Chilika lake

The Chilka Lake in Orissa is Asia's largest inland salt-water lagoon with water spread ranging from 1165 sq km m the rainy season to 906 sq km in the dry season is nestled in the heart of the coastal Orissa. It extends from stretches through the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam, in the South, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a 60 km long narrow strip of marshy islands and sand-flats. These shallow waters enclose an immense area of marshes, lowlands, and islands. There are more than 160 varieties of fish, and, in the winter season (from November through March), the area is home to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds as well. The surrounding hills and sandy stretches abound in cheetals, blackbucks, monkeys, fishing cats, mongoose, and porcupines. At the channel meeting the sea, dolphins can be seen cavorting playfully. Snakes, turtles and lizards inhabit the surrounding beach area and wooded undergrowth. Prawn, crab and mackerel fishing are an important source of livelihood for the local people, and hundreds of small fishing boats set sail each morning to bring in the day's catch from the lake. A number of islands dot the expanse of the lake. Nalbana Island, because of its varied flora and fauna, forms the core of the Chilika sanctuary. Another major attraction at Chilika is Irrawady dolphins which are often spotted off Satpada Island. Kalijai Island is home to the Goddess Kalijai, venerated by the local fisher folk. Kalijai Island is home to the Goddess Kalijai, venerated by the local fisher folk. This island plays host to a huge fair on 'Makar Sankranti' held annually in the month of January. The large fishing community adds flavour to the lake with their traditional colourful sail boats bobbing expertly across the water, reminiscent of the ancient maritime heritage of Orissa. In fact, the fisher folk can be persuaded to take visitors on their boats. The nicest time to visit Chilika is during winter, when the lake reverberates with din of its avian population. Boats, to tour the lake, can be hired at Balugan Barkul and Rambha. One can persuade the local fisher-folk to take you on one of their native wooden boats.

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