Not more than one hour's drive, south-west of Puri, is the Chilka
lake, noted for the many migratory birds which flock here each
December-January. Known as the Honeymoon Island or Breakfast Island,
this 1,100 sq. km shallow lake is Asia's largest salt water lagoon and
is separated from the sea only by a narrow sand bar. The lake is
peppered with many small rocky islands and is a vast reserve for
aquatic flora and fauna. It is also a premier training establishment
for sailors of the Indian Navy. After recruitment, all sailors undergo
their basic naval training here for about 6 months before they branch
off into various trades for specialized training.
¤ Chilka Lake Attractions
This part-salty and part-fresh water lake attracts around 150
species of migratory birds every year during winter and hence is a
bird-watcher's paradise. This natural habitat of varied species of
flora, harbours the 'aquatic vegetation' of its own by providing
refuge to many extinct species. The dunes and sandy areas of the
beaches by the lake have the floral composition of their own, favoured
in the conditions they offer. The water and the land go hand in hand
to create a new world for around 158 different species of entities,
including insects, mollusca, fishes, prawns, amphibians, reptiles,
birds and animals. Limbless skink, 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.
The temple is dedicated to Kalijai who is believed to be an
incarnation of Goddess Kali. The temple is located on one of those
emerald green islands, that dot the lagoon. Interestingly, the depth
of lake around the island is not yet known.
Another island in the cluster, Nalabana, boasts of a superb beach
with golden sand and blue water. One can enjoy boating and fishing at
leisure. A nice place to hang around, this island also has patches of
green forests holding hidden ecological treasures in its pockets.
Every year, the migratory birds compensate their stay by providing
stupefying photographic safaris.
Cruise on Chilka Lake
To cruise on Chilka Lake as well as to visit discrete islands,
motorised yatch and speed boat services are available at fixed rates
from OTDC. You can also hire a sea kayak from Orrisa Tourism's Water
Sports Complex (WSC) to explore the Nalaban island.
Enjoy delicious sea food preparations in patta (leaf plates), here
in Chilka. Satiate your taste buds with fresh Tiger Prawns, Red Crabs
and other fish delicacies in food stalls set up by the locals.
¤ Best Time to Visit
Chilka Lake is a all season destination, but ornithologists should
make a trip during December-January. As per the 2005 census, 2.36 lakh
of avian guests were seen in the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, who left
eternal impression on the minds of the tourists.
Numerous hotels, rest houses, villas and huts are dotted in and
around the lake. Some places of accommodation are owned and managed by
OTDC, while others are maintained privately. Moreover, at the southern
end of the lake, there are tourist bungalows at Rambha and Barkul
which is 6 km north of Balugaon railway station.
¤ How to Reach
Nearest airport is Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar, 105 km from
Barkul and 135 km from Rambha. The nearest railhead is at Balugaon, on
south-eastern railway which is directly connected to Kolkata, Puri,
Orissa, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Both Barkul and Rambha, the nearest
destinations to Chilka, are situated on National Highway 5. Regular
buses ply between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur, while stopping en route
at Barkul and Rambha. Auto and cycle-rickshaws are available at both
Barkul and Rambha to convey visitors to the lake.