A state which is rich in natural resources, Odisha has some beautiful naure parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other natural beautities. This post is all about these nature’s bounties in the state.
Chilika Lake is the largest internal salt water lake in Asia, a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. The pear-shaped lake is dotted with a few small islands and has fisheries and salt pans around its shore. The Chilika Lake also houses the most accommodating ecosystems in the world, which means a wide assortment of flora and fauna can be spotted here.
A geological survey has confirmed that Chilka used to be a part of the Bay of Bengal during the late Pleistocene period. The place has an important role to play in the history of India. During the rule of the Kalinga dynasty, Chilka was a bustling commercial centre and a prominent harbour. Ptolemy also talks about the Chilka Lake in his text as an important port.
Spread over an area of 1100 sq km, the Chilika Lake Sanctuary is also one of the most visited sanctuaries in the state. 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.
Some of the interesting and visited places in this area include Bird Island where ornithologists flock in large numbers to witness birds in their natural habitat and Nalabana which is a huge island in the centre of the lake that gets completely submerged during the monsoon months and a designated bird sanctuary. There is also Kalijai Island which is considered to be the abode of Goddess Kalijai. The temple 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. Then there is Satapada Island which is surrounded by the lagoon on three sides and attracts 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. You can easily reach this the island via boats arranged by the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC). Other islands, including the Breakfast Island, Beacon Island and Honeymoon Island are also popular attractions that tourist love to visit. Please ensure that when you travel on boats in the lake, you only travel on the ones that have been provided by OTDC, since other local boats do not have life jackets.
The best time to visit the Chilika Lake is the winter months between October to March, when you can see the sheer variety of migratory birds coming there plus you had the added benefit of cooler weather and daytime temperature remains pleasant. Do avoid the monsoon season between June to September.
Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary
Spread across a lush 795.52 acress, the Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary enthrals visitors with its overwhelming beauty, lush green surrounding, the ever cherished rambling of River Mahanadi besides the very famous Satkosia gorge and the large variety of wild animals, birds and plants. The speciality of Tikarpada is its efforts towards bringing back the endangered gharials or crocodiles. The gharials that find their home here at the Gharial Sanctuary, who were reintroduced in the Mahanadi River ecosystem to increase the level of their population.
Sometimes thunderous and sometimes calm river Mahanadi renders the opportunity for fish angling, or to motor-boat or river rafting across it. You can choose to trek or camp in the sanctuary as well. This a perfect destination for the lovers of nature, wildlife and adventure.
Tikarpada has tropical climatic conditions and so the months between September to March are the best months to visit this place.
Satkosia Tiger Reserve
Satkosia spreads along the magnificent gorge over the mighty river Mahanadi in Odisha. Located around 160 km from Bhubaneswar, this sanctuary created in 1976 is home to tigers in the deciduous forests of the Eastern Ghats. The name Satkosia originates from two words; sat meaning seven and kos meaning two miles, indicating the length of the gorge as 14 miles or 22 km. The area was declared as Satkosia Tiger Reserve in 2007, comprising two adjoining wildlife sanctuaries; the Satkosia Gorge sanctuary and Baisipalli sanctuary. It is also home to elephants, birds and other animals that can be spotted in the wild. The reserve has an area of 963.87sq km with 523.61sq km as core area. The area is also a part of the Mahanadi elephant reserve. Satkosia is the meeting point of two bio-geographic regions of India; the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats, contributing immense biodiversity.
When boating, one can spot the river-inhabitants being the Gharials or the Indian fish-eating crocodile. The Mahanadi River passes through a 14 mile long gorge, being the reason why the town was named Satkosia from Saat Kros, Kros being an old local measurement.
There are various lodging options operated by the Odisha Forest Development Corporation in Satkosia. You can also visit the neighbouring Kuanria Deer Park & Dam and the Kantilo Neelamadhav Temple.
Bhitarkanika National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary
Located at a distance of 120 km from Cuttack in Odisha, the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is a one of a kind sanctuary that sprawls over 650 sq. kms and boasts of rich marine vegetation, salt tolerant varieties of trees and plants, rivers and creeks. Home to some of the rarest species in the world both in terms of flora and fauna, the sanctuary is mainly known for its species of reptiles especially crocodiles, however, it also attracts a plethora of migrant species like Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, Asian Open Bill, Black Ibis, Egrets, and Darters etc. In the winter (which is the ideal migrating season for avifauna species), you can find as many as 215 species of migratory birds.
The highlight of the wildlife sanctuary is the rare white crocodile that can grow up to 23 feet. Another attraction of the region are the sprawling mangrove trees making it the second largest mangrove forest in India. There are several entrances available for the park, the most popular one of which is boating from Khola to Dangmal. This entrance allows you to walk through the dense forests and experience the rich ecosystem in all its glory. The visitors can also choose to stay at the forest guest houses if they want to spend the night maidst bounteous nature and rich wildlife.
Simlipal National Park
Reflecting the natural beauty of a bygone era, the Simlipal National Park is a beautiful and scenic place. Situated in Mayurbhanj, it once used to be a hunting ground for the rulers of the province. Simlipal is the largest wildlife sanctuary in India and is also considered as one of the principal tiger projects in India. It is part of the Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes three protected areas — Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary. The Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of red silk cotton trees growing in the area and is the 7th largest national park in India. The area is rich with dense forests, striking meadows, startling waterfalls and beautiful rivers. It is blessed with great bio-diversity and huge varieties of fauna that make it a great place to engage in wildlife sightseeing! Simlipal Reserve is home to more than 1000 varieties of plants. It has around 96 species of orchids that are endemic to the forest. Baripada is the nearest town to Simlipal and can be considered a gateway to the same.
The park has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani Falls. It is home to Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, gaur, and chausingha. Besides Simlipal provides habitat fo as well as an orchidarium. This protected area is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
The 175-metre high horsetail type, single fall cascade of Duduma waterfall tears through the rugged rocks of the Eastern Ghats and the dark green deciduous forest that is so widespread in this region. It creates an exhilarating scene amidst the rustic greenery right along the border of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Formed by the Machkund river, which gets its name from the pilgrimage site Matsya Kunda near Paderu in Andhra Pradesh, the fall has two sub-waterfalls, one on the Odisha side and the other on the Andhra Pradesh side. The grandeur of the falls is at its full display especially during and after the monsoon. Along with the picturesque waterfall, there is also a hydel power project plant and a customary dam to facilitate it. With prior permission from the authorities, you can pay a visit to the powerhouse and get a first-hand experience of how this alternate source of energy is created. Located around 70 km from Jeypore, Duduma attracts those who love nature and want to explore places beyond the stereotypical boundary of tourism.
The Chandka Elephant Sanctuary is a wildlife reserve located in the south fringe of Cuttack and is nestled on Khurdha uplands of the Eastern Ghats biotic region. The Chandaka Forest is spread over 175.79 sq km of rolling table land and small sprawling hillocks in the Khurdha and Cuttack districts. It was designated as an elephant reserve in December 1982. The floral diversity is distributed in six types and the Indian elephant is the flagship fauna species. There are a number of watch towers for visitors to observe wildlife. While the Kochilaberana, Pitagadia and Charichhak watch towers are excellent for observation of birds and animals, the ones at Kumarkhunti and Ambilo have the comfort of rest houses where one can make a night halt. There are also two water reservoirs, Deras Dam and Jhumka Dam, situated within the reserve. The cottages near Deras provide a scenic view of the Chandaka reserve and a chance to see wildlife.
Kotgarh Elephant Reserve
Situated in the Baliguda subdivision of the Kandhamal district the Kotgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is classified as an Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forest. Around 52 tribal villages such as Kutia Kondh and Desia Kondh inhabit the sanctuary. Designated and proposed reserve forests include Madagoda, Haripur, Lassery, Bonduru, Supamaha, Killangi, Subarnagiri and Guma. A known tiger habitat, the forest patch is adjacent to an old elephant corridor from Boudh, Karlapat and Lakhari valley in Gajapati district’s Gandahati waterfall region. The Kotgarh sanctuary is nominated to be a part of the proposed 14 elephant corridors for safe movement of the elephants which frequently come out of their habitation in search of food and water.
Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary
The Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Kalahandi district and a very popular tourist attraction Located around 12 km from Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of the Kalahandi district, the sanctuary covers an area of 175 sq km and lies within the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion. A beautiful waterfall, ‘Phurlijharan’ has been developed as a picnic spot for the local visitors and draws large number of visitors from far off places in and around Kalahandi District. The sanctuary is home to a plethora wildlife animals and birds.The sanctuary is rich in wildlife such as leopard, gaur, sambar, nilgai, barking deer, mouse deer,soft claws ottawa, a wide variety of birds and reptiles. The undulated topography of the sanctuary, with hills, valley, perennial streams and deep water pools give it an unique charm.