Mystic Woods - A project by Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa

It took us some time locating the place. The many locals and shops within few kilometers radius looked amused when we asked them for the address of Butterfly Park.  They never heard of it and probably couldn’t imagine that something like this exists in Goa.

Southern Birdwing Butterfly - Largest in India
The Butterfly Conservatory of Goa is an altruistic project initiated by wife-husband team – Dr. Jyoti Heblekar, a Homeopath  & Yashodan alias Rohit Heblekar  to ward off rampant cutting of hills surrounding their dwelling at Pisgal Priol, near  Ponda, Goa.  They wanted to retain the scenic view around so they decided to set-up the conservatory.

We were captivated by the sheer natural un-sculpted greenery around.  The sound of rustling leaves, the burbling water flowing down narrow streams, the chirping birds, all orchestrated to make blissful music.

As Rohit took us around  he asked us “Do you know why we don’t see any butterflies in cities these days?”
He then went on to explain “most butterflies only eat flower nectar. Different species of butterfly usually prefer different flowers, but they will generally feed on many types of flowers from plants, shrubs, vines, and trees. When it comes to laying their eggs, butterflies will only lay them on the plant that the caterpillar will eventually eat (this differs from species to species). The eggs are frequently laid on the underside of leaves. Caterpillars mostly eat leaves that they were laid on.  And because we have destroyed the natural flora and fauna and have replaced them with exotic plants not endemic to the region the butterflies have become extinct around the region”.

Rohit has divided the vast hillside property into – “Our Garden” where they have grown plants which are endemic or native this place s and the other section as “God’s Garden” which is left for nature to tend and grow plants as per its  choice.  The entire project is irrigated through rain water harvesting done during the monsoon season.
Spider web & dried leaves glow gold

We were introduced to Sailor, Glassy Tiger, Tawny Coster, Imperial and many other varieties of butterflies and also numerous cocoons undergoing metamorphosis one among which was that of a butterfly called Monkey Puzzle (it has a tail that resembles its mouth and it is the only butterfly that moves backwards when confronted by predator), then one another cocoon which of Southern Birdwing which is largest butterfly found in India having a wing span of 140-190 mm) and some other varieties.  We learn that the best time to enjoy the colors is the month of September.

Monkey Puzzle
Along the way Rohit would often stop and give us what he called the ‘fragrance test’. He handed us fragments of crushed leaves or stems to be identified. They were those of clove, ginger, turmeric,  pandan plant (Pandanus amaryllifolius) also commonly called Basmati Rice leaf (This leaf cooked with ordinary rice imparts the flavor of basmati rice)and Triphala Spice that makes the delicious goan curry.

Another interesting fact that Rohit shared about was the nutmeg (Jaiphal) tree. “The thin stemmed plant is female plant while the thick stemmed plant at distance is a male plant. And it is the butterfly which aids the pollination and formation of the nutmeg fruit. Without butterflies we would not have the aromatic spice we have grown to enjoy in our Goan dishes, especially desserts”

I spotted numerous plants used to prepare homeopathic remedies like Nux Vomica, Sarsaparilla (the roots tastes like vanilla), Passiflora etc. And then there was Python which was rescued by the Heblekars. The villagers had badly beaten up the reptile. The Python was being treated with homeopathic calendula (internal) and in the process of recouping.
Rohit organizes study tours for students and also an event for corporate which he calls “Breakfast With Butterflies”.
Best Time To Visit
9 am to 10:30 am (The butterflies are most active during this time.
Best Season To Visit
September (You will get to see the most)
Mode of Transport
Do not rely on public transport. Arrange your own car, bus or motorcycle
Distance from Major Cities
Panaji: 29.1 km
Madgaon: 22.8 km
Vasco: 32.2 Km