Lush green mangroves. Migratory birds and turtles. Sinister crocodiles sneaking in the murky waters. Meandering courses of sludgy tidal creeks. All these and many more have given Bhitarkanika National Park a distinctive and dynamic ecology. A visit to Odisha remains incomplete without travelling to Bhitarkanika, which is regarded as one of the most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries of Asia.
For a detailed itinerary and travel tips for visiting Odisha visit https://thefloatingpebbles.com/odisha-itinerary-tips-and-planning/
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The closest railway station is Bhadrak, which is well connected with all major cities of eastern India.
The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar. We suggest hiring a car from here, as it will be less tedious and save a copious amount of time. It will take almost 5 hours to reach Bhitarkanika, as the roads are in deplorable condition.
There are limited options of accommodation in Bhitarkanika. The Forest Department offers basic lodgings at Dangmal, Gupti and Habalikhati. We suggest staying at the guest house in Dangmal, which is located in the midst of Bhitarkanika and provides a first-hand experience of wildlife. Online room bookings can be done from https://www.ecotourodisha.com/menubooking.php.
Among the private resorts, Sand Pebbles Jungle Resorts and Nature Camp Bhitarkanika Retreat offer comfortable stay and also located in Dangmal.
Bhitarkanika National Park is the core area of the wider Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The dense mangrove forest, located in the deltaic region of Brahmani – Baitareni river system, covers a total area of 672 sq. km. It was declared a Ramsar site by UNESCO back in 2002. The national park is widely known as the home of saltwater crocodiles. The tidal creeks are full of as many as 1600 crocodiles. It also has Indian python, King Cobra, Rhesus Monkey, Monitor Lizard, Chitals, Black Ibis, Egrets, Asian Open Bill etc. It is also famous for migratory birds during winter.
The Gahirmatha beach near Bhitarkanika is widely known as one of the world’s largest nesting and breeding ground of Olive Ridley turtles.
It was afternoon when we reached Bhitarkanika. As we walked towards the dining hall of the guest house, we spotted hordes of Chital grazing unmindful of the people around them and groups of monkeys busy in their usual monkey business. Some of the braver deers were peeking through the windows while we ate a simple yet delicious lunch. The ambiance was quaint as expected.
While ambling around the park, we spotted diverse varieties of birds like Black Drongo, Woodpecker, Cormorant, Ibis, Darter etc. Spotted deers were in abundance. Our aimless wandering took us to the jetty, from where boats take travelers on safari. We craned our neck, strained our eyes in the hopeless hope of catching the sight of crocodiles. All that we managed to see were the zillions of orange-ish Fiddler Crabs crawling, feeding, fighting on the marsh.
On our way back, we roamed through the dense mangroves. Amidst countless mosquitoes feasting on our blood, we enjoyed looking around the breathing roots basking under the twilight.
The evening had more surprises in store for us. It was full moon, which enabled us with a clear view of the forest at night. Thousands of fireflies thronged a gigantic tree just outside our room, sparkling it up a la Christmas Tree. A herd of spotted deers was resting near our balcony. A Wild Boar and her piglet were anxiously grazing on the field nearby. Our guard informed us that Wild Boars come out at this hour in search of coconuts. He showed us the elusive Nightcrawler bird, perched on a branch. While he escorted us to the dining hall, we saw another Wild Boar searching for its dinner. How eerie was it to walk in the moonlit night through the forest, with only the cooing of nocturnal birds and chirping of crickets breaking the silence of the night.
We wake up to a misty morning the next day. The entire forest seemed to be under a spell of thick fog. Our early morning boat ride got delayed by almost an hour due to the fog. The Fiddler Crabs provided unadulterated entertainment to us as we waited for our boat.
The boat took as through the brackish water of the tidal creek. Our guide was abreast with the flora and fauna of Bhitarkanika. He helped us to identify mangrove vegetation such as Thespia, Sundari, Indigo Bush, Casuarina etc. Colorful kingfishers and pristine Egrets and Cranes added vibrancy to the greenery all around.
We saw hordes of deers and many other birds. But, where have all the crocodiles gone? Half an hour into our journey, yet no crocodile caught our attention. As we were about to give up our hopes, we spotted one giant crocodile taking a sunbath on the bank. Within a span of few minutes, we saw two white crocodiles lurking through the bushes. All in all, we were lucky to spot a large number of crocodiles in different actions – some lazying under the sun, some floating in the creek, some sneaking through the thickets, some running into water. Some of the crocodiles looked as if smirking at us like the sneaky creatures as they are. Towards the end of our safari, we even spotted a Water Monitor Lizard. How successful safari was that!
Before departing Bhitarkanika, we visited the crocodile inventory, which mostly had hatchlings and looked every bit deadly as their adult counterparts.
We bade Bhitarkanika goodbye with truckloads of memories and a camera full of snapshots of the diverse wildlife.
Tips for visiting Bhitarkanika National Park:
- The best time for visiting Bhitarkanika National Park is the winter months, when crocodiles mostly spend their time lying under the sun. Plus innumerable migratory birds from Europe visits during this time.
- Spot bookings of boats and guides for safari can be done at the Dangmal guest house.
- Keep dry foods and necessary medicines with yourself. There are no utility shops anywhere near the national park. Same goes with cash, as there are hardly any ATM there.
- Bring binoculars for birding. Also, dab yourself with mosquito repellent ointments before venturing into the forest.
- Try wearing clothes covering arms and legs. Along with mosquitoes, there is no dearth of insects here.
- If you are craving for beach during your stay at Bhitarkanika, visit the secluded beach of Habalikhati.
- Wander around the village of Dangmal to experience the day-to-day activities of local people.
- It is advisable not to venture into the national park alone after evening without a forest guard.
- Please respect the nature of the forest by not disturbing the animals or birds and littering here and there.
That’s all! Do you like what you read? Will you visit Bhitarkanika? Let us know in the comment section below.