Chilka 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 sq km, 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 Chilka one of the best places in India for bird-watching, splashing around in the water and quiet relaxation.
Chilka Lake is designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Chilka 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 Chilka 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.
By plane – the nearest airport is Bhubaneswar, about 120 km away from where taxis, trains and buses are available to the lake.
By rail – 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 .
By road – a part of Chilka 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 Rs. 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-ricksaw). Satapada is well connected by daily local buses from Puri. Visitors can take an OTDC day tour from Puri to see Satapada (~Rs. 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 Rs 410 (for a 7-seater boat) to Rs 790 (for a 34-seater boat) per hour. A special tour is operated by the OTDC between Barkul and Kalijai, and costs Rs 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 2 1/2 hours.
More information on Chilka can be obtained from the Government of Odisha Tourism Counter at the Tourist Bungalow in Rambha (District Ganjam) Odisha, Telephone +91 6810 278346.
The best time to visit Chilka is in the winter months, when migratory birds arrive there.
Legends say, around 2-300 years ago, a girl named Kali drowned, near the presently situated 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, its just another tourist spot.
Rambha is a good place from which to discover Chilika Lake and this guide offers boat trips to visit the islands and watch birds.</see>
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 Rs. 75.
AT RAMBHA: OTDC Panthanivas offers boating at the Panthanivas itself which are available from 5:30 AM in the morning to 5 PM in the evening. 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 Rs.550 per hour or the SpeedBoats (5-Seater) for Rs.1650 per hour. Alternatively, from Rambha, three islands (viz., the Breakfast Island, Bird Island and Beacon Island) for Rs.875 in any of the boats and five islands (viz., the Breakfast Island, Bird Island, Beacon Island, Sanakuda and Honeymoon Island) for Rs.1650.
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 Rs 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.
Chilka is famous for sea food like crab and prawn.
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.
At Balugaon & Barkul
Rs-250-800,just 500mtr from chilika lake
Oriya people consider it to be lucky if Kalijai Temple, Bhagwati Temple and Narayani temple are visited on the same day.