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Odisha Welcomes You…. The Mesmerising Chilika Lake

Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas, to feed and breed in the fertile waters of Chilika lake; which can be visited most conveniently through Balugaon, Barkul, Rambha and Satpada close to Puri.

After a long spell of COVID, do you like to visit, relax and rejuvenate? Yes, world Chilika Lake will certainly be one of the best ecotourism destinations for you and your family members. Situated on the east coast of India, and connected to the Bay of Bengal through a narrow sea mouth, Chilika is a lagoon. It is the largest brackish Water Lagoon with estuarine character. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for at least part of their life cycle.

Just south of Sri Jagannath Puri, the sea mixes with the 1100 sq.km inland Chilika Lake to create the largest brackish water lake in Asia. These shallow waters enclose an immense area of marshes, lowlands, and islands. It abounds with a variety of fish, crabs, prawns throughout the year and migratory birds make it their home in winter. Chilika is worth visiting round the year. However, the winter months, when the air reverberates with the din of the birds, are the nicest times. The tourists around the globe visit this wonderful lagoon from this month onwards, as the climate is cool and serene.

This brackish water lake attracts around 150 species of migratory birds every year during winter and hence is a bird-watcher’s paradise. It is an interesting world of around 158 different species aquatic & wild life including insects, mollusks, fishes, prawns, amphibians, reptiles, birds and animals. Limbless skink, a rare reptile which was discovered for the first time from loose soil, attaches much significance to this place. Chilika supports some of the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country, particularly during the winter. Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas, to feed and breed in its fertile waters. In 1989-90 an estimated two million birds visited the Lake.

On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India. The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act.

The Lake is dotted with a number of islands. The Island of Nalabana, 8 km in circumference occupies a unique place in the vast expanse of Chilika Lake as it happens to be a sanctuary and the central refuge point for the migratory birds. Kalijai Island is the abode of Goddess Kalijai, venerated by the local fisher folks. This island plays host to a huge fair on ‘Makar Sankranti’ held annually in the month of January. The large fishing community adds flavor to the lake. Rajhansa Island near the confluence of the lake and sea (New Mouth) offers a fantastic beach. The Irawady Dolphins can be seen palyfully cavorting in the channels approching the sea mouth near Satapada. Some of the Islands bear romantic names like Honeymoon Island and Breakfast Island.

The waterspread area of Chilika varies between 1165 to 900 sq.km during the monsoon and summer respectively. A 32 km long, narrow, outer channel connects the main lagoon to the Bay of Bengal. The mouth connecting the channel to the sea is close to the Northeastern end of the lagoon.

Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon. Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha are the main railway stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon. The pear-shaped lagoon is about 64.5 km long and its width varies from 18 km to 5 km. Lagoon Basin. 52 number of rivers and rivulets drain into Chilika Lagoon .

Chilika can be visited through many points but the most convenient ones are Balugaon, Barkul, Rambha  and Satpada close to Puri. Barkul, Rambha, Balugaon and Satpada are the bases for visiting Chilika, where boats can be hired. To cruise on Chilka Lake as well as to visit islands, motorized and speed boats are available with public operator OTDC and other private operators at these places.

The tourists may approach Chilika lake through the nearest Airport at Bhubaneswar, nearest Railway Station at Balugaon and Rambha on East Coast Rly and National High Way No. 5 which touches Chilika at Balugaon, Barkul and Rambha. While the distance of Balugaon is 96 Kms., Barkul 105 Kms., Rambha 130 Kms. and Satapada 105 kms. from Bhubaneswar, the distance from Berhampur to Balugaon is 84 Kms., Barkul 75 Kms.and Rambha 50 Kms. One may visit Chilika lake approaching from Puri too. Tourists can stay in any hotel which suits their pocket – ranging from star category posh resorts to lodging homes located in the townships surrounding the lagoon. Public sector OTDC provides accommodation through its Panthanivas.

To visit the islands as well for cruising inside the lake, visitors can avail of the water transport facilities of the OTDC Ltd. at Barkul and Rambha and of the Revenue Department at Balugaon. Country boats can also be hired from private operators at these places.

The Temperature in and around the Chilika lake in Winter 17°C and it is 31 °C during Summer. Light cotton clothing in summer and light woolen in winter is required for the visitors.The local people and the tourism related stake holders understand and speak Oriya, Hindi and English. People love to visit the lagoon from October to February.

About Janakish Badapanda

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