Bhitarkanika National Park Odisha

Bhitarkanika, lying in the estuarine region of Brahmani-Baitarani rivers in the North-Eastern corner of Kendrapara district of Odisha, is the second largest viable mangrove eco-system of India. This huge area of mangrove forests and wetland is intersected by a network of creeks with Bay of Bengal on the East. It houses some 215 species of birds, including wetland migrants from central-Asia and Europe, menacing salt water or estuarine crocodiles, and a lot of other fauna species like spotted deer, hyenas, fish cats, leopard cats, and big monitor lizards.

This is one of best spots for wildlife and nature lovers. It is a heaven for bird watchers, ornithologists and wildlife and nature photographers. Those who believe in visiting real remote villages of India, Bhitarkanika is an obvious choice, for it is surrounded by a large number of villages – a must visit for those who think of rural tourism.

Bhitarkanika includes Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha.

Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary

An area of 672 square Kilometer was designated as Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary through a notification in 1975. The Sanctuary, which comprises of mangrove forests with diverse variety of mangrove flora species, has rivers meandering through it making several channels of different dimensions.

The Sanctuary was formed to conserve the endangered salt water crocodiles, also called estuarine crocodiles. Besides estuarine Crocodiles, the Sanctuary is rich in avifauna, mammalian and reptilian population. This has proved to be a good habitat for cobras, Indian Python and Water and Monitor Lizards. A large number of water birds visit Bagagahan heronry which is spread over an area of approximately four hectare. These birds start coming towards the end of June and remain in Bagagahan heronry till November, but by the first week of December they start migrating out from here. Stork variety birds, most prominent being Asian Open Bill storks come in huge numbers and some reside here permanently. Other than these, egrets, black ibis, cormorants, darters, parakeets, and kingfishers are also found in good numbers.

Bhitarkanika National Park

The core area of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has been notified as Bhitarkanika National Park since 1998. This is spread over an area of 145sq km. This area has much significance with regard to ecological aspects which include mangrove forests, rivers, creeks, backwaters, estuaries and salt water crocodiles. This National Park in Odisha has one of the biggest estuarine crocodile habitats in India.

Time to Visit

Open For Tourists: 1st August to 30th April every year

Closed for Tourists: 1st May to 31st July every year and for around 10 days in Winters (usually in the 1st and 2nd week of January. Dates are, however, not fixed and can change from year to year) for Crocodile and bird census

Best time to visit for birds: – 1st August to 20th November

Best time to visit for crocodiles: – 1st October to 20th of April

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Stretch of water body from old light house near Batighar to Maipura river mouth was declared as Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in 1997. This is world’s largest known rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtle. Mass congregation of Olive Ridley turtles for mating and nesting enthralls both the scientists and nature lovers throughout the world. It was the rarity of mass congregation and the cruelty meted out to these innocent marine creatures which paved the way for creation of Gahirmatha (Marine) Wildlife Sanctuary.

Gahirmatha Sanctuary has a stretch of virgin beach from Barunei mouth to Ekakula. This huge beach stretch is accessible at a few places – Habalikhati (or Habalikuti) and Pentha being the most prominent. Pollution free, serene surrounding, casuarinas trees doting beach stretch at several places and flat bed – all these make the beach a treat for tourists and beach lovers.

The total area of the sanctuary is 1435 Square Kilometer which includes 1408 Square Kilometer of water body and 27 Square Kilometer of land mass including reserve forests, mud flats and accreted sand bars. Core area of the sanctuary consists of 725.50 Square Kilometer and the buffer zone accounts for 709.50 Square Kilometer. The entire sanctuary area comes within the revenue district of Kendrapara.

One can visit Habalikuti to get a glimpse of Gahirmatha. This can be accessed by boat only. There are forest accommodations available at Habalikuti. Once can enjoy the beach and also enjoy the forest area running parallel to the beach. Some good bird sightings are also possible at Habalikuti.