If you are looking for a place off the beaten track for your next holiday, Bhitarkanika is definitely worth a look. The Bhitarkanika group of islands in Northern Orissa offers
not just great beaches but exciting trekking trails through forests teeming with wildlife.
Bhitarkanika is Orissa`s only and probably country`s second viable mangrove eco-system. Here, innumerable criss-crossed tidal inundated creeks provide
the last refuge to the already endangered salt water Crocodile (Crocodile Porosus)
The Bhitarkanika islands can be reached from Bhadrak which is on the Calcutta- Madras railway line. A night train from Calcutta`s Howrah station will reach Bhadrak( 297 km)
at dawn. From Bhadrak head for Chandbali ( 42km) by jeep. A motorboat will take you from Chandbali to the island of Dangamal which has a Forest Rest House with basic amenities. You need to book your rooms here beforehand.
The boat ride to the Forest Rest House at Dangamal is enchanting in itself. The motorboat chugs down the Baitarini river towards its confluence with the brahmini river, then
swings into a creek where the waters are calm but full of crocodiles, some 20ft in length.
Kingfishers ( many varieties), cattle egrets, herons, sandpipers, plovers, white ibis, drongos, swallows and many other birds can be seen flying across the creek. The Forest
Rest House at Dangamal island has tall coconut trees around it and is close to a large marsh at the edge of the jungle. The nearby forest has wild boars, hyenas, water monitors and deer.
A 45-minute boat-ride from Dangamal brings you to Bird Island, where you can watch migratory birds from a watchtower.
Bhitarkanika island itself lies across the river, opposite Dangamal. Treks through the forests here are usually rewarded by wildlife spotting. Colorful butterflies flutter
about, small pools emerge out of the wilderness, and at the end of the trail is a ruined temple.
Four hours away from Dangamal by motorboat, is Ekakula-an island away from the estuary and on the Bay of Bengal. Brilliant blue sea and a quiet beach! Observe carefully and
you may spot pug marks of wild boars, jackals and hyenas. Early morning and evening, dolphins can be spotted in the sea.
Ekakula has a forest rest house too. So has Habalighati or Garhimata which is an hour`s walk on the beach from Ekakula. Stay at Garhimata if you want to watch Olive Ridley
turtles-for Garhimata is famous as the nesting ground of Olive Ridley turtles.
By train from Howrah ( Calcutta) to Bhadrak ( 297 km). Closest airport- Bhubaneswar; Bhubaneswar to Bhadrak (154 km.). From Bhadrak by jeep to Chandbali. Get entry permits
from Asst. Conservator of Forests, Chandbali before entering the Bhitarkanika National Park.
Best time to visit: October-March</P
Dangmal, Gupti, Ekakula and Habalikhati is to be booked in advance from the Wildlife Warden at Rajnagar( in District Kendrapara)