On Chilika’s north shore, 60km southwest of Bhubaneswar, this small fishing village is the jumping-off point for the resident and migratory bird haven of Chilika Lake, an ecotourism success story virtually unknown to the outside world until 2006. Six years prior, NK Bhujabal started Wild Orissa (www.wildorissa.org), a waterfowl safeguard committee that converted bird poachers into protectors…and now ecotourism guides. In just a decade, the waterfowl population has climbed from 5000 to an estimated 300,000, spread among some 160 species.
A packed-earth levee leads out into the lake for around 1.5km, with fishing boats sheltering to one side and animal herders taking their buffalo to pasture across shallow waters, and a forest of reeds sheltering birds on the other side. Towards the end of the levee is a birdwatching tower and the dock from which birding trips depart, with guides slowly propelling their narrow boats through reed tunnels using poles, Venetian-gondola-style.