Chilka lake is the largest salt water coastal lagoon in Asia and 2nd largest in world. This lake is spread in the eastern coastal area India in three districts of Orissa state namely Puri, Ganjam & Khurda. Chilka is the largest watering ground in the Indian Sub-continent for the migratory birds which flock here each December-January during winter. This lake is a home to a large number of endangered species of animals, birds and plants. This 1100 sq km spread lake has a unique ecosystem with a range of aquatic flora and fauna found in and around its brackish waters with large fisheries and the livelihood of about 150000 fishermen living in 132 villages of the coastal islands depends on Chilka lake. This pear shaped lake consists of several islands namely Badakuda, Honeymoon, Kalijai Hill, Kanthapantha, Krushnaprasadrah (Old Parikuda), Nalabana, Nuapara and Sanakuda. One of the beautiful islands of Chilka Lake is the Nalbana islands. Chilka Lake is one of the best bird watching spots in India, and is also popular for fishing and angling.
More than 160 species of migratory birds come to Chilka during migratory season in winter(from November through March),. The migratory birds travel long distances approximately about 12000 kms to reach Chilka from Aral Sea, Lake Baikal, Caspian Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayan regions. Chilka in winter, becomes the bird-watcher’s paradise. White bellied sea eagles, greylag geese, purple moorhen, jacana, herons and flamingos, Storks and White Ibis, Spoonbills, Brahminy Ducks, Shovellers and Pintails are among the many species which make the lake a bird watcher’s delight. Chilka is the home to one of the world’s largest breeding colonies of flamingos. The remarkable assemblage of bird life, both native and migrant, makes Chilka one of the best tourist destinations in India for the bird-watchers. More than 225 species of fishes have been recorded here. Chilka Lake is also home to a wide variety of phytoplankton, algae and numerous aquatic as well as non aquatic plants. In a recent survey, more than 710 species of plants are found in and around the Chilka Lake. Chilka is the home to the only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India and one of only two lagoons in the world that are home to this species. This is a new world for around 158 different species of entities, including insects, mollusca, fishes, prawns, amphibians, reptiles, birds and animals. Limbless Lizards, a rare reptile which was discovered for the first time in 1917 from loose soil, attaches much significance to this place. You can always spot a dolphin or two here, while keeping an eye for Siberian cranes, especially near the sand bar where the lake runs into the sea. So to enjoy the trip up to its brim, it is a good idea to hire a boat.
A large variety of reptiles and aquatic mammal like Irrawadi Dolphins & the famous as well as endangered Olive Ridley Turtles are found in the sea coasts near Chilka lake. 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 crustaceans and other marine creatures including the famous Chilka dolphin along with the said around 160 species of fish. Prawn, crab and mackerel fishing are an important source of livelihood for the local people, and hundreds of small fishing boats set to sail daily to bring in the day’s catch from the lake. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve harbours India’s second largest pachyderm population, and the chances of seeing elephant herds is pretty high, especially during the dry season.
List of Flora, Fauna & Fishes found in Chilka –
Flora – Phytoplankton flora – 43 species, algal communities – 22 species, Vascular plants 711 species. Fauna – Fishes – 225 species, Protozoa – 61 species, Platyhelminthes- 29 species, NematodesNematodes – 37 species, Polychaetes –31 species, Mollusca – 136 species, Crustacea m- 28 species., Decapoda – 30 species, Amphibian & Reptile – 37 species, Birds – 205 species, and Mammals – 118 species.
Chilika Development Authority received the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award in November 2002, The award was presented to the for “outstanding achievements in the field of restoration and wise use of wetlands and effective participation of local communities in these activities”
The Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India awarded the prestigious Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Award–2002 to the Chilika Development Authority for the outstanding contribution of conservation and restoration of the Chilika lake eco-system.
Chilka lake can be visited through out the year as the climatic condition in Chilka is moderate warm round the year except rainy season in June to September. The best time to visit Chilka lake is October to March when the lake is crowded with 50-70 species of migratory birds. During the winter season Chilka becomes paradise for the bird- watchers and the ornithologists due to different migratory birds. During Makar- sankranti in January every year Makar-Mela is organised and pilgrims pay homage to the Goddess Kalijai in Kalijai island.
Several hotels, rest houses, villas and huts in different budget range depending upon the facilities are situated around the lake. OTDC is maintaining Panthanibas and tourists lodges on the bank of lake.At the southern end of the lake, at Rambha and Barkul there are tourist Bunglows which are 6 kms away from Balugaon railway station. There are OTDC Guest houses at Barkul, Rambha, Satapada & several hotels at Balugaon.
Balugaon, Khurda – 752030
At/P.O. Rambha, Ganjam – 761028
Visit Orissa Govt tourism Development Corporation website Panthanivas.com for booking and other details. There are few private hotels available at Balugaon for budget accomodations.
From Satapada side –
Via Brahmagiri, Dist. Puri Pin : 752001
Phone : 06752 262077
How to Reach –
By Air – The nearest airport from Chilka is Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar, which is 120 kms away, 105 km from Barkul and 135 km from Rambha, 110-km from Satpada. The Biju Patnaik airport is the only major airport in the state which is well connected to Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad, and Raipur through regular flights.
By Rail – The nearest railway station is Balugaon in south-eastern railway which is directly connected to Kolkata, Puri, Orissa, Hyderabad and Mumbai. The Calcutta-Chennai broad guage rail route of South Eastern Railway reaches Chilika Lake passing thrugh Balugaon, Chilika, Khallikote and Rambha stations.
By Road – Barkul and Rambha are the nearest destinations to Chilka which are situated on NH- 5. Regular buses ply between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur, while stopping en route at Barkul and Rambha. Tourists can also visit Chilka from Barkul and Rambha by Auto and Rickshaws. State transport corporation, OTDC tour buses and private operators ply buses between Chilka, Puri, Behrampore, Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack. Chilka is located at a distance of 48 Km from temple town of Puri. Plenty of buses and taxis are available for the travelers to reach from Puri to Chilka Lake. Not more than one hour’s drive, Chilka is situated at south-west of Puri.
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.
Cruise on Chilka Lake – To cruise on Chilka Lake and to visit different nearby islands, motorized and speed boats are available with OTDC and other private operators. Interested Tourists can also hire Sea Kayaks from Orissa Tourism’s Water Sports Complex to explore the Nalbana Island.
Enjoy Sea foods – In Chilka tourists can enjoy sea food preparations served on leaf plates. You can enjoy the delicious taste of fresh Tiger Prawns, Red Crabs and other fish dishes in food stalls set up by the local people.
Local Watchables –
Nalaban Island: Nalbana is one of the beautiful Islands in the Chilka lake with a covered area of 15 sq km long. Nalbana islands is the chief bird watching region and forms the core area of Chilka wildlife sanctuary and Ramsar designated wetland due to its variety of flora & fauna. Nalbana Island was declared a bird sanctuary under the Wild life Protection Act in 1973. During migratory season different species of migratory bird come here. In Nalaban Bird Sanctuary entry permit is required for visitors for which contact details are given below :-
Divisional Forest Officer, Rairakhol (T) Division,
Po. Rairakhol, Dist. Sambalpur, Orissa 06644, India.
In 2007, nearly 840,000 birds visited the lake, out of which 198,000 were spotted in Nalbana Island. On Jan 5, 2008, a bird census involving 85 wildlife officials counted 900,000 birds of which 450,000 were sighted in Nalabana. Nalbana Island is a beautiful beach with blue water and golden sand and tourists can enjoy boating and fishing here. It takes 3 to 4 hours of boat ride to reach Nalaban from the shores of Barakul.
Puri: The interested tourists can visit the temple city Puri, the Jagannatha Dham which is 48 kms from here and an hours journey by car from Chilka. The sea-shore in Puri is famous for bathing due to high tides. Lord Jagannatha temple which was built in 11th century is half kms distance from the Puri beach. Read More
The Nirmaljhar Waterfall: Nirmaljhar waterfalls is situated at a distance of 12 kms from Chilka lagoon . 11 Kms. from Rambha, Nirmaljhar has earned name as an ideal place of picnic as well as pilgrimage.A stream that emerges out from the feet of a Vishnu image enhances the importance and sanctity of the place.
Satpada: This beautiful island is situated at the junction point of the Chilka Lake & Bay of Bengal. Satpada is situated at 50 kms from Puri on the eastern side of Chilka Lake. Satapada Island is surrounded by lagoons from three sides which makes the place very picturesque and attracts tourist for its natural beauty. The Satapada Island is popular as a Dolphin-Spotting site. Tourists can enjoy adventure sports like boating, Kayaking & canoeing. At Satpada excellent accommodation facilities are available at OTDC Yatri Niwas.
Kalijai Temple – Kalijai temple is situated on a hill surrounded by blue water and according to local belief this Island is considered as the abode of Goddess Kalijai which is 18 kms away from Balugaon. The local people who are mainly fishermen by occupation believe that the Goddess Kalijai will save them from all the difficult situation and natural calamities and bring happiness to their life. You can visit the temple by traditional motor boats or wooden boats. Kalijai Island is famous center of religious worship due to the temple of Goddess Kalijai and a hosts a fair held on the occasion of Makara Sankranti during January every year.
Honeymoon Island – Honeymoon Island is one of the best preserved islands in the Chilka with most attractive ecotourism resort operated by OTDC. It is 5 kms away from Rambha jetty in Rambha Bay near the Sankuda Island and is also locally known as Barkuda Island. The water here is crystal clear with red and green algae and is also famous for limbless lizards.
The Breakfast Island – This pear shaped island is situated in the Rambha Bay between Badakuda and Somolo island and is locally known as Sankuda Island. The Island was full of lush greenery and rare species of flora & fauna. There are remains of the ruined house constructed by the King of Kalikote. Mr. Snodgrass the Collector of Ganjam under East India Company used to do his Office work on this Island.
The Beacon Island – Beacon Island is situated at 3 kms from Rambha. It is an architectural marvel with a conical pillar and a small room constructed on a submerged mass of rock in the Rambha bay near Ghantasila hill. Mr. Snodgrass the Collector of Ganjam under East India Company built this Island. The ornamental pillar was constructed to put a light on the top for boats. The water spread around the Beacon Island is very charming, surrounded by the Eastern Ghat.
Somolo and Dumkudi islands, located in the Central and Southern sectors of the lake, in the backdrop of scenic Khalikote hill range, are inundated remnants of the Eastern Ghats with rich flora and fauna and also known for sighting of Irrawaddy Dolphins.
Situated in the Central and Southern sectors of the lagoon, these islands are inundated remnants of the Eastern Ghats. Though rocky, they are rich in flora and fauna. Dolphins are often sighted on the peripheral waters of Somolo island. A scenic and unique backdrop to Somolo is the Khalikote hill range.
Birds’ island is situated in the southern sector of the Chilka lake. This is a small hilly Island with huge exposed hanging rocks. It is 4 kilometers away from Rambha Tourist Bungalow, and 1 kilometer away on the Eastern side of the Ghantasila hill. The island is covered with herbs, shurbs, trees and creepers. The granite rocks are the remnants of Eastern Ghats. Some of the huge rocks are painted white because of the folic acid from the droppings of the Birds. Some residential birds use the island as perching ground. During winter season, the migratory birds are sighted here. It is known for its rich algal communities and few mangrove species.
Parikud is a group of composite islands which constitute the Garh Krishnaprasad Block which is ideal spot for nature lovers and provides an avian spectacle during winter season.
SAND-BAR AND MOUTH OF CHILIKA LAGOON :
A beautiful and endless un-explored stretch of empty beach exists across the sand bar which separates the Lagoon from the Sea. The entire stretch is more than 30 Kms. It can be developed for extending the camping facility to the high budget tourists