Chilka Lake is the largest salt water lake in Asia. Best time to visit the lake is during the months of October to March. It is during this period that more than fifty species of gorgeous migratory birds arrive to their annual migration. Chilka boasts of thousands of native and migrant birds. The varieties of birds are from faraway places like from the distant Siberia. The marvelous beauty of Chilka has inspired poets and to sing its glory. The atmosphere is peaceful amidst the blue stretch of water on one side and an evergreen range of hills on the other side.
In the month of January, pilgrims flock the area because of Makar Mela and offer puja to Goddess Kalijai. The water spread of the lagoon varies between 1165 sq.km in monsoon to 906 sq.km during summer. The lake is nearly seventy five kilometer long and has width of about fifteen kilometers.
Chilka Lake is situated on the eastern coast of Orissa. It runs along the boundaries of three districts of Orissa which are Puri, Ganjam and Khurda, finally entering the Bay of Bengal.
Chilka Lake is at a distance of about 120 km from the capital of Orissa, Bhubaneswar, which is the nearest airport. One can opt for regular buses running from Puri, Behrampore, Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. This beautiful lake is accessible from Rambha and Balugaon railway stations. Trains from Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai can be accessed.
One can come to Chilka Lake by driving through National Highway number five. One can avail the facilities of three wheeler rickshaws, auto rickshaws, bicycles and cars on rent to roam around the area at ease.
Several ancient texts have mentioned Chilka as a chief port. Renowned Chinese explorer Fa-Hien also referred to a port from where ships took off for South East Asia. This port was believed to be situated at Chhatragarh on the banks of the Chilka Lake. Some archaeological excavations of the seventh century have stated that ship anchors were here. Some documents of the tenth century documents referred to the Chilka Lake as being a very important port and haven for ships leaving for Asia.
Radiocarbon dating discovered that initially the site is located on the left bank of the river Malaguni, a watercourse of the river Daya, which runs into Chilka Lake. This location, which gave way to the sea through Chilka Lake, bears witness of the maritime activities of the expanse. Many woodworking works of art explains that this area was a centre for boat-building. Golabai is the only unearthed site in Orissa where boat-building has been exposed. This also indicates that Chilka Lake was very close to Golabai, where boats were built. It helped the maritime operations of people in the area during the prehistoric era.
Chilka Lake experiences fairly warm weather throughout the year. But it is recommended not to visit this beautiful lake during the monsoons which starts from the month of June and stretches till September.
One can not only view the magnificent birds but also enjoy boat rides in the lake. Islands like Breakfast Island, Kalijai Island, Honeymoon Island, Birds Island, Nalabana, Parikud Island and many more are some of the significant spots on the large brackish water lake.
Touring in the lake is the most sought after activity by the tourists. One can take a boat ride to all the islands which are certainly going to be a breathtaking experience. Boating in Barkul will enthrall the tourists. Water Scooters and Pedal Boats costing around seventy five rupees per ride are available. Drivers of speedboats allow commuters to drive if requested. To top it all there is a boating club in nearby Tampara. The best time for boating is just prior to sunrise because it is really splendid to see the rising sun from the horizon and birds flying in all directions.
Chilka Lake is also home to abundant marine as well as non-aquatic plants. According to a recent survey, more than seven hundred and ten species of plants are found in and around the Chilka Lake. Such a huge diversity of flora and fauna including several rare and uncommon species has been the main reason for considering Chilka Lake as Ramsar site. There are more than 300 marine species, which includes more than 250 fish species, 28 prawns and over thirty species of crabs are reported out of which 65 species breed in the lake. Chilka Lake has around twenty seven species of freshwater fishes and 2 genres of prawns.
Find out all about the serene islands on Chilka Lake.
Nalabana Island is also referred to as the Island of Reeds. This is a bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act. This is a huge island in the center of the lake. This place is a treat for bird-watchers in the winter months. This island is totally flooded in the monsoon months. The Island of Nalabana is spread around an area of 8 km and occupies a unique place in the vast area of Chilka Lake.
This was a former poacher’s village which has turned out to be a community owned wildlife project. The community is maintained by Mangalajodi Ecotourism.
Here one can view the breath taking sight of birds in their natural habitat. This place is a heaven for local as well as migratory birds.
It is an abode of Goddess Kalijai. Pilgrims assemble here in the month of January during Makar Mela held at the time of Makar Sankranti to offer prayers to the Goddess. This place is very close from Barkul. Here one can find flocks of peacocks roaming here and blending with the devotees.
According to legends around 2300 years ago, a girl named Kali drowned, near the currently placed Kalijai Temple, while returning to her maternal home from her husband’s place. A few years later her sister, Jai, came searching for Kali and landed on the island. She died on the island for reasons which are mysterious. Since then, fishermen and local people used to frequently hear cries of two girls at night. Soon after this temple was constructed, the cries stopped automatically. In the past fishermen used to visit the temple before going into the deep sea, but today, it is just another tourist spot.
This area is located near the Dolphin point. It is here that the acutely rare Irrawady dolphins and bottle-nosed dolphins can be seen sometimes. Chilka Lake is one of the only two lagoons in the world where Irrawady dolphins can be seen.
This place is flocked by tourists for its picturesque natural landscape.
This place is merely a twenty minutes boat ride from Rambha. Tourists can pack their breakfasts from the OTDC Panthanivas at Rambha and have it here in perfect surroundings. The Beacon Island and Honeymoon Island are also located nearby.
Chilka Lake is one of the biggest nesting grounds for not only migratory birds but also residential birds in India. It boasts of being one of the richest bio diversity areas. It is also named as Chilka Bird Sanctuary. This place houses more than one hundred fifty species of migratory and residential birds.
It is said that, over million migratory birds snuggle here during the winter season. If you love to watch birds and are passionate about them, then winter season is the best time for one to visit Chilka Lake. Many rare birds are also in the list of birds that frequent Chilka.
The migratory avi-fauna come here from as far as Iran, Siberia, Afghanistan and the Himalayas. Few species of birds are White bellied sea Eagles, Flamingos, Storks, Egrets, Gray and Purple Herons, and White Ibis, Brahminy Ducks, Shovellers, Spoonbills and Pintails. Apart from Avifauna, Chilka Lake is equally prosperous in marine life as well.
More than two hundred species of fishes have been found here. Irrawady Dolphins are one of the major attractions found here and is famous among sightseer and kids.
Not alone Chilka but many other places around the lake attract tourists equally.
This place is about twenty two km from Chilka Lake. It is said that Goddess Narayani beautifies the valley hill-top which is surrounded by a stream. This place serves as an ideal picnic spot.
It is at a distance of eleven kilometers from Chilka Lake. Nirmaljhara has earned its name as the best place for picnic as well as pilgrimage. It is a watercourse that appears out from the feet of a Vishnu image and adds to the significance and sacredness of the place.
It is located at about forty two kilometers from Chilka Lake. It is famous for the ancient temple of Goddess Bhagabati. Banpur has earned iconic status as a hub of religious activities. It was once the capital of Sailodvaba dynasty, in charge for the construction of the early temples in Bhubaneswar.
The large number of Buddhist images found at Banpur proves that the place is the site for Buddhist art and culture. The temple of “Dakshya Prajapati” is a fine example of extraordinary artistic excellence of Oriya art. Banpur is just eight kilometers away from Balugaon and forty two kilometres from Rambha and around hundred kilometers from Bhubaneswar.
The area of the Chilika Lake, not including the area declared as Sanctuary has been declared as a ‘Closed Area’ for a phase of 5 years with effect from sixteenth December 2002. The State Environment Department and the Chilka Development Authority have undertaken several measures for conservation and management of this exclusive wetland and its rich multifariousness, with the support of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Some measures like Protection of migratory waterfowl and other species against poaching, Weed control, restoration of the feeding and roosting habitat of water fowl, Community participation, Promotion of eco-tourism etc. have been adopted.
Hosts of local hotel are available here. One can also enjoy their stay at OTDC Guest House and Panthanivas. Numerous state owned and private hotels are available which provides first class fooding and lodging. At the southern end of the lake, there are tourist bungalows at places like Rambha and Barkul which is around six kilometers north of Balugaon railway station. Chilka is well known for aquatic food like red crabs and tiger prawns, so one can definitely savour to these mouth watering delicacies here.
The Lake can be visited from morning 7 am to 6 pm daily during the summers. In the winters the Lake is open from 8 am and open till 6 pm in the evening.
With a group of islands having romantic names, a cruise in Chilika Lake will be a life-long memory. One should not miss an opportunity to visit this beautiful place.
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