It is off the beaten track, and offers sea, sand and adventure. The Bhitarkanika group of islands in northeastern Odisha offers great beaches, trekking trails through forests teeming with wildlife, and some thrilling boat rides.
Flora and fauna
Fauna species found in Bhitarkanika include: saltwater crocodiles, olive ridley turtles, kingfishers, several varieties of birds, pythons, monitor lizards, wild boar, hyenas, spotted deer, wildcats and jungle fowl.
Flora is in the form of mangrove species. There are over 60 varieties of mangrove species in Bhitarkanika, more than what you can find even in Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forests.
Best season: October–March Monsoons are just amazing here. Once access roads (under construction) are built, Bhitarkanika (on Dangmal side) can be a real good place to explore and enjoy monsoon. Boating in rivers in rain has its own joy.
The forest is closed from 14 May to 31 July. But the wide rivers are enough to keep you glued to place. Add some trekking by the side of mangrove forests spread in so many villages.
Bhitarkanika is beautiful even in summer. It should be explored not just as a place where you find crocodiles. It is almost like nature's paradise. It is quite, peaceful and so green. Above all, it is relatively less hot than other areas in Odisha. Evenings are soothing and pleasant.
By train from Howrah to Bhadrak (297 km). From Bhadrak take a vehicle to Chandbali. It is better, however, now not make Chandbali its base. It is better to stay on the other side of the river where the real fun lies. Cross the river in boats and stay in a resort on the other side of the river. The Bhadrak to Chandbali road is not in good shape; instead, you can drive to Dhamra and cross over by boat and check in a resort there. It is also a good idea to get down at Cuttack instead of Bhadrak. The time and cost you have to bear to reach the resort near Dangmal from Cuttack are more or less the same as you will have to bear if you come from Bhadrak.
From Bhubaneswar & Cuttack
Khola is the main point of entrance to explore the forest on boats. From Bhubaneswar, you can reach directly to Khola by your own car. Bhubaneswar to Khola is 150 km. From Cuttack, Khola is 120 km and can be reached in three hours.
Closest airport: Bhubaneswar
Fees and permits
Entrance fee for Indians ₹20/person and for foreigners ₹1000/person. If the number of foreigners is 10 or more in numbers, entrance fee per person for them will reduce to ₹200/person. Fee for still camera is ₹50. For video cameras the fee is ₹1000.
Go in the creeks on boat for sightseeing. Crocodiles, wild boars, spotted deer and lots of birds would be visible. Go and see crocodile breeding center. You should visit Baggahan Bird Sanctuary inside the National Park. Wide array of bird varieties will leave you wondering how and why so many birds live in this part of the forest.
Visit Ekakula and Habalighati islands. This should be a whole day excursion. You must make it a point to go on nature treks permitted inside the forest area and also outside the forest area. Do not forget exploring some of the lesser explored beaches. Beach in Pentha village is one such beach. Do try to explore Hukitola as well.
Make Bhitarkanika your base to explore the Buddhist sites of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri.
Bhitarkanika is home of India's largest remaining population of the endangered Indian salt water crocodile. Bagagahan Bird Sanctuary is a part of Bhitarkanika National Park. It is a home to so many bird varieties, some being rare. It is the only place where you can find eight varieties of kingfisher. Also keep an eye over large monitor lizards, pythons, hyenas, spotted deer and a lot of snake varieties. In winters you can spot river dolphins as well.
The beach, also known as Garhimatha, is famous as the nesting ground of Olive Ridley turtles. They are an endangered species, and wildlife conservationists have of late mounted special efforts to save from poachers the hundreds of thousands of turtles that land here every winter to lay eggs. The turtles, ancient creatures of the deep seas, have been homing in on remote Garhimata every nesting season (January–March) for perhaps thousands of years; it was only a few decades ago that the nesting ground was discovered by conservationists.
Go to Ekakula and Habalighati. Try some unexplored beaches in and around Bhitarkanika. Pentha village has one such beach. Hukitola is another unexplored area.
Go for nature treks.
Angling can be a real fun in this area for rivers in Bhitarkanika is full of fish varieties.
Bird watching can be real learning curve here for some rare varieties have made Bhitarkanika their home.
Do look for cycling in the countryside - an activity with lots of potentials here but something hardly anyone does here.
You can buy a pair of binoculars beforehand. Carrying binoculars with you can be a good idea if you want to catch a glimpse up close of the fauna, especially the wetland birds.
There is no need to carry your own provisions from Chandbali any more. Restaurant is available at Dangmal where you can eat. You cannot eat non-vegetarian foods here, nor can you drink here. Best bet is to eat at Riverine Resort. They can give you all sorts of foods - prawns, crabs, fish, chicken, eggs or lamb. They can serve you drinks too, but, of course, at a higher price!
Lots of coconut water. They are available here in plenty. You can drink lots of beer too!!
Inexpensive forest rest houses at Dangamal, Ekkakula, and Hawalighati.
- Estuarine Village Resort, Naliapatia, ☏ , .
Make sure not to enter rivers. The only way you should enjoy rivers in Bhitarkanika is on boats. Do not cause any problems to wildlife - just enjoy them. Do not walk in those parts of forest where you are not allowed to walk. This can be dangerous. Follow the advise of your guide.
You can reach Bhubaneswar or Cuttack by road. For Kolkata you can take a night train from Cuttack. You can also catch train from Bhadrak.
In Odisha, you could visit the state’s famous ancient temples at the great heritage centres of Puri, Bhubaneswar and Konarak.