Chilka Lake in Orissa is Asia’s biggest internal salt water pond, spread ranging from 1165 sq km m the rainy season to 906 sq km in the dry season is nestled in the heart of the coastal Odisha (Orissa). This pear shaped lake, separated from the Bay of Bengal; also imbibes one of the most supportive ecosystem in the name of Chilka Lake Sanctuary in the region.
Some of the prominent islands like Nalabana, Kalijal, Somolo, Honeymoon, Break-fast, Birds and Rajahansa inhabited by small subsistence fishermen families, are popular destinations for daily boat trips. Because of its rich bio-diversity and socio-economic importance, Chilika was designated as a Ramsar site in 1981 to afford better protection.
With a wide range of flora, fauna and aquatic faunas, observed in and around the brackish water of the lake.
The area also proves an eminent witness of an array of avifaunal varieties, both native and migrant as their winter stopover to make this area most formidable in India. There are also fisheries and salt pans around its shores.
Apart from the most tranquil varieties of flora and fauna, Chilka Lake Sanctuary is favorably known for its dynamic sunrise and sunset views. Lots of people especially visit this sanctuary for this splendid view.
Chilika is recognized as one of the most important wetlands in the world because it is home to a phenomenal variety of birds. Chilika Lake offers visitors a spectacular display of its colorful avian charms in a thousand different hues presented by over 160 species in the peak season between November and February.
The lake and its reed islands teem with nesting birds-white bellied sea eagles, ospreys, golden plovers, sand pipers, flamingos, pelicans, shovellers, gulls, include migratory ones flying great distances from Iran, Central Asia and Siberia.
Flora in Nandan Kanan:
Chilka Lake is the most popular destination for eco-tourism in Orissa. Apart from having the presence of exotic wildlife in the area, the lake and its vicinity holds rich floral system with abundance of aquatic as well as non-aquatic plants.
The recent environmental survey revealed the presence of more than 710 species of plants in and around the Chilka Lake. Such a huge variety of flora and fauna including numerous rare and endangered species of all forms has been the main reason for considering Chilka Lake as Ramsar site.
Kalijai Temple Located on an island in the Chilika Lake, Kalijai Temple is one of the famous attractions. The temple worships Goddess Kalijai. The deity is highly revered among the locals as well as in their folklores and fables.
The island is also a mesmerizing destination for pilgrims as well as tourists and can be reached via a boat from Chilika Lake. Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great pomp and cheer at the temple that attracts numerous travelers & devotees.
Another major attraction at Chilika is Irrawady dolphins which are often spotted off Satpada Island. Satpada, bounded by the lagoon on three sides, offers an excellent view and attracts the visitors to its entire 30 km stretch of sand bar.
Boats arranged by OTDC are available for both the islands. The lake also supports the local fisherman in earning their living from Chilika’s prawn, mackerel and crabs.
Chilka Lake is being treated as the real paradise for the bird-lovers and ornithologists since the whole vicinity attracts large number of aquatic birds preferably in winters for the migratory counts.
The major species that can be witnessed as White bellied sea eagles, Graylag geese, purple moorhen, flamingo jacana and herons. Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary is also a habitant of one of biggest breeding places of flamingos in the world.