Tag Archives: Odisha

A unique effort at Mangalajodi gets nominated for UNWTO award

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Fisherman in action at Mangalajodi

Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust of Manglajodi in Khurda district in Odisha has been nominated for United Nations World Tourism Award to be given early next year. It is only nominee from India in this year’s UNWTO awards. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announces the winners of the UNWTO Ulysses Prize and the UNWTO Ethics Award, as well as 14 finalists for the upcoming 14th Edition of the UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism. The Awards Ceremony will be held next January 2018 in Madrid on the occasion of the International Tourism Fair, FITUR.

Campus of Mangalajodi Ecotourism resort

The UNWTO Awards recognize inspirational individuals and projects for their innovative achievement as well as their invaluable dedication to developing and advocating sustainable tourism in line with the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 14th Edition of the UNWTO Awards will take place in January 2018, co-hosted by FITUR, the International Tourism Fair in Spain/IFEMA in Madrid, Spain. The Awards Ceremony will be preceded by the UNWTO Awards Forum where finalists will present their respective projects. Fourteen innovative projects among 128 applicants from 55 countries have been selected as finalists of the 14th UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism.

Boating at Mangalajodi

In the Innovation in Enterprises category Conservation and Livelihoods: Community managed Ecotourism at Mangalajodi,  Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust has been shortlisted. Other nominated enterprises in this category are from Kenya, Italy and Philippines. Mangalajodi is one of the oldest village coming under Tangi block of Khurda district in Odisha, 75 km from Bhubaneswar towards Berhampur with a huge marshland along the northern edge of Chilika Lake. The area (about 10 sq.km) is primarily a fresh water zone connected by channels cut through the reed beds with the brakish water of Chilika lagoon. The numerous channels that crisscross through the greenery, harbour thousands of water birds, migratory and resident. Part of Chilika, 1165 sq.kms.brakish water estuarine lagoon of international importance. The wetland hosts more than 3,00,000 of birds in the peak season. October to March is the best time to visit this place. This region has is a significant global waterfowl habitat and is declared as an “Important Bird Area (IBA)”.

Cottage at Mangalajodi campus

Manglajodi Ecotourism is community owned and managed wildlife conservation venture. AT the heart is the democratic notion that the fragile ecosystems like this belong to everyone. Protection and conservation of Manglajodi wetland is important to us. Mangalajodi epitomizes a sustainable lifestyle that is at brink of extinction. Mangalajodi village consists mainly of fishermen communities, who go fishing every evening to Chilika Lake and come back the next morning with fresh catch.

Boating at Mangalajodi wetland

Local communities still dwell on the indigenous methods of catching fish wherein country made fishing nets are made out of bamboo which do not pose a threat to aquatic life. Fish is an important part of their diet and can be cooked in many forms i.e. cooked; smoked or even sun dried – commonly called “Sukhua”. Dried fish is the staple food and eaten with fermented rice – another peculiarity of Odia Cuisine called “Pokhal Bhat.” Women are involved in collection of fuel wood which is actually dried leaves i.e. they don’t cut a tree for fuel wood – rather utilizes dried leaves.

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Winter play for migratory birds at Chilika

Chilika is one of the milestone places in India. It is the largest brackish water lagoon. Now what is brackish water? It is the water which is saline or salty but not as salty as the sea water. It happens when the fresh water mixes with sea water. There are 52 rivers and rivulets that fall in the lake. Secondly, Chilika is also a lagoon, and it is not just largest coastal lagoon in India, it is also second largest lagoon in the world. As if it was not enough, it is the largest wintering ground for migratory water-birds anywhere in the Indian sub-continent.

A early morning boating on a local boat in Chilika lake.
A early morning boating on a local boat in Chilika lake.

Chilika is spread in three districts of Odisha- Puri, Ganjam and Khurda. Puri side is mainly popular for Dolphin tours from Satpada. Satpada is around 50 kilometres from Puri. It is on northeast of Chilika lake. Tourists can book dolphin tours from Puri itself. Once you do that you can be transported from Puri to Satpada by bus or you can go to Satpada by any public or private transport and than take boats for a ride in Chilika. OTDC organises connected tours as well. Once you reach Satpada, you can go to jetty to take up boat.

Tourists on Satpada jetty

Chilika lake also has biggest population of Irrawaddy Dolphins in world. Every year in February a census is done to determine the number of Dolphins in the area. In 1997 the process of counting started. Firstly it was a broad estimation than it was done systematically every year. The number has been increasing constantly and it is around 160 at this time. Environmentalists say that increase in number of dolphins is an indicator of improvement in the ecosystem and quality of water.

A sea gull and a Irrawaddy dolphin

Boats from Satpada will normally take tourists to a island called Rajahamsa (राजहंस). Its while going to this island and coming back that we have chance to see the dolphins. This island is 18 kms from Satpada and it is actually located at the mouth of the Chilika lagoon. Rajahamsa is actually a narrow strip of land with one side towards lagoon and another towards Bay of Bengal.

Rajahamsa island
Rajahamsa island

Island has developed into a small business hub for various tourism related activities. Locals will even try to sell ‘original’ pearls extracting them from shells live.

A cruel way to get 'pearls'
A cruel way to get ‘pearls’

But this Satpada side of Chilika is known only for dolphins. Migratory birds often don’t come here.  Migratory birds are mostly located o other side of Chilika. Their base is at Nalaban island which is located in 15.5 sq km area. Nalaban is a sanctuary area. It is estimated that among the 9 lakh waterfowls coming to Chilika every year, almost half put base in this sanctuary area.  Birds also reach to areas like Mangalajodi and Bhusandpur.

Tourists at Nalaban island and the watch tower on the back

Most of the migratory birds coming to Chilika make their winter homes at various islands in the lake. Besides Nalaban there are Krushnaprasad, Kalijai, Somolo, Honeymoon, Breakfast and Birds island. One can see  Dolphins in this area as well.

A pair of dolphins with fishermen boats in the background
A pair of dolphins with fishermen boats in the background

Most interesting part is that one has to go deep inside the lagoon through a boat to watch the migratory birds. There are country boats but they won’t take you much far so you need a mechanised boat. You need time to enjoy the birding at Chilika. Since islands are scattered in the lake, therefore it is not possible to see all of them in one go. One can watch birds on the way. But you need few days in hand to enjoy the birds and the beautiful ecosystem of Chilika.

Chilika lake was the first Indian wetland to be included in the Ramsar Convention in 1981. Later, due to poor conservation it was included in Montreux Record which is a list of threatened Ramsar sites, but in 2002 it was removed from the Montreux list after lake was rejuvenated and restored. Chilika is also known for its fish farming due to rich fish, shrimp resources.  Locals are lot dependent on fish produce from the  lake. It is estimated that around 1.5 lakh fisherfolk live around the lagoon.

A fisherman adjusting his net
A fisherman adjusting his net

How to reach: For watching Irrawaddy Dolphins, one has to go to Satpada, 50 kms from Puri and than take a boat ride from the jetty. For watching birds, there are three places to go inside the lagoon- Barkul, Balugaon and Rambha. All these three places are located between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur.  Hence these can be accessed by road and rail connectivity between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur. Balugaon and Rambha have railway stations on South East railway. Nearest airport is Bhubaneswar. Balugaon is 96 kms, Barkul is 105 kms and Rambha is 130 kms from Bhubaneswar.

Local people going places in Chilika
Local people going places in Chilika

Best time to visit is obviously November to February as for most of the birding sites in India. Barkul, Balugaon and Rambha have Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) guest houses for stay. Few other hotels have also come up in the area in recent years. At all these three places you can hire boats run by OTDC as well private operators. Private operators will always bargain.

Raghurajpur : Home to Pattachitra painters

It can be named in one of the most famous Indian villages. No where does one get to see such an assemblage of artworks in one single place, other than in this unique village situated in the state of Odisha in eastern India.  As far as art is concerned, only thing that comes close in comparison are havelis of Nawalgarh in Rajasthan, India. Craft, painting and dance- all are knitted beautifully in cultural traditions of Raghurajpur. It also has the distinction of being the place where the traditional decoration called Patas, used under the throne of Lord Jagannath and on the three chariots during the annual Rath Yatra festival.Raghurajpur is located 14 km from Puri, an important pilgrimage destination, and 50 km from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa. A village, which normally no tourist going to Odisha will like to miss.

Apart from that the village is also home to crafts like Tussar paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, wooden, cowdung and papier mache toys, and masks. Another speciality of Raghurajpur crafts village is its Gotipua Dance. This dance is being traditionally done by boys, dressed up as girls to please the deity of Puri (Jagannath). These boys (Gotipuas) are trained to become accomplished dancers, mardala players, tuned singers and graceful acrobats above all. Raghurajpur crafts village is known for its Gotipua dance troupes. Famous Odissi dancer guru Kelucharan Mahapatra was also from this village and he himself was a Gotipua in young days.

Also watch a beautiful video of Gotipua dance at Raghurajpur crafts village

Photo of the day – Chandrabhaga

Sun setting at one of the lesser known but very beautiful beach of Chandrabhaga, very close to UNESCO world Heritage site of Konark in Odisha, India. A silhouette of child playing at the beach. Konark and Chandrabhaga are just on a hour and half’s drive from coastal temple town of Puri.


500 crocodile hatched in Bhitarkanika

Bhitarkanika is known for its crocodiles
Bhitarkanika is known for its crocodiles

Wildlife lovers are jubilant as babies of estuarine crocodiles have emerged out of the eggshells in and around the crocodile research farm in Bhitarkanika national park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district. Over 500 crocodile hatchlings have so far broken out of the eggshells to make their way into water-bodies and water-inlets of Bhitarkanika national park. The rare natural phenomenon which is still in progress was watched by few ground-level forest staff. Forest personnel maintained safe distance from the nests as human interference turns the reptiles violent and aggressive.

Fifty six crocodile nests were sighted in the wild this year by enumerators. Emergence of fledgling crocodiles sans mothers was a visual treat. Female crocodiles lay 50 to 60 eggs and the hatchlings usually emerge from the nests after 70 to 80 days of incubation period. The annual captive breeding of crocodiles’ eggs was suspended this year as the enclosure where ‘rear and release’ programme of these endangered species, takes place is being repaired. The eggs collected from the wild are hatched here artificially.

Rear and release of these hatched reptiles has been going on since 1975, funded by United National Development Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The conservation project in Bhitarkanika tasted success while a similar UNDP-funded ‘gharial croc’ conservation project launched simultaneously in Tikarpada Sanctuary was a failure. Due care was taken by wildlife staff to prevent crocodiles’ eggs from being devoured by predators like snakes, jackals and dogs, found in the reserve. Adequate conservation measures by the state forest department have led to a systematic rise in the number of these reptiles over the years, claimed officials. The number of salt water crocodiles, not found in any other river system in Odisha, stood at 1649 as per latest census in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary.The wildlife sanctuary had been kept out of bounds for tourists and visitors to ensure disturbancefree annual nesting of crocs. The animals turn violent and restive over human interference in their habitat. The enforced restriction on entry to sanctuary was clamped on May 31 and it was lifted on July 31.

Internationally acclaimed Bhitarkanika Ramsar wetland site continues to be the congenial habitat of salt-water crocodiles with the swampy mangrove-infested region housing the largest number of these reptiles. The region is criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system. It’s now being claimed to be a record as nowhere in the country these species is spotted in such abundance.

Bhitarkanika National Park reopens for tourists

Bhitarkanika is well known for its fascinating mangrooves
Bhitarkanika is well known for its fascinating mangrooves

Nature lovers who long for savouring the warmth of congenial wetland spots in Bhitarkanika in Odisha’s Kendrapara district would now have to take care of their purse. Visiting the mangrove-infested sites with a shoe-string budget has now become a thing of past.
As Bhitarkanika National Park reopened for visitors on Thursday, 1st August 2013, authorities have effected a steep hike in boarding and lodging for tourists. The rise is manifold and likely to pinch the middle class and lower middle class visitors.
Forest officials said that “For factors beyond our control, the hike was made for better maintenance of government-owned bungalows in Bhitarkanika. The park remained out of bound for tourists and visitors from May 31 till yesterday in view of nesting season of estuarine crocodile.”

Bhitarkanika is known for its crocodiles
Bhitarkanika is known for its crocodiles

The rise in accommodation price has been abnormally high. It runs to five times more than what it was earlier. It has gone beyond the range of affordability of lower middle class people. For a night’s stay in new cottage, one has to cough up Rs 750 while it stood at lowly Rs 150 earlier. The Banni suite would now cost Rs 1,000 as against the preceding price tag of Rs 200 only. The stay in ‘round cabin’ has shot up more than seven times. From Rs 200, it has climbed up to Rs 1,500. The six-bedded dormitory was earlier priced Rs 600 a day while it would now cost Rs 1000. For stay in Gupti tourism cottage, the rate revised to Rs 1000 against the earlier range of Rs 250, said officials. In addition, tourists spending night in Bhitarkanika will have to pay Rs 100 cess towards eco-development fees, while Rs 10 entry fee for tourist remains unchanged. It has now made mandatory for the visitors and tourists to carry with them proof of identity to gain access to the park areas. For issuance of entry permit, production of identity proof document is a must.

Beach famous for its turtles
Beach famous for its turtles

The steep hike in lodging charge would reduce inflow of tourists to this site. Those who savour eco-tourism loved to spend night in wetland sites. With exorbitant range of price for night stay, many would now prefer to stay away from night stay, affecting tourism in these parts. Though staying at Bhitarkanika has been made costlier, it is still on the lower side in comparison to accommodation charges in private-run eco-tourist cottages.
The national Park spread over 145 sq km area covers Bhitarkanika Mangroves. It is a Mangrove swamp located in the delta of rivers Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara and ideal for camping, trekking and picnics.