A placid water body set amidst the dramatic landscape of Odisha is the Chilka Lake. The serene waters and rich flora, fauna make this lagoon a top notch tourist destination every traveller needs to explore. It is a brackish (salt) water lagoon which spreads across Puri, Khurda and Ganjam, districts in Odisha, a state in the east of India.
It begins at the mouth of Daya River and flows into the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world. The lake covers a distance of 1165 sq km m in monsoon and 906 sq km when it’s dry. It is an ecosystem with massive fishery resources and has more than 150,000 fisher folk living in 132 villages across the shore and islands.
The arena is full of amazing aquatic flora, fauna which includes around 158 species of fishes and prawns, also crabs, crocodiles, snakes, lizards and turtles. Chilka Lake is one of the best bird watching spots in India, and is also popular for fishing and angling.
Chilka is recognized as one of the most important wetlands in the world since it is home to a variety of migratory birds and therefore was designated under the Ramsar Convention in 1981. The lake offers a mesmerizing display of its avian charms and reed islands with birds like white bellied sea eagles, ospreys, golden plovers, sand pipers, flamingos, pelicans, shovellers, and gulls.
Birds from remote areas such as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and Southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here.
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) surveyed the lake between 1985 and 1988 and identified 800 species of fauna, including many rare, endangered, threatened and vulnerable species, but excluding terrestrial insects.
Places to visit around Chilka Lake are
It is situated on an island in the Chilka Lake and is one of the famous attractions here. The deity of this temple is Goddess Kalijai and is highly revered among the locals in their folklores and fables. The island itself is a soothing location and can be accessed via boat from Chilka Lake.
It is a large island which covers 16 sq km of the lagoon and was declared a bird sanctuary Wildlife Protection Act in 1987. It is an attraction to 400,000 waterfowls of different species. However the island is submerged underwater during monsoon and gradually emerges in summer. It is a paradise for bird- watchers.
It is a holy city famous for its Jagannath temple built in the 11th century. The other attraction here is the beach which is great for some exotic experience laying in sun and sand.
It is located 12 km from Chilka Lake and is a perfect picnic spot with a tantalizing landscape.
It is situated at a distance of 55 km from Puri on the eastern side of Chilka Lake with the lagoon surrounded on three sides making it an amazing tourist destination for those seeking solitude. The Irrawady dolphins are another attraction here which can’t be missed.
It is situated at the southern end of the lake and is basically a group of islands which include The Beacon Island, The Breakfast Island and Honeymoon Island. All of these have significant amount of things to explore and are hence a must visit.
The other places which are equally important to capture Chilka Lake to the fullest are Somolo and Dumkudi Islands, Bird’s Island, Parikud, Barunkuda, Manikpatna, and Mangalajodi.
Sand-bar and Mouth of the lake are an unexplored stretch of empty beach which separates the lake from the sea.
There are many excursions carried out here which include Gopalpur on Sea which is a beach turned into a popular tourist spot. The others include Taptapani a hot spring, Banpur and Narayani which are temples.
The eco-tourism here is expected to provide an alternate employment to the locals who reside here. However, over the years, Chilka has encountered various problems and threats like shrinkage of water surface area, decline of biodiversity and a lot more. Free press Journal requests its readers to come forward and take an initiative to safeguard a haven like this so that it can be sustained.