While Odisha is known most for its temples, beaches and handicrafts, the state is home to a huge number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as well. The dense forests, along with a flourishing mangrove ecosystem is what helps the diverse flora and fauna to survive in the state. Here are the best national parks you must visit when in Odisha.

Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary

Home to millions of migratory birds such as waterfowl, lesser flamingos, and Dalmatian pelican, Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds and also the first Indian wetland of international importance. Apart from avi-fauna, this sanctuary is also home to rare and threatened animal species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin, limbless lizard, green sea turtle and dugong.

Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary

Situated near Hirakud Dam, this wildlife sanctuary is an eco-sensitive zone. It is an extremely important park for the conservation of wildlife in Odisha; the diverse biodiversity here including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, species of fish, odonates and spiders. However, the most commonly spotted animals here are the Indian leopard, Indian elephant, sambar, chital, and gaur.

 
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Bhitarkanika National Park

Home to giant saltwater crocodiles, Indian python, King cobra, black ibis, darters and many other species of flora and fauna, this national park is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.

Satkosia Tiger Reserve

This wildlife park is located where Mahanadi river passes through a 22km long gorge in the Eastern Ghats.The major plant communities here include the riverine forests along with mixed deciduous forests. This reserve adjacent to Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary is home to black bear, elephant, leopard and tigers.

Simlipal National Park

Deriving its name from the red silk cotton trees that bloom here, this park is the seventh largest national park in India. Along with being home to royal Bengal tigers, wild elephants, Indian bison, and four-horned antelope, the park is also famous for its gorgeous waterfalls such as Joranda and Barehipani.