This beach in Odisha is world's largest nesting ground for endangered turtles!

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Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of This beach in Odisha is world's largest nesting ground for endangered turtles! by Siddharth Sujan

A fascinating history, unique tribal culture and unparalleled scenic beauty—Odisha is unarguably a land of myriad marvels. Located on the Bay of Bengal in the eastern part of the country, Odisha is a state that houses treasures that often end up skipping even the most offbeat of travellers.

A place that usually doesn't find a spot in the tourist maps or the 'Odisha itineraries' on the internet, the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is easily Odisha's best kept secret. Also a World Heritage Site, it is the only marine sanctuary in the state and perhaps one of the most unique in the country. The beach side sanctuary also happens to be the world's largest nesting and mating ground for the highly endangered species of turtles, the Olive Ridleys!

Credits: Patrik M. Loeff

Photo of Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Why travel to Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

1. Admire the beauty of the Olive Ridley turtles

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of This beach in Odisha is world's largest nesting ground for endangered turtles! by Siddharth Sujan

Head to the beautiful beach of Gahirmatha to witness a sight that you won’t be able to forget for a lifetime. Every year, about half a million of the rare Olive Ridley turtles travel across the South Pacific to get to the Gahirmatha Beach. The beach which is a part of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is believed to be the largest nesting and breeding ground in the world for the highly endangered species.

Credits: skeeze

Photo of Gahirmatha, Sailendra Sarai, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

After mating in the offshore waters of these beaches, the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. It takes seven to ten weeks for the eggs to hatch. The baby turtles emerge after this period and return to the ocean to survive for several years. However, years later and after travelling thousands of miles to distant places, they return to their natal nesting beaches in Odisha and begin the cycle again. The yearly practice that takes place at this hidden beach on Odisha’s exciting coastline contributes significantly in campaigns world over to save these rare turtles.

2. Get a taste of Odisha’s wildlife

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of This beach in Odisha is world's largest nesting ground for endangered turtles! by Siddharth Sujan

At a distance of about 35 km from the Gahirmatha Beach, lies the Bhitarkanika National Park. The national park has one of India’s best mangrove ecosystems and is home to diverse flora and fauna, holding great ecological significance. One can spot kingfishers, crocodiles, barking deer, leopards and bears at the park, apart from several other species.

3. A day-trip to the holy cities of Puri and Konark

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Bhitarkanika National Park, Paramanandpur, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Take a day out from your trip and hire a cab to make a trip to Puri and Konark. Located at a distance of 35 km apart from each other, both Puri and Konark are some of the biggest pilgrimage spots in the country. While a trip to Puri is incomplete without offering your prayers at the Jagannath Temple, make sure you do the same at the Sun Temple when in Konark.

4. Explore the traditional handicrafts of Odisha

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of This beach in Odisha is world's largest nesting ground for endangered turtles! by Siddharth Sujan

Located at a distance of about 185 km from the sanctuary and 20 km from Bhubaneswar, lies the rustic village of Pipli. This small village is acknowledged in the region for its beautiful Applique handicrafts. Shop for some authentic souvenirs for your loved ones while exploring a typical village in the heart of Odisha.

Cuisine on offer

Since Gahirmatha is not a mainstream tourist hub per se, there’s not much to explore around in terms of food apart from some small shacks on the Gahirmatha Beach. However, foodies can flock to the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar to get a taste of authentic Odiya food with dishes such as Mudhi Ghanta (fish), Crab Kalia, Bhendi Bhaja and Chhena Jalebi. Here are some of the best spots in the city you should be heading to for a delectable meal:

Credits: Harsha K R

Photo of Truptee Restaurant, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Credits: Tookapic

Photo of Pabrai's Fresh and Naturelle Icecream - Bhubaneshwar Unit, Jayadev Vihar, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of KANIKA, Mayfair Road, Jayadev Vihar, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

Credits: Nipapun

Photo of Silver Streak, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

When to go

The best time to visit the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is in the month of November. Apart from the weather being pleasant, one can also witness the breeding of sea turtles during this period.

Getting there

Wondering how to get to this unique wildlife sanctuary? Here’s how you can do that from New Delhi:

By Air: Catch a direct flight from the national capital to Bhubaneswar that will cost you about ₹2,500. Once you get down at the airport, hire a cab to get to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. It will take another five hours to cover the distance of 175 km.

By Train: The distance between New Delhi and Bhubaneswar can be covered in about 25-30 hours. From the Bhubaneswar railway station, the sanctuary is at a distance of 170 km that can be covered in five hours.

Getting around

Travelling within the city of Bhubaneswar comes very cheap owing to a decent service of auto-rickshaws which can be hired on personal as well as shared basis. However, you might want to brush up your bargaining skills as the auto-rickshaw try over-charging from tourists. Travellers on a tight budget also hop on to a state-run local bus which are both cheap and safe with fares starting as low as ₹5. Taxi services like Ola are also available in the city.

Accommodation

The nearest major city to the sanctuary is Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneswar which has some great accommodation options. These are our picks of the best places to stay at in Bhubaneswar:

Photo of Hotel Swosti Premium, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan
Photo of Hotel Sandy's Tower, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan
Photo of Hotel Kalinga Ashok, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan
Photo of Hotel Rajdhani - Top Budget Hotels in Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Siddharth Sujan

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