Chilka Lake in Orissa is Asia’s biggest internal salt water pond studded with few tiny islands including the most charming Honeymoon Island and the Breakfast Island. This pear shaped lake, separated from the Bay of Bengal; also imbibes one of the most supportive ecosystem in the name of Chilka Lake Sanctuary in the region. With a wide range of flora, fauna and aquatic faunas, observed in and around the brackish water of the lake.
The area also proves an eminent witness of an array of avifaunal varieties, both native and migrant as their winter stopover to make this area most formidable in India. There are also fisheries and salt pans around its shores.
Apart from the most tranquil varieties of flora and fauna, Chilka Lake Sanctuary is favorably known for its dynamic sunrise and sunset views. Lots of people especially visit this sanctuary for this splendid view.
According to some ancient texts, Chilka was considered as a major harbor for International trading. The famous Chinese traveler sailed across a port located at Chhatragarh on the banks of Chilka Lake. Further excavations revealed that Chilka Lake was a deep and open bay and a vital port & shelter for trading ships sailing towards Asia.
Due to its pear shaped structure, the Chilka Lake was being prevented from being used as a deep drought harbor. Legend also proved that a 4th century pirate king Raktabahu (or Red Arm) was believed to have travelled across the seas to sack the rich and holy town of Puri. The residents of Puri deserted the area in fear of attack. The king later realized that he had been mislead by the sea tides but unfortunately was being smothered into the tides along with his troop. Thus, the area is evolved as Chilka Lake which marks such a legendary significance along with wildlife expedition till today.
Chilka Lake is being treated as the real paradise for the bird-lovers and ornithologists since the whole vicinity attracts large number of aquatic birds preferably in winters for the migratory counts. The major species that can be witnessed as White bellied sea eagles, Graylag geese, purple moorhen, flamingo jacana and herons. Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary is also a habitant of one of biggest breeding places of flamingos in the world.
Apart from the avi-faunal species, the region also highlights varied wild animals such as blackbuck, golden jackals, spotted deer and hyenas. Chilka Lake is very prosperous in aquatic species as its basin area has about 160 various species of crustaceans, fish and many more marine lives including the well-known Chilka dolphin. Local people are dependent upon prawn, mackerel and crab fishing as the vital source to run their livelihood. To catch the wildlife glimpses, numerous fishing boats can be seen in the lake to bring the day’s catch. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve has second biggest pachyderm numbers in India to bring the opportunities to catch the great numbers of elephants especially in the dry season.
Apart from residents and migratory birds, Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to Blackbuck, Spotted Deer, Golden Jackals, Hyenas and many more. Being richly famous for the presence of aquatic wildlife, Chilka Lake sanctuary also houses Prawn, Dolphin, Crab, Crustaceans and Limbless Lizard. More than 225 species of fish including Acentrogobius Griseus, Arius, Alepes Djedaba and the Elops Machnata are also found here.
Flora in Nandan Kanan
Chilka Lake is the most popular destination for eco-tourism in Orissa. Apart from having the presence of exotic wildlife in the area, the lake and its vicinity holds rich floral system with abundance of aquatic as well as non-aquatic plants. The recent environmental survey revealed the presence of more than 710 species of plants in and around the Chilka Lake. Such a huge variety of flora and fauna including numerous rare and endangered species of all forms has been the main reason for considering Chilka Lake as Ramsar site.
Places of Interest
Bird Island : A perfect destination for the ornithologists to watch birds in their natural habitat.
Nalabana : This is among some of the few designated bird sanctuaries under the Wildlife Protection Act. Nalabana is a big island in the center of the lake where during winters, a large plush of resident and migratory avians prove as a treat for the bird-watchers in a complete bungee experience. This island is completely submerged in the monsoon months.
Mangalajodi : Formerly, Manglajodi was known to be the poachers’ village, since the residents of the village were completely involved in the poaching activities; but later, in awareness, the village is today considered as a community which is owned by wildlife venture. The community is supported by Mangalajodi Ecotourism.
Kalijai Island : this island is ideally being treated as the abode of Goddess Kalijai. Pilgrims flock here in January during Makar Mela (at the time of Makar Sankranti) to pay obeisance to the Goddess. The ancient belief of the locals describes that a girl named Kali and her sister (the other few years later) were drowned in the island, when she came to the island in search of Kali. The local folks used to hear their cries in the Kalijai Island area. But when the temple was constructed the cries of the sisters were no more being heard at night that proved some auspicious and sacred reasons for it. The area is easily accessible from Barkul.
The impressive part of this area is that the flocks of peacocks roam here, mingling with the devotees. Earlier fishermen used to visit the temple before venturing into the deep sea, but nowadays, it’s just another tourist spot.
Satapada : this location is close to Dolphin point, where the critically endangered Irrawady dolphins and bottle-nosed dolphins can be seen. Chilka is one of the only 2 lagoons in the world where Irrawady dolphins can be seen.
Brahmaputra : The place is known for its scenic beauty and serves for the great picnic spots for the tourists.
Breakfast Island : 20 minutes boat ride from Rambha will take the tourists to this amazing island AT Chilka Lake zone. The island is being named so since the tourists pack breakfast from the OTDC panthanivas at Rambha and have it here in the pristine surroundings. Beacon Island and Honeymoon Island are other attractions at the nearby area of the Breakfast Island.
Rambha is the most ideal place from where the famous Chilka Lake can be discovered and the location also brings frequent boat trips to visit the islands and to watch thousands of birds.
Nearby Attractions/ Excursions
Govt. College of Arts & Craft – Located in Khallikote, about 25 km from Balugaon and 12 km from Rambha, this art gallery is located in the palace of the erstwhile king of Khallikote. Surrounded by all the sides with lushly mountains, it affords some beautiful views and depicts many famous Indian contemporary painters as its alumni. The art gallery present inside has some beautiful paintings reflecting Orissa’s culture.
Nirmaljhara – It is a perennial stream that has been channeled into different ponds and has been located in Khallikote, very close to the art college. Built in 1676, the stream is also illuminated by many temples. Adventurous persons can take a bath in one of the ponds here.
Banapur – Known for Bhagawati Temple and markets, Banapur area is best known for hang-outs and shopping.
Narayani – About 15 km from Balugaon, it has a temple in scenic surroundings in the Eastern Ghats.
Oriya people consider it to be very lucky if Kalijai Temple, Bhagwati Temple and Narayani temple are visited on the same day.
Salia Dam – this dam is being built on River Salia and is located amidst the stunning locales. About 25 km from Rambha and 15 km from Barakul, the Salia Dam is the most eligible location for sight-seeing and some adventurous leisure trips.
Gopalpur-on-sea- It is an astounding beach resort in Ganjam district of Odisha. It was once a busy sea-port used for trading but today is the quietest place converted ideally for the lonely-seekers and the people looking for pacification. The area is quite free from all the hustle and bustle of the temple town of Orissa with the attractions of scenic and marine beauties. Gopalpur-on-sea is today one of the foremost beach resorts in India.
Puri – Most popularly this location is known for the famous Rath Yatra at Jagannath Temple which is being held in the month of Asadh (June & July) and the chariot of Lord Jagannath is being carried for public display. Located in the Bay of Bengal, Puri is one of the holiest places in India and is endowed with tremendous attractive sea-beaches.
Safaris in Chilka Lake
Chilka Lake Sanctuary is perfectly known for the picnic spot; where the tourists come for spending their leisure moments, to enjoy the marine wildlife and to make some exciting freak-outs at the nearby areas and islands. So safari is not available in this area, but yes, if you really want to catch the impressive aquatic creatures in the lake or the nearby places, a boating experience can be an added fun which can be experienced throughout the year during sunrise to sunset. For a detailed aquatic safari in the region, the tourists can make the best out of it by making a complete walking tour in the jungle.
By Air : The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar located at 120 km away from where taxis, trains and buses are available towards the lake.
By Train : The tourists can find the nearest rail stations at Balugaon, on the Howrah-Chennai track. From Balugaon buses are available to the lake.
By Road : A part of Chilka Lake is visible from NH5 and the Howrah-Chennai train track. Many buses ply from Bhubaneswar (Baramunda Bus Station) and Cuttack (Badambadi Bus Station) to Balugaon throughout the day, OSRTC buses (i.e. state run buses) have the frequent and fastest services. It’s a 2 hours journey from Bhubaneswar. From there, one has to hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach Barkul or Rambha (In case of Rambha, passengers can alight at Keshpur, which is further ahead from Balugaon, and from there hire an auto-rickshaw). Satapada is well connected by daily local buses from Puri. Visitors can take an OTDC day tour from Puri to see Satapada. However, Satapada is not so well connected from Bhubaneswar and taxis have to be hired to get there.
The weather remains moderately warm the whole year round, so one can visit this place any time of the year except during the rainy season from June to September. The best time, however, is from October to March, when the lake is crowded with migrating birds, usually at least 50-70 species.
Hotels at Chilka Lake Wild Sanctuary
Making a fantastic residing option at the vicinity of Chilka Lake is really very exciting. The ambience and the locality can impel anyone to extend their stay by getting impressed with great residing options.
There are a few hotels on the banks of the lake and two tourist bungalows (the `Panthnivas’ at Rambha and Barkul) that have stunning views and a relaxed vacation ambience. A number of state-run as well as privately-operated rest-houses and tourist lodges also dot the shores of the lake, and tariffs vary considerably, depending upon the facilities offered.