The wetland is represented by as many as three protected areas, namely Bhitarkanika National Park, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. Bhitarkanika is a unique habitat of mangrove forests criss-crossed with numerous creeks and mud flats located in Kendrapara district of Odisha. One of the largest mangrove eco systems in India, Bhitarkanika is home to diverse flora and fauna.
Bhitarkanika National Park is a prime habitat of leopard cat, fishing cat, jungle cat, hyena, wild boar, spotted deer, sambar, porcupine, dolphin, salt water crocodile including partially white crocodile, python, king cobra, water monitor lizards, terrapin, marine turtle, kingfisher, wood pecker, hornbill, bar headed geese, brahmany duck, pintail, white bellied sea eagle, tern, sea gull, waders and a large variety of resident and migratory birds. Bhitarkanika is a hot-spot of biodiversity. It’s home to the largest population of giant salt water crocodiles in India. Also home to more than 215 species of avifauna including an amazing eight varieties of Kingfishers.
Gahirmatha is known to be one of the largest rookery for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. The sanctuary is the home for all the three species of Indian monitor lizards including giant specimens of India’s largest lizard, the water monitor lizard Varanus salvator, Python Python Molurus. ‘Bagagahana’, the heronry provides nesting and living space to about 80,000 resident and local migratory birds. During winter, migratory birds from Europe and Central Asia arrive here and Olive Ridley turtles leave the sea and make their nests on the beach of Gahirmatha.
Permits: Bhitarkanika has been re-opened for day visit only from January this year. Khola and Gupti are the two main entry points where one has to collect the entry permit. Photo identity proof is mandatory.
When to visit: Bhitarkanika is approachable only through waterways, so rains make the routes difficult to navigate. However, the period between October to March is the best time.
Accommodation: Sand Pebbles Bhitarkanika Jungle Resorts, Riverine Resort, Nature Camp, Bhitarkanika Village Retreat, Arnaya Niwas at Chandbali, etc.
How to reach:
Air: The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar.
Rail: The nearest railway stations are Cuttack and Bhadrak.
Road: By road it is Bhubaneswar to Rajnagar – 130 km; Cuttack to Rajnagar – 110 km; Bhadrak to Chandbali – 55 km.
Water: Journey by powerboat varies from 1½ to 4 hours.