Known more for temples, monuments, and beaches, Odisha has higher number of wildlife spots. Let’s take out our safari boots and set out to survey these biodiversity hubs. By Shikha Pushpan
Located on the shores of Bay of Bengal, Gahirmatha Beach is the site of spectacular mass breeding of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. Every year, more than half a million turtles migrate to the beach from the Pacific Ocean, making it the largest nesting ground in the world.
Nestled in the lush Chandaka forest along the banks of Lake Kanjia, this sanctuary has the largest plantation of orchids in Odisha. Asiatic lions, Indian Pangolin, gharials, leopards, panther, and more than 70 species of birds are the other top attractions. The zoo runs adopt-an-animal programme, where wildlife enthusiasts can adopt anything from a bird to a tiger for a year.
Come here for sea, sand, mud, and marshy mangroves, all of which make the place a difficult yet fascinating terrain to explore. Bhitarkanika’s saltwater crocodiles are recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records for their size (23 feet). Also called the Amazon of India, the park can only be reached through waterways. Take a boat ride through the many creeks and rivers that crisscross the park to spot rare peacocks, king cobra, and python.
Escape to the Nalabana island in the centre of the Chilika Lake to see flocks of birds like goliath heron, flamingos, egrets, black-headed ibis, and migrants from as far as Caspian Sea, Mongolia, Iran and parts of Central and Southeast Asia. Persuade local fisherfolk to take you closer to nesting colonies of gull-billed terns and river terns on their wooden boats.
Satkosia is a 22 kilometre gorge created by the mighty river Mahanadi while cutting through the Eastern Ghats. It is the meeting point of two bio-geographic regions of India—the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats, making it one of the most picturesque ecosystems in India. The dense forest surrounding the deep gorge has been notified as the Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to tigers, gharial, mugger crocodiles, and avifauna.
A must visit for nature lovers, Simlipal has thick and green forests, sparkling waterfalls, roaring tigers, trumpeting tuskers, and much more creatures. An abode of the Royal Bengal tigers, the Similipal forests in Mayurbhanj district also give sanctuary to wild elephants, leopards, barking deer, mugger crocodiles, and terrapins. Make sure you also visit Barehipani waterfall, Joranda fall, Bachhuri Chara, and Meghasani peaks while you are there.
Home to tigers earlier, the Chandaka – Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary is the playground of elephants now. Situated on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, the forest has numerous watchtowers to get a glimpse of the jumbos, leopards, hyena, and wild boar. You are not allowed to dress in white or drive white vehicle in the sanctuary, as it tends to irritate animals. Watch sunset from the Deras Dam and go on elephant rides from the entrance points when you are done spotting the wild.