The Chilika Lake, which is a paradise on Earth for bird watchers and nature lovers, is the largest internal salt water pond that can be found in Asia. The pear-shaped lake is dotted with a few small islands and has fisheries and salt pans around its shore. This island is nestled in the heart of coastal Odisha and extends from Puri district in the north to Ganjan district in the south, and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a 60 kilometres long narrow strip of sand-flats and marshy islands.
Since the lake is located on the east coast of India and has large water bodies, the place is a heaven for migratory and resident birds, and an equal delight for visitors, especially bird watchers, who stop by to have a look at these majestic creatures. The Chilika Lake Sanctuary is spread over an area of 1100 square kilometres and is home to a myriad of birds. This pear-shaped sanctuary is also one of the most visited sanctuaries in the state of Odisha. The Chilika Lake attracts an array of birds that choose this spot as their winter stopover, and come to visit this lake from as far as Iran, Siberia and Central Asia. The graylag geese, purple moorhen, flamingo, Brahminy Kite, spot-billed pelican, bar-headed goose, open-billed stork, pintail, king fisher, Egret, Avocet, gulls, tern, herons and white-bellied sea eagles are found here in large populations. In fact, the Chilika Bird Sanctuary is home to one of the largest breeding colonies of flamingos in the world.
Other than these avifaunal species, the Chilika Lake also harbours a rich variety of wild animals, such as golden jackals, spotted deer, black buck and hyenas. The aquatic basin area houses over 225 species of fishes, including the well-known Chilka dolphin. Marine wildlife such as prawns and limbless lizards can also be spotted here. Apart from having a vibrant and dynamic variety of wildlife, the lake is also home to a healthy floral system that comprises of aquatic and non-aquatic plants. Visitors can spot rare and endangered species of all forms of flora here. In fact, it may interest you to know that the Chilika Lake is the most popular eco-tourism destination in the entire Orissa and is considered as a Ramsar site, because of the vast variety of endangered species that it provides shelter to.
The lake offers a variety of different attractions that the tourists can explore to appreciate the beauty of nature in all its grandeur.
1. Bird Island: Ornithologists flock here in large numbers to witness birds in their natural habitat.
2. Nalabana: Nalabana is a huge island in the centre of the lake that gets completely submerged during the monsoon months. A designated bird sanctuary, the island is always full of the chirps of many resident birds and migratory visitors, who never fail to delight the onlooker.
3. Kalijai Island: Considered to be the abode of Goddess Kalijai, the temple that is located here has an interesting history to it. It is widely believed that a young girl named Kali, and her sister who later came here looking for her, were both drowned in this island and the residents vouch to have heard their cries. Upon the construction of a temple, the cries ceased, and since then, the place has had a significant religious value. The location is easily accessible via a boat from the Chilika Lake and is a must visit at the time of Makar Sankranti, when the Makar Mela takes place.
4. Satapada: The Satapada Island, bounded by the lagoon on three sides, attracts the visitors because it is home to the flagship species of the Chilika Lake, the Irrawaddy dolphins. This island is one of the only two lagoons in the world where this endangered species can now be found. Tourists can easily reach this spot via boats arranged by OTDC.
5. Other islands, including the Breakfast Island, Beacon Island and Honeymoon Island are also popular attractions that tourist love to visit.
While looking for boats, ensure that you only travel on the ones that have been provided by OTDC, since other local boats do not have life jackets.
Undoubtedly, the best time to visit the Chilika Lake is the winter months of November to February, when the variety of migratory birds can be witnessed. In case you wish to visit the place at some other time, avoid the rainy season from June to September.
The nearest airport to the Chilika Lake is Bhubaneswar, which is about 120 kilometres away. OTDC tour buses, state buses and other private operators frequently ply between Chilika and Bhubaneswar. The nearest railway stations are Rambha and Balugaon. From both these stations, buses and auto rickshaws are easily available to Chilika.
Local transport is limited to bicycles, three wheelers, auto and cars. For navigation to other islands, the services of motor boats and local boatmen can be availed. Note that outdoor motors are not allowed near the sanctuary.
Auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to get around the place. Local boatmen and the motorboats of Odisha Tourism Development Corporation are also available for get to the islands.
To stay at the Chilika Lake itself is indeed a fantastic option since this enables you to enjoy the ambience of the place all day long. You can choose from the hotels on the banks of the lake, or the two tourist bungalows- Barkul and Panthnivas- to stay. Many state operated and private rest houses and tourist lodges are also available and are a good option to choose.
Boating is a popular activity in Chilika Lake. Water Scooters and Pedal Boats are available at this place. Drivers of speedboats might allow tourists to drive on request. The perfect time for boating is just before sunrise since the sun rise is very scenic from the horizon and birds are flying in all directions. It is a beautiful sight for nature lovers. At the Panthanivas, you can hire the Motorboats (10-Seater) for INR 550 per hour or the Speedboats (5-Seater) for INR 1650 per hour.
Fish, prawn and the famous crab which is sold live can be bought from Balugaon market. Several gems and ornaments are available in Kalijai. You can buy these from here at decent prices.
Chilika is well known for its sea food like crab and prawn. One must try it while visiting this place.
Reach Chilika and check into a hotel. Hire a boat and set out to the Chilika Lake. Visit the beautiful places for sightseeing such as Nalabana bird sanctuary, Mangalojodi, etc.. After a tour of the lake, have some delicious sea food at any nearby restaurant. With more time on your hands, you can go see Kalijai Islands and more religious places around. This trip is best combined with a visit to nearby places including Salia Dam which is built on River Salia and located amidst stunning locales. Banapur which is popular for Bhagawati Temple and markets is another beautiful place you can take a trip to. You can also visit Narayani which has a temple in picturesque surroundings of the Eastern Ghats.
1. Do not buy pearls or corals from Chilika lake. Fresh water Oysters are brought from Hyderabad & broken here to take out the cultured pearls. They try to sell them as natural pearls to tourists. The local sellers also sell fake "Black pearls" to unsuspecting tourists.
2. Be careful while boating and put your lifejacket on.
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