Chilika: Lagoon, birds and dolphins
Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish lagoon, is a popular destination for migratory birds during the winters. Chilika with its unique, intricate and delicate combination of sweet water, salt water and brackish water provides the birds and resident aquatic animals with an ideal environment to feed and breed. The ecosystem with sprawling area of marshes, lowlands, and islands, hosts a huge variety of fishes and more than 160 varieties of birds, some of them highly endangered.
Between December and February, nature enthusiasts flock here to watch flamingos, pelicans, painted storks, fish eagles, ospreys and kites- reaching here from Siberia, Iran and the Himalayas. The best way to see the lake and the birdlife are on boats that can be hired from Barkul, Rambha, Balugaon and Satapada. Satapada, on the south of the lake, is famous for the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. Chilika is practically the last refuge of these beautiful species. The hills and sandy stretches along the lake support rich biodiversity of flora and fauna including cheetals, blackbucks, monkeys, fishing cats, mongoose, and porcupines.
One can visit the many islands dotting the lake. Popular among these are the Nalbana Island, that was once known for viewing of migratory birds close-up. Unfortunately, the visits are now restricted and tourists are now only allowed to see them from a safe distance. Similarly the Kalijai Island is home to the Goddess Kalijai, revered by the locals.