Chilka Lake National Park
The Chilka Lake in Orissa is Asia's largest inland salt-water lagoon. Studded
with small islands- including the picturesquely-named Honeymoon Island and
Breakfast Island- the lake is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy
ridge. The pear-shaped lake spreads across 1,100 sq km, and has a unique
ecosystem with a range of aquatic flora and fauna found in and around its
brackish waters. An impressive array of bird life, both native and migrant,
makes Chilka one of the best places in India for a bit of satisfying bird-watching.
White bellied sea eagles, greylag geese, purple moorhen, jacana, herons
and flamingos are among the many species which make the lake a bird watcher's
delight: Chilka, in fact, is home to one of the world's largest breeding
colonies of flamingos.
Other than the birds, Chilka's shores are home to blackbuck, spotted deer,
golden jackals and hyenas, and the lake is rich in aquatic life- its waters
harbour around 160 species of fish, crustaceans and other marine creatures,
including the famous Chilka dolphin. Prawn, crab and mackerel fishing are
an important source of livelihood for the local people, and hundreds of
small fishing boats set sail each morning to bring in the day's catch from
the lake. he Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve harbours Indias second largest
pachyderm population, and the chances of seeing elephant herds is pretty
high, especially during the dry season.
Chilka is approximately 120 km from Bhubaneshwar, the nearest airport; state
transport, OTDC tour buses and private operators ply the roads between Chilka,
Puri, Behrampore, Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack. The nearest railway stations
are at Rambha and Balugaon, both of which have train connections to cities
as distant as Kolkata, Puri, Hyderabad and Chennai. From both Balugaon and
Rambha buses are available to the lake.
Local transport is basically limited to three wheel rickshaws and auto
rickshaws, bicycles and cars are sole modes of private transport. The
services of local boatmen and the OTDC's motorboats are available for
access to the islands though outboard motors are not allowed near the
bird sanctuary. OTDC boats can be hired at Barkul, and cost between Rs
410 (for a 7-seater boat) to Rs 790 (for a 34-seater boat) per hour. A
special tour is operated by the OTDC between Barkul and Kalijai, and costs
Rs 40 per head.
Best time to visit
The weather remains moderately warm the whole year round, so come 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. Pilgrims flock here
in January during Makar Mela (at the time of Makar Sankranti) to pay obeisance
to the Goddess Kalijai, whose temple is situated on Kalijai island in