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Chilika Lake: A Bird Watcher’s Paradise

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India is rich in birds, with over 13% of the world’s birds being found here. Blessed with the cool snows of the Himalayas, the dry heat of the Thar, the humid green of the South and the swamps and sea of our coastlines, India is home to some of the most sought after birds in the world. Watching birds in India is not just incredibly rewarding; it’s a step closer to truly understanding the Indian wild.
| Birds in Chilka | Not just birds | Places to see | Places Around | Getting There |
| Accommodation |

If you are looking to be swayed by the beauty and variety of birds, Chilika Lake no wonder is the place to go. With an extensive area of 1100 sq km, the Chilika Lake is located to the south west of Puri, a major pilgrim destination well known for the famous Rath Yatra. The Chilka Lake extends from Bhsandpur in Puri district in the north to Rambha-Malud in Ganjan district in the south, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a 60 km long narrow strip of marshy islands. Chilika is just not the largest brackish water lake in Asia but also a treasure trove of some of the most amazing birds that one can get to see on earth.

Chilka Lake

With a length of 64 km and width that varies between 5 km and 18 km, Chilika Lake has a number of small islands. Some of the well known islands like Kalijal, Somolo, Nalabana, Honeymoon, Birds, Breakfast and Rajahansa are inhabited by fishermen families and are popular destinations for daily boat trips. Keeping in view the rich bio-diversity and socio-economic importance, the Chilika Lake was designated as a Ramsar Site in 1981 to emphasis its better protection.

Popular for the birds that come from as far as Siberia to make the lagoon their temporary home in winter, Chilika has a sizeable presence of resident birds. It is no less than a bird lover’s paradise as nearly 900,000 migratory birds of 158 different species were sighted here recently. Nalabana, an island in the lake alone had 450,000 birds recently. The Chilka Lake is not only an ornithologist’s paradise, but it is also a must visit for the common tourists. Boating in the crystal clear water of the lake and watching so many beautiful feathered creatures surely adds to the experience.

Chilka Birds

The Chilka Lake is dotted with a number of islands and each of these islands is a tourist attraction in itself. Nalbana, as mentioned above is perhaps the most popular, is the forest of reeds which has made a name for itself because of the migratory birds which come here. The well known Chilka dolphins are to be sighted in Satapada. The most reputed of them all is the Birds Island where you can see the largest number of birds in their natural habitat. Each of these islands is a treat to visit and contributes to the popularity of Chilika as a lake bird sanctuary.

Birds in Chilika lake
Best Time to Visit Chilika
Best time to go: October to June is fine but the best is till February, because this the time when migratory birds can be seen here in large numbers. Avoid rainy season.
The Chilika Lake offers the largest gathering of migratory birds in the country. No wonder, it was declared one of the six wetlands of international importance at the Ramsar Convention on Migratory Species of Arctic and Central Asian Waterfowl. The lake and its islands teem with nesting birds like white bellied sea eagles, ospreys, golden plover, sand pipers, pelicans, shovellers, gulls, flamingos…etc., which come from as far as Central Asia and Siberia.

The Nalabana Island that covers about 16 sq km was declared a bird sanctuary. Its core area (about 9 sq km) attracts around 400,000 waterfowls of different species.

Not just birds in Chilika Bird Sanctuary
Chilka Dolphins

The Chilika Lake is not only about birds, another major attraction at the lake is Irrawady dolphins, which are often spotted off Satpada Island. Satpada is bounded by the lagoon on three sides, and presents an excellent view and draws tourists to its entire 30 km stretch of sand bar.

Chilka Golden Jackals

There's more. Chilka's shores are home to spotted deer, blackbuck, 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. The lake also supports the locals in earning their livelihood. Prawn, crab and mackerel fishing are an important source of livelihood for the fishermen, and hundreds of small fishing boats set sail each morning to bring in the day's catch from the lake.

Places to see in Chilika Bird Sanctuary

Rambha:  A beautiful island, located at the southern end of the lagoon is an ideal picnic spot. Not too far from Rambha Panthanivas is Becon Island where one finds a conical pillar and a small room constructed on a submerged mass of rock near the Ghantasila hill.

Breakfast Island: The Island is also known as ‘Sankuda (shank) island’ because of its pear shape.  It has a number of rare plants and a dilapidated bungalow constructed by the then King of Kalikote.

Chilka Kalijai Island

Kalijai Island: Famous as a center of religious worship, the island has a temple of Goddess Kalijai. Legend has it that Kalijai was a young girl who died while crossing the lake. Following her death, a temple was built in her honour and it’s a ritual for every fisherman who passes through the island to pay their homage to her and hope that she will protect them.

Honeymoon Islands/ Barkuda Island: Just 5 km away from Rambha is a great site for picnic. The rare lizard Barkudia insularis is a resident of this island.

Parikud and Malud:  It is an ideal spots for bird watchers in winter season.

Bird's island: The Island is home to some rare herbs, shrubs, trees and creepers and is located 4 km away from Rambha. Its uniqueness lies in its white granite rocks which are a result of bird droppings.

Places to stay in Chilika Bird Sanctuary
There are a few hotels on the banks of the lake including an OTDC run hotel and two tourist bungalows (the `Panthnivas' at Rambha and Barkul) that offer comfortable accommodation. A number of state-run as well as privately-operated hotels and rest houses and tourist lodges are also there. Details

Places Around

There are a number of places around Chilika that one can visit. Narayani Shrine (10 km away) and Bhagabati are two such places that one can explore. Nature lovers can head to Nirmaljhar Waterfall (12 km away) and Berbera Forest (5 km away).

Reaching Chilika Bird Sanctuary

By Air: The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar, 110 km away. You can hire a taxi or catch a bus from there to reach Chilika.

By Rail: Puri, 50 km away is the nearest railhead.

By Road: Chilika is approximately 120 km from Bhubaneswar. State transport buses and private buses ply between Chilka, Puri, Behrampore, Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack.

About Chilika: Chilika Information & Fact File
Altitude 0-2 meters
Summer 38 (Max) & 27(Min) Degrees Celsius
Winter 23 (Max) & 12 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Best time to Go October – June
Monsoon July - September
Summer April - June
Winter December - February
Clothes Cottons in summer and light-woolens in winter
Nearest Airport Bhubaneshwar, 110 km
Nearest Railway Station Puri, 50 km
Bus Station Chilika – Direct buses from Puri, Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar
Hospital & Doctor

Good medical aid is available at  a Civil & District Hospital at Puri (50 km)

Places to see Rambha Breakfast Island, Kalijai Island, Honeymoon Island, Barkuda Island, Parikud, Malud, Bird’s Island …
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