The state of Orissa is home to the rare breed of White Tigers and has an abundance of other faunal varieties huddled in its many wildlife parks and sanctuaries.
With Orissa's long coastline dotted with offshore islands, lagoons, salt flats and deltas along the Bay of Bengal, it is possible to forget that inland, to the west, there are large areas of mountainous forest running into Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The State of Orissa, which constitutes a part of the Eastern Ghat ranges of India, has quite a diversified topography consisting of hills, valleys, dense evergreen forests, and scrub jungles, estuarine and manmade forests. The forest area of the State is approximately 38 per cent of its geographical area. The diversified ecological niches and environmental situations provide excellent habitat for a very rich and diversified fauna.
On your India wildlife tours you can visit all the wildlife parks in Orissa, which are a source of great attraction not only to Indian tourists but they also attract tourists from all over the globe. Among the most popular and most visited national parks in Orissa are the Similipal National Park, Chilika, Bhitar Kanika and Gahirmata wildlife sanctuaries are already on the world map. Apart from them, Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary, Debrigarh, Hadgarh, Kotgarh and Sunabeda sanctuaries are also excellent conservation areas popular with tourists who wish to enjoy the wild, unspoilt environment to nature. In all these areas, the forest is full of quiet tranquility and magic.
Simlipal National Park, is a pulsating tropical forest with hills and rich valleys, its sylvan glory on red and saffron soil, its playful brooks and amid rocky glens, its perennial rivers with crystal pools, cascading rapids and gorgeous falls, and its azure blue sky are unmistakably picturesque and awe-inspiring. The perennial water regime owes itself to the unique geological and geomorphologic qualities, unique in the country. The National Park receives 2500 millimeters of rain annually and its summer stands humbled by its verdure. Winters are severe and its valleys are subject to deep pool frost. Varying soils and moisture regimes join up to generate biomic compositions ranging from semi-evergreen to dry deciduous forests. Besides tiger, leopard and wild dog, other notable fauna of Simlipal includes elephants, sambar, muntjac, gaur, wild pig, chital, chousinga, mouse deer, giant squirrel, pangolin, langur, rhesus macaque, large pied hornbill, peafowl, red jungle fowl, spur fowl, mugger and python. Hyena, jackal and vultures make up the scavenging contingent.
Simlipal tiger reserve is another wildlife reserve in Orissa that came under the umbrella of Project Tiger in 1973. It encompasses an area of 2750 square kilometers out of which the core area is 845.70 square kilometers. In 1972 there were said to be 17 tigers but the 1992 census estimates 95 tigers. Over 22 species of mammals, 220 species of birds and several varieties of reptiles share this forest with the tiger. The bio diversity of the Simlipal Tiger Reserve is astounding. Its large tracts of forest under Sal are broken intermittently by grassy meadows, which support a healthy population of herbivores. Orchids abound here amidst the semi-evergreens, even though winters are severe when frosty conditions prevail. Perhaps a dozen rivers, stocked with rich aquatic life, cut through the land, some forming impressive falls as they wind their way eastward.
Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1981 in the Eastern Ghats, rising from almost sea level to about 900 meters and forms one of the main sanctuaries in Orissa. The sanctuary extends over 166 square kilometers. Apart from elephants and tigers there are also sambar, mouse deer and a fascinating variety of fauna including migratory and resident avifauna. The best time to visit this sanctuary is from December to February. The nearest town of the sanctuary is Nayagarh, situated about 60 kilometers away. The nearest railway station and airport are at Khudra and Bhubaneswar, which is, situated 80 and 150 kilometers away respectively. For accommodation, four forest rest houses have been constructed.
Satkoshia Gorge Sanctuary, was established in 1976 and, including a 22 kilometer long gorge where the Mahandi river cuts through the Eastern Ghats, the total sanctuary area is about 796 square kilometers. Dhenkanal is situated to the south of the gorge and to its north is Phulboni district. The nearest town from the sanctuary is Angul, situated at a distance of about 58 kilometers. The nearest railway station is Talcher, about 76 kilometers away, while the nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar, 220 kilometers away. The forest type of Satkoshia sanctuary is one of mixed deciduous forest with predominant species of sal, mahua and bahera. The forest was at one time the habitat of tigers and leopards, but at present these faunal species are rarely found. About 10 kilometers south of the gorge at Purnakote and Labangi, Gharials had made their home in the Mahanadi River and this sanctuary was established primarily to protect the crocodile, an endangered species. A crocodile project was also set up with that objective.
The sanctuary is also the abode of varied species of avifauna - Indian adjutant stork, red jungle fowl, Indian pitta and more. After covering a distance of about 30 kilometers from Angul, the road bifurcates. One goes meandering to the left and reaches Labangi while the other goes to Mahanadi River after crossing Purnakote. This sanctuary can be visited at any season of the year, but the ideal tourist season is from December to April. For night stays there is a facility of Forest Rest Houses inside the Sanctuary. However, prior reservation form the Divisional Forest Officer, Satkoshia Wild Life Division is necessary.
Ushakothi Sanctuary, established in 1962 over a forest area of about 285 square kilometers, the Ushakothi Sanctuary is situated at a distance of about 22 kilometers from Sambalpur. To the west of the Sanctuary lies Hirakud dam. Principally comprising of dry deciduous forest type, floral species like sal, sandalwood, arjun, neem, acacia, casuarinas are of frequent occurrence. The fauna includes, amongst others, tigers, elephants, sambar leopards and bison. Presently there are about 15 tigers and 35 elephants in the sanctuary. It is rich in avifaunal wealth and the main attraction of this sanctuary is racket tail drangos and flying squirrel. For night halts there is one two-roomed forest rest house inside the sanctuary. The reservations can be done through the Divisional Forest Officer of the same sanctuary, Bankura District, Sambalpur. The nearest town and railway station is Sambalpur and the nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar about 300 kilometers away. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between October and May.
Balukhand Sanctuary, covering an area of 72 square kilometers, this sanctuary was established in 1984 to protect the shoreline nesting sites of olive ridley and green sea turtles. There are various groups of black buck existing on land. The best time for a visit is between October to May. The nearest railway station is at Puri situated at a distance of about 10 kilometers. The nearest airport at Bhubaneswar is 70 kilometers from here. There are eight forest rest houses for the facility of night accommodation. For booking and reservation the Divisional Forest Officer, Puri Forest Division, P.O. Khurda, District Puri may be contacted.
Chilika sanctuary, situated on the lap of the Bay of Bengal, about 100 kilometers from Bhubaneswar. A narrow isthmus separates Chilika from the Bay of Bengal. The lagoon covering an area of about 900 square kilometers was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1973. It is the extensive bird life that has made it a global name. With the advent of winter, a large number of migratory birds take shelter in this lagoon from distant places like Manchuria and Siberia. The entire stretch of water is fully covered by the colony of birds. The bird species includes pochard, teal, shoveled, mallard, grey heron, pelican, and darter. Boats are available on hire for cruising in the lagoon and to enjoy the bird life. The first birds fly in around November. A flock of water birds are engaged in perfect formation trailing their little arrows across the sky, the beat of their wings alive and powerful in the silence of space.
The best time to visit this sanctuary is from December to March. There are forest and tourist lodges on the banks of Chilika sanctuary situated at Barkul, Rambha and Balugaon. For reservations at the rest houses and entry to the sanctuary one should contact the Divisional Forest Officer, Chilika Sanctuary. Chital and black buck are found on the scrubby shoreline of this sanctuary. Dolphins re occasionally sighted near the mouth of the lagoon. Orissa is singularly fortunate for this salt-water lake as it fosters a wide range of aquatic plants and microscopic life essential to the maintenance of the environment. Bhubaneswar, the nearest airport, is situated about 100 kilometers away.
Bhitar Kanika Sanctuary is a marine sanctuary, established in 1975 in the estuary of Brahmani River and covering an area of 650 square kilometers. Situated at a distance of about 35 kilometers from Chandbali, Bhitar Kanika Sanctuary is situated around Baitarani River.
The forest type of Bhitar Kanika is one of mangrove like the Sunderbans of West Bengal. The nearest railway station from the sanctuary is Bhadrak, about 77 kilometers away. The nearest town of Chandbali is situated about 35 kilometers from the sanctuary and the nearest airport at Bhubaneswar at a distance of about 200 kilometers. To reach Bhitar Kanika one has to take a watercraft from Chandbali. There is a regular ferry service fro Chandbali to Dangmal. At Dangmal there is a Forest Rest House where one can get night accommodation. Just the side of Dangmal situates the sanctuary. A crocodile project was established at Dangmal where there is a rare white variety of crocodile. The mangrove forests of Bhitar Kanika includes floral species like sundari, been and excaecaria, and faunal species like spotted deer, sambar, wild pig, leopard and porcupine. After crossing Bhitar Kanika, there is another marine sanctuary called the Gahirmatta Sanctuary.
The best time to visit Bhitar Kanika and Gahirmatta is from October to March as the pre-monsoon showers set in during April, making the journey hazardous and risky. For reservations at forest rest houses and prior permission to visit the wildlife sanctuaries, the Divisional Forest officer at Chandbali needs to be approached.
Nandankanana Sanctuary and Biological Park: Only about 13 kilometers away from the State capital of Bhubaneswar, this small sanctuary, established in 1979, is in fact a modern zoological park. The species shown in varying habitats give a good introduction to the range and diversity of India's fauna. Accommodation is available in hotels, tourist lodges and forest rest houses, in and around the Biological Park. For reservations contact the Director, Nandankanan Biological Park.