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Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary

Bhitarkanika is considered as one of the most impressive sanctuaries of Asia for its salt tolerant Mangrove forest and a large population of crocodiles and giant Pacific olive ridley sea turtles. The Sanctuary is located in the second largest mangrove forest of India sprawling an area of 650 sq km in the district of Kendrapada about 190 kms from Bubaneshwar, the capital city of Orissa. It lies on the delta formed by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Mahanadi and the Bay of Bengal. Bhitarkanika was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1975 and later as a National Park in 1998 mainly for the protection of the turtles.

Main Attractions: Gahirmatha attracts large number of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles from as far as South America that come to lay eggs. These turtles arrive between October and January and leave for the sea in May.

Bagagahan Island located within the sanctuary is a nesting site for colonies of herons and other water birds such as Asian open bill, cormorants, darters, black ibis, egrets. Around 215 species of avifauna including eight varieties of kingfishers live here.

The park is also home to saltwater crocodile, white crocodile, Indian python, black ibis, wild pigs, rhesus monkeys, chitals, darters, cobra, water monitor lizard. About 700 saltwater crocodiles live in the rivers some exceeding 6 m in length.

About 40 kms away stands the Lalitagiri-Ratnagiri-Udaygiri hill ranges which together represent the Buddhist heritage of Orissa. Ruins of brick monasteries, stone sculptures and Buddhist images can be found here.

When To Go: The temperature in the region can get quite hot and humid in the summer hovering around 34°C sometimes reaching 45C but drops to 13°C in the winters. The best time to visit is from March to July and September to November.

How To Get There: The nearest town is Chandabali which is located 35 kms away. The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar and the nearest railhead Bhadrak is at a distance of 77 kms. There are also boats available from Chandabali and Rajnagar which would take approximately about three hours to get to the sanctuary.

Where To Stay: There are forests rest houses at Chandbal, Dangmal, Ekabula and Gupti inside the sanctuary but prior booking must be done. There is also a dormitory at Habalikhati for larger groups located on the beach of the Marine National Park.

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