Tourism in Odisha is never complete without paying a visit to the habitats of a fantastic variety of wildlife. Odisha is one of the significant states comprising exclusive wildlife sanctuaries and attracting innumerable tourists from all around the globe. Not only does one witnesses an assorted range of fauna and flora, but the diversity in topography spellbound everybody. The ecological changes and environmental factors from region to region make Odisha’s wildlife as exciting as it is diverse. The State of Odisha has dedicated around 4.1 per cent of its total geographical area (which is 10.37 per cent of the total geographical area which is 10.37 per cent of the total forest area to the wildlife protection drive.
Today, Odisha’s numerous sanctuaries, both large and small, shows a notable role in the assurance of wildlife, while they have proved to be delightful heaven to the nature-lovers. Seven major sanctuaries have built their names in the international environment map, while other shelters do exceptional service to their wildlife habitats.
Bhitarakanika National Park is one of the oldest and most famous wildlife sanctuaries in Odisha. Let’s explore more-
Bhitarkanika is located in the north-eastern part of coastal Odisha which is spread over an area of 672 sq. Km with a park covering 380 sq. Km, including 115.50 sq. Km of mangrove forest. Owing to its various ecosystem, Bhitarakanika was declared as a sanctuary in 1975 and announced as a National Park in 1998. On the 19th of August 2002, its mangrove was represented as a Ramsar site being a wetland of international significance. This sanctuary is located at the tip of the green delta formed by the Mahanadi, Brahmani and Vaitarani rivers.
Bhitarakanika exemplifies one of the most outstanding inventions ever as it presents an unusual environmental and ecological phenomenon. The natural stretching beaches, dense green mangroves, migrating birds and turtles, the impending estuarine crocodiles, nomadic watercourses, peaceful surroundings hindered by the chirping of birds make the ever scenery that spellbinds visitors of flock these unique places of tourist interest. The sea, sand, mud, creeks, wildlife and scenic beauty of the area make it the most sought after ecological destination.
A diversity of plants are seen putting up abundant growth in this inter-tidal habitat. These species are indigenous to the area and are called mangroves. Mangroves play a vital role in the coastal ecosystem. Some species occurring outside the inter-tidal environment are called associates of mangroves. As many as 62 species of mangroves and their associates are found in Bhitarakanika. It is the second-largest viable mangrove ecosystem in India after the Sundarbans in West Bengal.
Bhitarakanika Wildlife Sanctuary covers over an area of 672 sq. Kilometres. The sanctuary spanning mangroves forests, rambling rivers and multitudinous crisscrossed tidal engulfed creeks provide the last refuge to the already endangered saltwater crocodile or crocodile porous. Besides crocodiles, the sanctuary is rich in avifauna mammalian and reptilian inhabitants. These mangrove forests are suitable habitats for King Cobra, the Indian python and water monitor lizard. Bhitarakanika Sanctuary is home to the largest number of saltwater crocodiles in the country. It has not only the world’s biggest saltwater crocodile but also white crocodiles.
Bhitarakanika National Park
This park is located at village Dangmal which is the hub area of Bhitarakanika Sanctuary, covering an area of 145 sq. Km has considerable weight concerning the ecological, geomorphological and biological background, which includes mangroves forests, rivers, creeks, inlets, backwater, accreted land and mudflats. Other attractions at National Park are enthralled breeding and research centre for estuarine crocodiles, huge female crocodiles-Gori and Hydrabadi.
Bhitarakanika Forest Block
Nature’s trail in Bhitarakanika Forest Block throughout 4 Km is a breathtaking adventure. It is a must viewing spot for all nature-lovers. Mangrove species give way to their associates like Kochila, Mankada Kendu as one move away from creeks.
Several meadows and freshwater ponds are the ideal places. One can look for chittals; water monitors lizards, migratory and resident birds. An ancient Shiva temple, a silted white lotus pond and collapsed shooting block of Kanika King bring back the memory of a remarkable history of the place.
There are varieties of birds species to be witnessed like – thousands of Bagagahana and many more. Over 170 types of residential and migratory birds visit these spots for feeding, breeding and nesting activities. These include Kingfishers, Seagulls, Ducks, Greece, open billed stocks, Egrets, Herons, Kites, Sandpipers, Whistling teals etc. Rare and endangered varieties like the Brahminy kite and white-bellied sea eagles also nest on the trees along the banks of the Bhitarakanika rivers.
Gori, the white female saltwater crocodile, hatched out in the artificial hatchery from the first clutch of eggs collected from Kalibhanjadia during August 1975.
Gori was given a mate twice and each time pairing was not compatible. In the fierce fighting that followed, Gori lost her right eye to which she stays alone. Gori became more famous nationwide when she became the mascot of the National Youth Festival held at Bhubaneswar in the year 2010.
Hydrabadi hatched out in the artificial hatchery from the first clutch of saltwater crocodile egg obtained from the Kalibhanjadia island of Bhitarakanika National Park during August 1975.
Now with a length of 2.85 metres, Hydrabadi is a fully grown female crocodile. Due to the isolated rearing, she is not accepted by the wild male to which she stays alone in the enclosure.
How To Reach
In Kendrapada districts, Rajnagar is the headquarters of the Divisional Forest Officer, Mangrove-cum-Wildlife Warden, Bhitarakanika National Park. Before entering the National Park, one has to collect entry permission from the offices of Rajnagar, Khola and Gupti. The nearest airport is the Bhubaneswar Biju Patnaik Airport which is around 130 Kilometre from Rajnagar. The closest railway station is Cuttack which is 110 Kilometre from Rajnagar. Bhitarakanika can be approached from Chandabali by boat in Baitarani, Brahmani and Khola Creek in the Bhitarakanika Nala in that order. If one wants to enter from Chandabali, the nearest railway station is at Bhadrak, which is 55 Kilometre from Chandabali. Forest department boats are also available for hire by tourists from Gupti, which is 25 Kilometre from Rajnagar.
Where To Stay
Accommodation amenities at Guesthouses are available at Dangamal, Gupti, Ekakula and Habilikhati. These facilities can be availed by obtaining an antecedent reservation order from the WildlifeWarden Division office at Rajnagar.