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Welcome to Croc-O-Do-Be-Doo, a tribute by boat to the Cumbarjua, land of the Mugger crocodile.

"On this journey", we warn tourists, "there are three things that can happen to you. You can be eaten by a crocodile, you can get bored - or you can become a poet."

Mugger crocodile The Cumbarjua sings a rich, beautiful song. The 15 km long, deep and winding canal is flanked by vulnerable mangroves. They have been declared a no development zone' to protect their unique biodiversity.

The mangroves serve as an excellent breeding ground for fish and molluscs, who in turn draw an amazing variety of birds. Waders like the Egret, Redshank and Curlew probe the mudflats while six colourful Kingfisher species dazzle the visitor.

One of them, the White-collared Kingfisher, has only been sighted here and at neighboring Chorao! Migratory birds also make appearances including the Osprey, Whitenecked stork, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eastern Steppe Eagle and Marsh Harrier. On average the bird watcher can tick off about 35 species!

The crocodile reigns at the apex of this food chain, scavenging and ridding the river of its coarse fish so that commercially important fish can thrive.

Not many Goans know or even believe that crocodiles lurk in these waters. We consider ourselves fortunate to have the privilege of taking tourists here - don't we get a free trip?

And no matter what others say, I can never tire of eyeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat; sometimes basking in the sun, jaws wide open, and sometimes camouflaged, so damn well amongst the mangroves, it is a miracle that we spot them at all!

Every time I come across 0l' Leatherhead in the midst of his siesta in the shade of a mangrove tree, I feel myself drifting off to some prehistoric era, and to a disconcerting sense of peace. We in Goa have destroyed so much of our natural beauty, but hey, this modern descendant of the dinosaur lives on, - there's hope for us yet!

The Cumbarjua has been a generous friend, sharing many of her secrets - the favourite hiding spots of the crocodiles, the Stork-billed Kingfisher, the Night heron, and the Osprey. She promises more, all she asks is respect for wildlife and some common sense.

With five years of journeying down this river, I no longer feel like a stranger here. The weirdly shaped overhanging branches and aerial roots of the mangroves reach out to greet us, and a warm "Hello!" echoes in the melodic notes of the Redshank and the nasal whine of the Brahminy kite. Hundreds of little fish jump up delightedly as our boat passes.

And deep in the mangroves, in a narrow sidecreek, Crocky-Wock hunts. Wonder how he's getting along...

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