Chilika Lake, Mangalajodi and Konark- Glimpses of Odisha, India

This was a trip that I took in January 2012. Somehow the detailed account remained as a draft for a long time.

As the plane started its descent at Bhubaneswar I was busy taking pictures of the river and the city that unfolded before my eyes. This was my first visit to the state of Odisha in India. I took an Indigo Airways flight from New Delhi and had no major hassles. There was one small hiccup at the beginning of the journey though. There are now two departures terminals in New Delhi for domestic flights- T3 and 1D. Earlier all the domestic flights were from 1D and those were the days when you didn’t had to bother. This time I mistakenly arrived at T3 when my flight was scheduled from 1D. As I usually turn up quite early for a flight I could go from T3 to 1D and still have breakfast and then catch my flight.

Visiting Friends

My primary purpose of visiting Odisha was to meet my friend Ritu and her husband Anurag. The plan was to go sightseeing together. Anurag picked me up at the airport. Bhubaneswar is a small city, from airport to the outskirts it was about 20 minutes. I like such cities.

After a lot of tea, catching up and food we headed to the Bhubaneswar railway station, we were taking a train to Balugaon, which is close to Barkul, Chilika. Chilika Lake was our first stop. Even though the three of us were at the same college campus I was meeting Anurag in a way for the first time. It was great that he also is a keen bird watcher and took charge of our itinerary and included Mangalajodi.

Balugaon Railway Station, Odisha
Balugaon Railway Station, Odisha

After getting down at Balugaon we took an auto to the OTDC Pantha Niwas at Barkul. The road to the hotel was more of an apology for a road but thankfully the journey was short. As far as I could spot Pantha Niwas was the most prominent hotel at this stretch. It is a government run hotel. Most of the government run properties are at excellent locations and this one was no exception. Also most of them do not offer much by the way of comfort and this was also true of the Barkul property. But the people at the hotel were so polite that they make up for its other deficiencies.

A Boat and a Fishing Net, Chilika Lake, Odisha
A Boat and a Fishing Net, Chilika Lake, Odisha

We reached there by evening and after dumping our luggage we headed straight for the lake, which was a two minute walk. From my balcony also I had a view of the lake.

A Boat Ride at Chilika Lake

We negotiated with a boatman and went for a boat ride at the lake. My first impression was that lake is a misnomer for Chilika, it is more like a mini ocean. But the waters were shallow and the boat can be rowed by a tall bamboo pole (quite like punting at Oxford, UK). It was the sunset time so everything looked doubly beautiful. The golden light had cast a spell over the lake, other boats, the fishing nets, the birds and pretty much everything else.

Boating at Chilika Lake, Odisha
Boating at Chilika Lake, Odisha

After the boat ride we headed to the restaurant at the hotel and ordered tea and paneer pakoras (cottage cheese dipped in chickpea batter, deep fried) to eat. The place was not fancy but they produced quite good food. Stomachs full we decided to rest in our rooms for a while and then re-group for dinner.

I discovered during this break that the bathroom had no hot water but that is the price you pay in India if you wish to explore offbeat places. The room had a TV so I watched badminton for a while. Soon it was time for dinner and we decided to be a bit adventurous.

Anurag asked if the hotel would serve the local dish Dalma (lentil and vegetable based curry) but they said not enough orders were there to make it. I asked Anurag if he liked prawns and would he order it? I usually eat vegetarian fare but at times I demonstrate a more adventurous streak. Fish is the most adventurous I can get though. I know from past experience that I cannot finish a non-vegetarian dish hence I depend on others to order it and share with me bits and pieces of it. Anurag was game for prawns whereas Ritu and I went for a vegetarian fare.

When the food arrived there was a surprise for us. The staff shared Dalma with us which one of them had brought from home! And it indeed was wonderful. I ate two prawns and liked it a lot. Later when I ate prawns at Bhubaneswar I realized how fresh the prawns at Chilika were.

At night I decided I was going to make an effort to get up at dawn to click the sunrise. I decided to draw away the curtains so that I could see the dawn from the bed itself to begin with. And when I opened the curtains what a site greeted me! There was a big moon casting a silver glow around and leaving a big thread of silver on the water. I ran away with my tripod and the camera but I could not capture even a single decent picture much to my disappointment.

A Beautiful Dawn and Sunrise

Dawn at Chilika Lake, Odisha
Dawn at Chilika Lake, Odisha

I find it such a chore to get up early in the mornings but I dragged myself out of the bed at 5.30 am. My friends also did the same. We spent a lot of time around the lake and had it almost to us for quite some time. But it was also a day of a religious festival and devotees soon started arriving in numbers.

The Pier at Chilika Lake, Odisha
The Pier at Chilika Lake, Odisha

I walked around a little longer before joining Ritu and Anurag for breakfast. After breakfast we were heading to Mangalajodi, a birder’s paradise.

Discovering Mangalajodi

We took an auto to Barkul Bus Stand. The bus stand was so tiny and hidden behind shops that we really had to ask round to get convinced that we were really at the correct place. The bus arrived after a while and took us to Chandpur Tangi. We had already informed the people at Mangalajodi (use their contact us information) that we were coming and we would need a transport from Chandpur Tangi to Mangalajodi. They sent an auto that took us on a narrow deserted road to the tiny village of Mangalajodi. It dropped us at the ecotourism complex. By now it was noon and we decided to have lunch first and then head for the marshy waters and the boat ride for bird watching.

Food at Mangalajodi, Odisha
Food at Mangalajodi, Odisha

The food was simple- daal, rice, beans, pickles and papad. I initially thought the quantity was too much but soon everything was gone from my plate. Food over, the auto took us to the place where the boat was waiting for us.

Mangalajodi was not always a birder’s paradise. Folks say that 10-15 years ago villagers used to kill the birds that used to migrate to Mangalajodi. Gradually NGOs got involved and converted the villagers to protect the birds. If you talk to villagers now they take pride that people from different parts of the world come to their small village.

Mangalajodi, Odisha
Mangalajodi, Odisha

I did not have a zoom lens on this trip and sometimes that can give a different perspective to bird watching. Our three hour boat ride was incredible. I saw a lot many birds at close quarters- Black Winged Silts, Purple Herons, Egrets, Black Ibis, Indian Pond Herons, Purple Moorhens and Kingfishers of various hues.

Black Tailed Godwits Rising in a Cloud, Mangalajodi, Odisha
Black Tailed Godwits Rising in a Cloud, Mangalajodi, Odisha

But the stars of the visit were Black Tailed Godwits. They would fly in black and silver clouds around the place which was an amazing site. Even otherwise the flat land looks endless; it is an intriguing landscape. Anurag said it gave a feeling of being at the end of the world. Mangalajodi is not well known now but I am very sure this will change soon. To stay there one has to coordinate with the eco tourism complex or be brave like Vaibhav and just turn up and stay wherever one can. We did it as a day trip this time.

Konark- Our Last Stop

Our last stop was Konark, home to the UNESCO world heritage monument- the Konark temple. It is a sensual temple devoted to pleasure. It is a bit difficult to understand how we became such a closed nation when we have such a liberal heritage on relationships!

The Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
The Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

The monument is grand, we saw it in evening light but photography opportunities were not good as it was going through restoration. It also draws huge crowds.

Boats at Chandrabhaga Beach, Konark, Odisha
Boats at Chandrabhaga Beach, Konark, Odisha

We spent a long time on the Chandrabhaga Beach at Konark. I took a long walk and clicked colourful fishing boats. There was a time when my favourite past time used to be playing on the waves but I indulge in it now only after I have walked to my heart’s content.

The next day I spent at Bhubaneswar, did a bit of shopping for my little princess back home. My friends are going to be at Odisha for some more time. I will surely plan another trip to visit places like Chandipur and Bhiterkanika.

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13 thoughts on “Chilika Lake, Mangalajodi and Konark- Glimpses of Odisha, India”

  1. “It is a bit difficult to understand how we became such a closed nation when we have such a liberal heritage on relationships!”

    A v interesting take!

  2. Meena 😀 I sometimes do say interesting things!

    Thanks Niranjan. 😀

    Debopam in season Manjalajodi is awesome!

    Pradip, I was at Balugaon and there is no comparison with Mangalajodi, Mangalajodi is in a league of its own. As it gets migratory birds the season is winter.

  3. Some must know tips for visitors to Manglajodi.May be helpful.
    My visit to manglajodi on 21st. Jan.’17.
    Beautiful place for bird watchers with its own character of endless beauty of chilka lagoon with lakhs of birds. No trace of trees inside. Only wetland and meadows .Birds can be seen from any angle and direction. As I did a little bird study before going to manglajodi,I coiuld identify some of the birds which I noted down in my pad. Name and identification of birds with its individual beauty within the bird world at mngld gives an another enjoyment in mind. First view on the main road after a right turn from the village enchanted me and made me spellbound. What I read from previous visitor’s experience, that there are 200 species of birds. But I only tried to see those 25 type of birds which I recorded in my note pad. To my satisfaction I found out 23 types of birds with its names .
    Some Tips for the visitors may be helpful.
    To Reach at Mngld.: I got down at Khurda Road station. From there I caught Local DMU (Berhampur Local) and dropped down at nearest railway station Mukteswar. From Mukteswar Rly. Stn. ,Manglajodi Eco tourism cottage( manglajodi ecotourism website) is found visible and it is only 2 minutes walking distance. Also one Private accommodation of local person Madhu Behra is there. It is almost 1 km. away from Rly. station. Another Third accommodation of Godwitt ecotourism cottage ,private(odisha ecotourism web site) is there .It is around 2 kms.. Journey and everything is included in their tariff of booking. One can also take a direct cab from Khurda road to reach Mngld.
    Preferable stay: All the three accommodations have their own standard and facility. Godwitt and manglajodi ecotourism are almost in the same standard providing good facility. But the third one ,the accommodation of local influential person, Madhu Behra is quite substandard .This is cheaper but quality of food and dirty room is far below the normal standard and there is a hell and heaven difference. Manglajodi ecotourism centre is preferable with respect to the budget and facility. It is associated with the odisha Govt. Ecotourism Dept. So it can be preferred. Also one more facility is that both the Mngldi eco.centre and godwitt eco.centre can be booked online. The third, Madhu Behra is not reliable .No system of advance booking is there. Only information through phone call but uncertainty to get it after reaching there at the spot.
    Boating : The most enjoyable event of mngld is boating inside the wet land. You have to reach jetty to ride on the boat which is 3 kms. away from Mangld. Eco.T. Centre and the village. It is an isolated place .No locality or near by hotel is there. I went there by walking and encourage everyone to go there by walking to feel and experience the beautiful road journey onto the jetty. Actually it is not a road .It is a little dam to isolate the Chilka water land from surrounding wetland. Visibility of birds will begin only after a walking distance of 1 km. only. Take photos and walk in the early morning or any time in the winter. You will find two jetties operating there. One operated by Mahabir pakshi sanrakshan Samity(a unit of ecotourism society) and the another is operated by Madhu Behra. Mahabir takes Rs.850/-per boat @ 4 persons and Madhu’s private rate is Rs.800/- @ 4 persons . Though Mahabir takes 50 rupees more but it is preferable because their all boats are shaded and will take you correct 3 hrs. trip as per the word. But Madhu’s boat is not shaded and trip time varies around 2 hrs .Preferable to take two trips , one in the early morning sunrise ( Boating starts at 6:30 AM) and another is just 3 hrs. before sunset.
    THANKS

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Mridula Dwivedi

I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!

If you wish to collaborate with me, please check out my media kit. You can write to me at mridulablog@gmail.com

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