Introducing Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary
Three rivers flow out to sea at Bhitarkanika forming a tidal maze of muddy creeks and mangroves. Most of this 672-sq-km delta forms this wonderful sanctuary, a significant biodiversity hotspot. The only way to get around the sanctuary is by boat. Many boats are a little battered, with old tyres on ropes acting as life preservers: this definitely adds piquancy to the thrill of boating on waters where enormous crocodiles – 1646 at last count – can suddenly surface rather close by.
The best time to visit is from December to February. Hundreds of massive estuarine crocodiles bask on mud flats waiting for the next meal to swim by. Birdwatchers will find eight species of brilliantly coloured kingfishers, plus 207 other species.
First stop is a permit check at Khola jetty before chugging on to Dangmal Island, where you’ll find a successful crocodile breeding and conservation program (and accommodation). Pythons, water monitors, baboons, wild boar and numerous spotted deer can also be seen. Herons arrive at Bagagahan Island in early June and nest until early December, when they move on to Chilika Lake. Raucous open-billed storks have set up a permanent rookery here.