Every year as winter sets in millions of migratory birds from different parts of world such Siberia and Russia flock to Chilika Lake, making it the largest wintering ground for birds in the subcontinent. Chilika is also the largest coastal lagoon in India and carries the pride of being the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Spreading over an area of about 1100 km² in Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts of Odisha on the east coast of India, there’s much you can do here.
Be it watching the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins, bird-watching, boating or going on nature trails, Chilika has something for everybody. The major species of colourful birds that are witnessed here are: white bellied sea eagles, grey lag geese, purple moor hen, flamingo jacana, herons, brahminy ducks, and pintails among many others. It is also the biggest breeding place for flamingos in the world.
Apart from that, there’s much else to see in and around Chilika. Nalabana is one such place – a designated bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act. Nalabana is a big island in the center of the lake where during winters, a large number of resident and migratory avians come and settle here.
Then there’s Manglajodi, which was formerly known to be the poachers’ village, since the residents of the village were completely involved in poaching activities. However, later, the village is today considered as a bird’s paradise in Asia.
Kalijai Island is again a must visit; it is ideally treated as the abode of Goddess Kalijai. Pilgrims flock here in January during Makar Sankranti or the Kite Festival to pay obeisance to the Goddess. The ancient belief of the locals goes that a girl named Kali and her sister were drowned in the island, when they came to the island in search of Kali. The locals used to hear their cries in the Kalijai Island area. But when the temple was constructed the cries of the sisters were no more heard at night, making the temple even more auspicious and sacred. The impressive part of the island is that flocks of peacocks roam here freely mingling with the travellers.