BHITARKANIKA NATIONAL PARK
This is India's second-largest mangrove forest after the Sundarbans. It is the estuarine region of the Rivers Brahmani and Baitarani in Kendrapara district of Orissa. The area is intersected by a network of creeks and rivers, on which the salt-resistant mangrove trees grow, with their roots pointing upwards from the marshy land. This 672 sq.kms. of wetland is home to around 200 species of birds including winter visitors from central-Asia and Europe. The enormous colony of herons is a spectacular sight and said to the one of the largest in the country.
The giant salt water crocodiles is the star attraction of this National Park and you can see them lying in the sun like logs of wood as you sail past in the boats. The Irrawady and Bottle-nosed dolphins can also be seen here.
The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, within the national park is home to a world famous phenomenon - the nesting of the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles. From January to May thousands of turtles come out of the sea to lay eggs in the sands. The babies hatch on land and then make their way back to the water.
How to get to Bhitarkanika:
Nearest airport Bhubaneswar (onwards by taxi to Rajnagar and then by motorboat to Bhitarkanika)
Nearest station Cuttack - (onwards to Rajnagar and then by motorboat to Bhitarkanika)
By road - Take the NH5 from Bhubaneswar - on to Cuttack, Kendrapara and Rajnagar.
When to go - Nov to Feb is the best time to visit. The summers are too hot and the monsoons make the entire area flooded.
Permits available from:
Deputy Forest Officer, Rajnagar, Kendrapara Dist. Tel: 06729-272460.
Chief Wildlife Warden Orissa, 5th Fl. Prakruti Bhavan, BDA Apt., Nilakantha Nagar, Nayapally, Bhubaneswar. Tel: 0674-2564587; 2565019.
SIMLIPAL TIGER RESERVE
This beautiful national park in Mayurbhanj district, is close to the Bihar-Bengal border. It is part of Project Tiger and one of the most typical tiger habitats in the country. You can see tigers, leopards, elephant, sloth bear, deer, wild boar, wolves, and crocodiles here. This hilly area has dense green jungles, streams and waterfalls, typical of the scenery of the Chhotanagpur Plateau. Two spectacular waterfalls: Barehipani and Joranda add to the exquisite landscapes.
How to get to Simlipal:
Nearest airport Kolkata (51/2 hours drive) or Bhubaneswar (6 hours drive).
Nearest station Baleshwar from where you can take a taxi, jeep or deluxe bus to Baripada.
By road - drive from Kolkata via NH6, or from Bhubaneshwar to Baripada.
When to go - The park is open from Nov 1st to June 15th. Nov to Feb is the best time to visit.
Permits available from: Asst Conservator Forests, Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Baripada.