Chilika Lake is spread over Khurda, Ganjam and Puri districts of Odisha (formerly Orissa). Balugaon and Rambha are two major towns serving as entry points for the lake. It is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge. The pear-shaped lake spreads across 1,100 km², and has a unique ecosystem with a range of aquatic flora and fauna found in and around its brackish waters. An impressive array of bird life, both native and migrant, makes Chilika one of the best places in India for bird-watching, splashing around in the water and quiet relaxation.
Chilika Lake is designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Chilika Lake is an important habitat and breeding ground for both resident and migratory and aquatic birds, most notably flamingos. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the Indian subcontinent. Migratory birds arrive in October from as far away as Siberia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Himalayas and generally stay until March. Part of the lake is protected by the Chilika Lake Bird Sanctuary, which harbors over 150 migratory and resident species of birds. The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is classified as a Bird Sanctuary under the wildlife protection act. The lake is also home to a diverse range of aquatic life, including 225 species of fish and the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella Brevirostris). The rare limbless lizard barkudia insularis is endemic to one of the lake's small islands.
The larger islands lie between the sandbar and the lake, separated by shallow channels, and include Parikud, Phulbari, Berahpura, Nuapara, Nalbana, and Tampara. Some of the smaller islands are Breakfast Island, Honeymoon Island, Beacon Island, etc.
The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar, about 120 km away from where taxis, trains and buses are available to the lake.
The nearest rail stations is at Balugaon, on the Howrah-Chennai track. From Balugaon buses are available to the lake.
Some of the trains which stop at Balugaon are: 6003/6004 Howrah Chennai Mail, 2703/2704 Faluknama Express, 8645/8646 East Coast Express, 6358/6357 Gurudev Express, 2863/2864 Howrah Yeshvantpur Express, 5228/5227 Muzaffarpur Yeshvantpur Express (weekly), 2508/2507 Guwahati Ernakulam Express (weekly), 2530/2509 Guwahati Bangalore Express (triweekly), 5628/5627 Guwahati Trivandrum Express (weekly).
For timings etc. check with Indian Railways.
A part of Chilika Lake is visible from NH5 and the Howrah-Chennai train track. Many buses ply from Bhubaneswar (Baramunda Bus Station) and Cuttack (Badambadi Bus Station) to Balugaon throughout the day, OSRTC buses (i.e. state-run buses) being the best ones. The journey takes 2 hours and costs less than ₹100 one way. From there, one has to hire a taxi or an auto-ricksaw to reach Barkul or Rambha (In case of Rambha, passengers can alight at Keshpur, which is further ahead from Balugaon, and from there hire an auto-rickshaw). Satapada is well connected by daily local buses from Puri. Visitors can take an OTDC day tour from Puri to see Satapada (~₹400; 3-hr boat ride and AC transport included). However, Satapada is not so well connected from Bhubaneswar and taxis have to be hired to get there.
Auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available. The services of local boatmen and the motorboats of Odisha Tourism Development Corporation are available for access to the islands though outboard motors are not allowed near the bird sanctuary. OTDC boats can be hired at Barkul and Rambha, and cost between ₹410 (for a 7-seater boat) to ₹790 (for a 34-seater boat) per hour. A special tour is operated by the OTDC between Barkul and Kalijai, and costs ₹40 per head. However you can find private machine operated boats for the tours, but you have to bargain a bit to get a fair deal.
A boat journey from Rambha to Satapada takes about 2½ hours.
More information on Chilika can be obtained from the Government of Odisha Tourism Counter at the Tourist Bungalow in Rambha (District Ganjam) Odisha, +91 6810 278346.
The best time to visit Chilika is in the winter months, when migratory birds arrive there.
- 1 Bird Island. Watch birds in their natural habitat.
- Brahmaputra. The place is known for its scenic beauty.
- 2 Breakfast Island. A 20-minute boat ride from Rambha. Tourists pack breakfast from the OTDC panthanivas at Rambha and have it here in pristine surroundings. Beacon Island and Honeymoon Island are close by.
- 3 Kalijai Island. Abode of Goddess Kalijai. Pilgrims flock here in January during Makar Mela (at the time of Makar Sankranti) to pay obeisance to the Goddess. Is very close from Barkul. Flocks of peacocks roam here, mingling with the devotees. Legends say that 200-300 years ago a girl named Kali drowned, near the present Kalijai Temple, while returning to her maternal house from her husband's. A few years later her sister, Jai, came looking for Kali and came to the island. She died on the island(reasons unknown). Fishermen and other local folks used to hear cries of two girls at nights. But soon after the temple was built the cries stopped for good. Earlier fishermen used to visit the temple before venturing into the deep sea, but nowadays, it's just another tourist spot.
- 4 Mangalajodi. A former poachers village which has become a community owned wildlife venture. The community is supported by Mangalajodi Ecotourism.
- 5 Nalabana Bird Sanctuary. A designated bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, Nalabana is a big island in the center of the lake. A treat for bird-watchers in the winter months, this island is completely submerged in the monsoon months.
- 6 Rambha. It is a good place from which to discover Chilika Lake and this guide offers boat trips to visit the islands and watch birds.
- 7 Satapada. Close to Dolphin point, where the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and occasionally, bottle-nosed dolphins can be seen. Chilika is one of the only 2 lagoons in the world where Irrawaddy dolphins can be seen. Boat rides are available to the Chilka Sea mouth. The sea mouth is located on a strip of sand lined with casuarina trees. The stretch of sand houses small sacks selling fresh seafood along with soft drinks and beer. Vendors also sell pearls straight out of oyster shells.
Boat in Barkul. Water Scooters and Pedal Boats are available here. Also, drivers of speedboats allow passengers to drive if requested. There is a boating club in nearby Tampara. The place is very beautiful and pedal boats are available here for ₹75.
At Rambha: OTDC Panthanivas offers boating at the Panthanivas itself which are available from 5:30AM to 5PM. Best time for boating is just before sunrise since it is really awesome to see the rising sun from the horizon and birds literally flying in all directions. At the Panthanivas, one can hire the motorboats (10-seater) for ₹550 per hour or the speedboats (5-seater) for ₹1650 per hour. Alternatively, from Rambha, three islands (viz., the Breakfast Island, Bird Island and Beacon Island) for ₹875 in any of the boats and five islands (viz., the Breakfast Island, Bird Island, Beacon Island, Sanakuda and Honeymoon Island) for ₹1650.
- muhan, satapada. 5. chilika lake and puri beach joint ₹2000.
Do not be tempted to buy pearls or corals from Chilika lake. Fresh water Oysters are brought from Hyderabad & broken in our presence to take out the cultured pearls. Touts sell them as natural pearls. These are available for ₹20 onwards. Touts also claim the efficacy of "black pearls" and sell them to unsuspecting victims.
Fish, prawn and the famous crab (always sold live) from Balugaon market. Numerous trinkets are available in Kalijai.
- Chilika Foods, Malud Market, Malud. You can buy all kinds of chilika products like tiger prawn,king crab and other varieties of fishes. tiger prawn ₹350-₹800/kg, king crab ₹500-₹1200/kg, fish₹30-₹400.
Chilika is famous for sea food like crab and prawn.
- Chilika Dhaba - near Barkul Panthanivas
- Chilika Hotel - Balugaon Main Road
- Kites Beach Resort, Nabaa,Malud (28km from NH-5,turn at palur junction). This is an upcoming project to cater tourists coming for Chilika Lake. It is at the shore of Bay of Bengal and will be functioning under Kites-on-tour travel agency. It will be providing stay, meal, site seeing, boating and transportation to the tourists. From ₹499.
- Narayani Restaurant-near Barkul Panthanivas Road. Mob:9861364135
- OTDC Panthanivas- At Rambha and Barkul, excellent food and very reasonable prices.
- Rambha Dhaba - Close to Chilika. Best and freshest veg and non veg stuff. Its one of the best dhabas in the area.
- Sagar fastfood and restaurant - Balugaon Main Road.
Drinks are available but if any one is particular about brands and such things, it is safer to carry one's own.
OTDC (Odisha Tourism Development Corp.) panthanivas are the best bets anywhere in Odisha, are very cheap and boats owned by OTDC can be booked here as well, which are once again the best boats in the region.
- Kites Beach Resort, Nabaa, Malud. ₹1799-6999.
- 1 Panthanivas (Odisha Tourism Development Corporation), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rambha, / email@example.com. Rooms are ₹700 for Non-AC double bed rooms and ₹1300 for AC double bed-rooms, dormitory beds ₹150. Cottages, with stunning views of the lake, are ₹2650 plus 5.15% service charges. Consult website for discounts offered to day visitors, students, senior citizens, etc.
At Balugaon & Barkul
- 2 Hawa Mahal,, ☏ . College Road, Balugaon, Rooms ₹80-₹200.
- Hotel Ashoka Main Road, Balugaon, Telephone +91 6756 220409, bar & restaurant also available with SBI ATM facility, rooms ₹350-₹950.
- Hotel Digantika Main Road, Balugaon, Telephone +91 6756 220514; 9937460725, Chinese, Indian restaurant available, rooms A/C and non A/C (single, double, triple, lake facing) ₹500-1500.
- Narayani Lodge,, ☏ . Banapur Road, Balugaon, rooms ₹80-120.
- Patro Lodge,, ☏ . Chilika Road, Balugaon, rooms ₹60-180.
- 3 Shree Krishna Lodge,, Panthanivas Road, Barkul, ☏ , . Non A/C-A/C rooms ₹250-800, 500 m from Chilika Lake
- Banapur - Known for Bhagawati Temple and markets.
- Govt College of Arts and Craft - Located in Khallikote, about 25 km from Balugaon and 12 km from Rambha, it is located in the palace of the erstwhile king of Khallikote. Surrounded on all sides by mountains, it affords some beautiful views and counts many famous Indian contemporary painters as its alumni. The art gallery here has some beautiful paintings reflecting Odisha's culture.
- Narayani - About 15 km from Balugaon, it has a temple in scenic surroundings in the Eastern Ghats.
- Nirmaljhara - Also in Khallikote, very close to the art college, it is a perennial stream which has been channeled into different ponds. Built in 1676, it also features many temples. Adventurous persons can take a bath in one of the ponds here.
- Salia Dam- Built on River Salia amidst stunning locales. About 25 km from Rambha and 15 km from Barakul.
Oriya people consider it to be lucky if Kalijai Temple, Bhagwati Temple and Narayani temple are visited on the same day.