rides and elephant bathing to the visitors. The ride on an elephant cost somewhere around 300 INR and elephant bath cost around 700 to 1000 INR.
The elephant bath is done under the guidance of a Mahout. I saw some people bathing an elephant, it looked like a fun activity but I skipped it. It is fun watching.
Consultation with an Ayurveda Doctor
The spice farms have in-house Ayurveda doctors. They check you for “Vat Pit & Kaf” properties and according to your body type, they suggest the natural medication to use for health benefits. Based on the body type, they also suggest, which type of food & food products are beneficial for your body.
These Ayurveda medications are made from natural herbs and medicinal plants available in spice plantation.
Shop for Spices and Essential Oils
You can also shop the spices, natural oils, essential oils with fragrance from the spice plantation’s shop. These spices are grown here and the oils are made from the natural products available in spice plantation.
The spice gardens also sell cashew nuts and products made from coconut or bamboo, which can be used gifted as souvenirs.
I bought Cashew from spice garden once but I prefer to buy Cashews from Zantye’s shop in Panaji because of it’s good taste.
Also read What to buy in India
Farm Picnic in Goa
It’s like a picnic on a farm in the middle of nature. You can stay here as long as you wish and watch birds, plants or participate in activities like elephant bath etc. It’s a great place to unwind when you want a break from the sun and sand of Goa. The best part about this picnic is that you don’t need to pack a food basket as you get great home-style fresh food from the kitchen of the spice plantation.
These tropical spice plantations are a great way to come close to nature and one of my favorite offbeat activity in Goa.
Earlier Goa tourism was running a cruise boat for spice gardens. These boats sail through the backwaters of Goa and during one of such trip, I saw Goa from a different perspective. We saw old houses, churches, and fishing boat factories on the banks while sailed in Goa Backwaters.
The boat starts at Panaji and then it entered the Mangroves area with no population on sides. It was a slow journey in the middle of nature. The boat then embarks at the jetty close to a spice garden and from there, cars took us to spice gardens. These boats are now stopped because Goa Tourism has no boats to operate on this route. Though the boat’s journey was time-consuming, it gave a different experience.