Bitarkanika National Park, Orissa is the second largest Mangrove Forest and river delta located in the North-Eastern district of Kendrapada. The wetland is declared by UNESCO the World Heritage Site for it’s famous Salt Water Crocodiles and Olive Ridley sea turtles. The National Park was restructured in the year 1998 from the core area of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary which was actually created in the year 1975. Bhitarkanika National Park and the wildlife sanctuary is formed with several water bodies like Mahanadi, Brahmani, Dhamara, Baitarani and Pathsala rivers. The second largest ecosystem is the home 55 species of mangrove species mainly known as Sundari, thespian, casuarinas and grasses like bush and indigo are the main. Bhitarkanika National Park is consists of three protected regions,(145 square kilometers ) of the core area, ” The Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary”, “Bhitarkaniaka Wildlife Sanctuary” and “Bhitarkanika National Park”. The park is the home of 1671numbers saltwater crocodiles, 1872 spotted deer, 1213 numbers of wild boars, 305 jackals, 39 common langurs, 17 sambar deer,11 jungle cats, 7 wolf and 320 species of birds including 8 varieties of Kingfisher.
Location and Reachability
Bhitarkanika National Park is well connected by road and rail. The National Park is 160 kilometer distance from Bhubaneswar, the Capital of Orissa, if you are coming from Kolkata side you can enter through Bhadrak, it is 316 kilometer from Kolkata and from Bhadrak it 60 kilometers through Chandbali. Bhitarkanika National Park has four entry points one is from Bhubaneswar, 160 kilometers, entry gates either through Khola or Gupti, the second one from Cuttack(140 kilometers), entry gates Khola/Gupti, the third one through Bhadrak, Chandbali 60 kilometers, through Bhadrak, Jaynagar it is 80 kilometers.
DOs and DONTs While Entering Bhitarkanika
Bhitarkanika National Park is the second largest River Delta of India with biodiversity-ecosystem. The park is the verdure habitat of wild boar, spotted deer, sambar, porcupine, dolphins, saltwater crocodile including partially white crocodile, king cobra, water monitor lizards, hornbill, pintail, white-bellied sea eagle and spotted deer. Every National Park has some rules and regulations which you must know before entering.
- You need to obtain entry permit in any gate while entering.
- It is always safe to use licensed boat as the boatmen were well trained to deal with any type of eventualities and they will guide you properly.
- Do keep silence while roaming inside the park as you are entering in their habitat as animals love silence.
- Carry sufficient food and water with you as you will not get any food or water inside the park while moving, always use bio-degradable containers.
- It is better to use binocular to observe the activity of birds and other small animals.
- While outing at night does carry a torch light with you, it is highly advised not to go outside during the night as it could be dangerous.
- Do not carry any non-veg food inside the park, it’s dangerous, as you might be giving an invitation to the predators.
- Do not tease animals and do not play music inside the park as animals will get disturbed while playing music.
- Bhitarkanika National Park is a polyethylene zone, do not use any plastic items inside the park it is punishable and it will create a health hazard for the animals.
- The last and the most important do not play in the water while moving with a boat in the sanctuary as you do not know you might be a prey for the crocodile inside water.
Things to See Inside Bhitarkanika National Park
Bhitarkanika is spread over an area of 672 square kilometers out of which 145 square kilometers is declared as Bhitarkanika National Park.The park is comprised of mangrove forest, drift rivers, countless crisscrossed tidal inundated creeks. The mangrove forests are the perfect habitat for King Cobra, Indian Python, and Water Monitor Lizard. Bhitarkanika National Park has three points for spotting animals and reptiles, Dangmal for the saltwater crocodile, Ghhirmatha the marine sanctuary for the World famous Olive-Ridley and the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary where one can spot both reptiles and animals. Let us discuss one by one place.
Dangmal: Crocodile Project
Dangmal is the core area inside Bhitarkanika National Park restricted to the mangrove swamps of Brahmani- Baitrani delta of the North-Eastern portion of Orissa. As the population of saltwater crocodiles was drastically going down in the mid-year of nineteen seventies in Dangmal and it’s nearby areas due to the wildlife exploitation and poaching activity to save these endangered species from hunting, the State Government of Orissa started a conservation and rescue program with the help of Forest Department.
The program for the protection of estuarine crocodile was started in the year 1975 under the leadership of Dr. H.S. Bustard the FAO/UNDP consultant at Dangmal, to stop the illegal killing, hunting, and poaching of crocodiles. The annual census of crocodile population was taken every year in the mid of winter season and the estimation is done by sightseeing in various rivers and creeks in both day and night.The crocodiles are classified into various categories as the gradation i.e. 2″ to 4″ yearlings, 4″ to 6″ juveniles, 6″to 8″ sub-adults and beyond 8″ are considered as an adult crocodile. The presence of the mixture of all categories represents the healthy sign of a viable reproduction. As per the Guinness Record2006, Bhitarkanika National Park has witnessed of having the World’s largest crocodile living of 7.1mter long a male saltwater crocodile. As per 2009-10 census, there are 1671 numbers of crocodiles living inside Dangmal in all categories.
Gahirmatha is the World renowned place for the migration of Olive Ridley sea turtle. This is the only marine wildlife sanctuary of Orissa notified by Government Of Orissa, Forest and Environment Department Notification Number 18805/F&E, dated 27th September 1997. Gahirmatha is spread over an area of 1435 square kilometer which includes 1408 square kilometer of water bodies and 27 square kilometers of land mass including reserve forests, accreted sandbars, and mud flats. The core area of the sanctuary is 725.50 square kilometers and the buffer zone is 709.50 kilometers.
The best place to visit Gahirmatha is from November onwards where thousands of Oliver Ridley sea turtle migrates here for annual nesting as they find it the best habitat for reproduction. These sea turtles come here by covering thousand kilometer distance from the coastal water of Srilanka. The reproduction activity starts immediately only after they reach their destinations, males mount over the female are general seen floating over the surface with the inettrimment movement of the flippers and the activities continue for a long hour if there is no threat observed. The turtle scoops the soft sand with the help of flippers by 45 cm and released 100 to 180 eggs at a time. The turtle surveys the sea ground if there is any presence of threat or danger before scampering into the sea. Dark nights are always preferred by the turtles for nesting. After laying eggs inside the pit the female tortoise masks the pit with the help of flippers. The eggs inside the pit started maturation by the sun and metabolic heat and starts hatching after 50 to 60 days. The wall of the pits collapsed and the turtle move ahead towards the sea, the hatching takes place in the night or during the predawn period to avoid the predators. Olive Ridley feeds on a small snail, fish eggs, crustaceans, jellyfish and algal material, before taking the food inside they crush it.
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary
Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary is the place can be visited with the help of motor boats, you will find bushes and dense forest on both sides of the rivers which generates a magnificent look. As Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is a wetland it is the perfect domicile for reptiles and amphibians like King Cobra, Indian python, Water Monitor lizard and The estuarine crocodile, one can spot out the sunbathing of the endangered estuarine crocodile while roaming inside Bhitarkanika during the winter time. Animals like leopard cat, wild boar, Jackal, hyena, spotted dears, Malabar Spotted Civets and Pangolin can be spotted out while roaming through motor boats. Bhitarkanika is also famous for the home of eight varieties of Kingfishers, let us discuss one by one.
Brown-Wing Kingfisher (Pelargopsis camaroptera)
This kind of kingfisher are generally found in Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, and India in it are natural habitat either subtropical or mangrove forests.
This is a kind of wood kingfisher lives in the nest made by others, they are short-tailed, larger headed, long with pointed bills compact not specialized in eating fish. The population of this beautiful bird in Bhitarknaika is around 100 and restricted to the areas in Mahisamada creek, Gokhani creek, Ganjeikhia creek, inside the core areas of Bhitarkanika, Dangmal block, and Khola.
Black-Capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata)
The Black-Capped Kingfisher is mainly found in the Asian countries like China, India, Korea, Srilanka, Thailand, Borneo, and Java. The kingfisher is 28 centimeters long, purple-blue wings and black, black head and shoulders, white neck, and collars.
These birds are endangered due to their blue feathers as the birds are most sought for the trade purpose of the blue feathers. In china fans are made by using the blue feathers and in Hong Kong the blue feathers are cut and glued over ornaments used by the ladies. The population of this bird inside Bhitarkanika is around400 frequently found in the areas of Mahanadi river delta and in the core areas of Bhitarkanika, the birds are rarely sighted in the monsoon.
Stork-billed Kingfisher ( Halcyon apensis)
The Stork-billed kingfisher is widely found in the tropical Indian continent and Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia. It is a large kingfisher as compared to others adult measuring 35 to 38 centimeter in length, green back, blue wing and tail and gray head.
The pointed large bill and legs are bright red. The exact population of the Stork-billed kingfisher is not counted however it is very less can only be seen in the core areas of Bhitarkanika throughout the year. The bird prefers to live inside the dense forest nearby areas like coasts, lakes or rivers. Stork-billed kingfisher fed on fish, crab, rodents and a small bird.
Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
The bird named itself due to the presence of white collar around the neck. The medium-sized kingfisher can be measured in between 22 to 29 centimeters and weigh 51 to 90 grams. There are some types of kingfisher in the same family having white or buff stripe over the eye while have a white spot between the eye and bill. Female seems to be greener than the male, young birds are duller than the adult one with dark and scaly marking on their neck and breast.
The Collared Kingfisher is also known as White Collared Kingfisher or mangrove kingfisher as they are mainly found in coastal areas especially in mangrove swamps. In coastal region small crabs are the favorite food for the Collared kingfisher whereas in another region, they feed on insects, warms, snails, shrimps, frog, lizard and small fish. The population of this kind inside Bhitarkanika is around 200, can be mostly sighted in the areas like Mahisamada creek, Khola creek, Gokhoni creek, the best time to spotting this bird is in rainy season July and August.
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
White-throated kingfisher is a large kingfisher around 28 centimeters in length, the adult has bright blue back, tail, and wings. The bill and legs are bright red, while the head, shoulder, flanks and lower belly are chestnut and the throat and breast are white.
These types of kingfishers are widely spread in the plain regions and yet not threatened. White-throated kingfisher feeds on large crustaceans, insects, earthworms, rodents, snakes, fish and frogs. They are widely found in Indian subcontinents, Turkey and Philippines. These are very common kingfisher widely sighted in any parts of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.
Pied Kingfisher ( Ceryle rudis)
Pied Kingfisher is commonly known as water kingfisher, it makes it distinct from the others due to the quality of catching fish inside water by diving inside the water. This kingfisher is 17 cm long with white and black mask a white supercilium and black breast bands. The bird is widely found in Southern Asia from Turkey to China and India, also found in African countries. Pied kingfisher mainly feeds on fish but apart from fish it also hunts large aquatic insects like dragonfly larvae etc. The breeding season starts from February to April, the nest of the bird is a hole excavated with vertical mud bank about five feet above the water. The nest tunnel is about 4 to 5 feet deep and ends in a chamber. The population of this bird is exactly not counted whereas they are widely spotted in the freshwater areas usually in rivers Honshua, Patsala, and Bhitarkanika near Gupti, inside the core areas of Mahisamada and Khola creeks. Pied kingfisher can be sighted throughout the year.
Pied kingfisher mainly feeds on fish but apart from fish it also hunts large aquatic insects like dragonfly larvae etc. The breeding season starts from February to April, the nest of the bird is a hole excavated with vertical mud bank about five feet above the water. The nest tunnel is about 4 to 5 feet deep and ends in a chamber. The population of this bird is exactly not counted whereas they are widely spotted in the freshwater areas usually in rivers Honshua, Patsala, and Bhitarkanika near Gupti, inside the core areas of Mahisamada and Khola creeks. Pied kingfisher can be sighted throughout the year.
Common Kingfisher ( Alcedo atthis)
Common kingfisher is a small bird roughly measured about 17 centimeters commonly known as Eurasian Kingfish or river kingfisher weighs in between 34 to 46 grams. The kingfisher mainly found in the African region and also South-Asian countries. They are short-tailed, dumpy- bodied, large headed and long-billed kingfisher in shape.
The adult male has blue-green upperparts with pale-azure black back and rump, a rufous patch by the bill base and a rufous ear-patch. Common kingfisher prefers to live near mangrove creeks and in swamps, near slow-flowing rivers. They are the good indicator for the presence of freshwater as lots of common kingfishers are found in habitats with clear water, which helps them optimal prey visibility and trees or shrubs in the bank as the habitat have the highest quality of water so the presence Common kingfisher denotes the quality of healthy water. The Common kingfisher mainly feeds on fish up to 12.5 centimeters, almost 60% of the food items are fish but it also hunts dragonfly, larvae, water beetles etc. This is a very common Kingfisher largely found in any areas of Bhitarkanika.
Ruddy Kingfisher ( Halcyon coromanda)
Ruddy kingfisher is a 25-centimeter medium sized bird widely found in South-Korea, Japan, Philippines, China and in India. The kingfisher has a very large red bright bill and equally red legs. The body is rust red generally deep in purple at the tail.
This is the only migratory bird found in the winter season inside the core areas of Bhitarkanika. Ruddy kingfisher generally feeds on fish, crustaceans and large insects in the areas of less running water, they also live on frog and other small amphibians.
Bhitarkanika can be visited within a day but if you want to really feel the natural beauty with sightseeing activites you need to spend at least two days in this wonderful habitat. Let’s see an amazing video about the great bio-diversity park.