It was a hectic day followed by a sleepless night when we disembarked from the train in the wee hours at Bhadrak, a little laid back town in coastal Odisha. We were heading for a road less traveled by with high spirit and energy. Our destination was Bhitarkanika National Park during the long weekend of October 2015.
Bhitarkanika is situated at the mouth of river Baitarani and Brahmani where the rivers branch out in numerous distributaries forming a labyrinth of narrow creeks which finally pour into the Bay of Bengal. Tropical mangrove forests adorn the islets and rivulets forming the second largest mangrove ecosystem after Sunderbans in the mouth of Ganga-Padma in Bengal. It is also popularly known as the "Little Amazon of India" due to the similarity of the landscape and rich biodiversity along with a plethora of marine/coastal flora and fauna. It is protected and conserved as a National Park and a Ramsar Site(Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) by Government of India. It is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sight from India and will hopefully be declared soon. It is home to a large population of saltwater crocodiles and famous endangered Olive Ridley Turtles, various species of exotic fauna also flock the vast stretches of the park from November to February.
Our journey started from Bhadrak at around 04:30 AM in a vehicle and in an hour or so, we reached Chandbali, the gateway to the park located in the Kendrapada district. A mechanized boat was already arranged by our uber energetic event coordinator, and we pledged to take away only photos and leave behind our footprints. Soon our boat started to sail along the Baitarani river towards Jaynagar of Rajkanika block where our basic but wonderful stay was arranged. As the boat moved ahead, we could witness nature slowly revealing her beauty; lush green flora along the banks with the azure sky above offered a picture perfect scenery.
After more than two hours, we reached our resort, refueled and headed out for the most exciting part. We were now heading for the core area of Bhitarkanika. Soon with the high tide we entered a narrow creek called Khola and meandered through the dense mangrove vegetation all around. The trees were half submerged, and our boatman steadily maneuvered the flotilla through the dense jungles towards Dangmal. En route, we also saw numerous deer and birds. Dangmal has a nature interpretation center and a museum from which we moved towards Heronry inside Suajore creek. It was exciting and thrilling as we spotted numerous crocodiles along the banks. We had to hop off the boat to see the Heronry where hundreds of birds mostly Herons can be sighted. It was a rejuvenating walk along the jungle trail where we also climbed the watchtower to see the clusters of birds. The day finally ended with a stunning sunset probably one of the best we ever saw in our lives. The riot of colors on the horizon elated our minds with heavenly pleasure. The silence of the night there was a defining experience. The silhouettes of boats bathing under the bright and brilliant moonlight in the vast expanse of water left us awestruck.
The next morning we experienced fresh air after a good sound sleep, and ate some delicious food. We left for visiting the Kanika Island near Dhamara Port on the sea mouth. We cruised past the sands and head towards the sea mouth. Slowly the creeks opened up, and we entered the sea. We were cruising along the coastline as we saw Kanika and Wheeler Island on the horizon. We crossed the channel and anchored at the Udabali beach on the Kanika Island. It was a pristine and secluded beach with spectacular view of the sea and the coast. The beach is a nesting ground for thousands of Red Crabs, and the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles which come here in the winters to lay eggs. It suddenly became overcast with mammoth clouds on the horizon. We were still in the middle of the sea, and it was a sight to behold. Our little boat was floating in an endless expanse of water with thunderstorms all around. The mesmerizing shades of the water and the overcast sky were a treat to the eyes and lenses.
Next day, we left for Bhadrak in the morning and hence towards Kolkata charged with energy and sweet memories of a beautifully spent weekend in the lap of nature. Few not-so-close individuals started the journey together and returned as friends to cherish the refreshing memories that the cubicle cannot provide.
This trip was originally published on Tales of Trails.