Sublime ecosystem – Chilika

 

odisha-325Chilika, the shallow brackish lagoon on the south eastern part of Odisha, today is an integral part of the state. A distinctive landmark that is not only well established from tourism perspective but also is well know for its “Tiger Prawn” cultivation worldwide. A landmark that was once a maritime hub with a rich history, today largely remains a source of livelihood through tourism and prawn cultivation. This pear shaped lagoon stretches 64.3 Kms across Puri, Khurda & Ganjam districts of Odisha. Apart from being a support to the human livelihood, this natural beauty is a mother to the 225 species of fish ecology and it hosts 160 different species during peak migratory season.

This was my second visit to this beautiful lagoon. My first trip was some 11 years ago from Berahmpur side. The vastness was what pulled my interest. This time I was more excited as I wanted to see the beautiful lake from the Puri side. Also, this part of the lake has the lesser known Irrawaddy Dolphins. The fascination drove us down to visit the place once again.

Well, how much early that I think of starting, still ended up leaving only by 7.30 am from Bhubaneswar. The newly laid outer ring road is very smooth to drive and is a toll road today. The stretch of 135 kms took us 4 hours with some stops in-between for breakfast and at Alarnath Temple on the way.

It was a beautiful drive, also which cut off from the Puri main road. on our way we could see the great Jagannath temple. The Puri – Satapada road is filled with lilies on both the sides. It was a sight to see, awesome will be an understatement.

As we entered the Satapada area, we were almost chased down by a biker. He waved his hand vigorously and wanted us to stop. I slowed down the car to a stop, as I rolled down the window I realised that he was one of the local guys trying to get people for the boat rides. If one is not careful you could actually end up paying a higher price. The IMG_20161106_214234.jpggovernment owned boards are much cheaper and better which is near the lake boating point. We left him and trusted on the GPS to guide us to the spot. We were welcome by a small toll booth who showed us the way forward. We finally happened to reach at the lake boating area by 11.30 am. As we happen to get down there were a bunch of fishermen odisha-213community guys got hold of us positioning their deal for a boat ride. Though hesitant to pick it up we managed to get a good deal for three hours, which included Dolphin viewing, Rajhans island and Muhana (The lake mouth meeting the sea). We stacked up our ration of water, juices and snacks and went ahead to the boat designated for us.

After having exchanged the pleasantries our boats man pushed the boat into the main water. It was really unexpected of us that we would see the Dolphins within five minutes into the lake. It was a family of three that came up the surface and then ducked into the water. They were swift and moved very rapidly. Catching them on camera once needs to understand the patterns in their movement. Finally I managed to get their bums shot. It was an real beautiful experience to see them.

odisha-234
Irrawaddy Dolphins

These dolphins are so different from that of the regular ones that one sees and reads about. According to a census in 2010 there are only 156 dolphins in Chilika. Hope the number have gone up now rather than nose diving.
odisha-253
odisha-330

After our beautiful rendezvous with these mammals we headed off on a solitary trip to Rajahans Island. Chilika being spread over such a huge water space, there happens to be many small islands and water ways are a very strong mode to move from one island to another, as well as connecting it to the main land. One would also see the intricate spread of fishing nets either for catching the fish or prawn. These nets also become a good hunting ground for birds to get their hunger satiated.

20161006_123044By the time we reached Rajhans island it was already 1.00 pm and we were exhausted odisha-296because of the sun heat and the water around. But the breeze happened to be a good solace in the whole drive.

Rajhans was a small beautiful island, in-between the lake and the sea on the other side. The heat was really strong and the Akashiya shade was a real solace. Oh must say, the beach gave a feeling of odisha-298peace and was an amazing place for doing some great photo shoot. We spent close to 20 mins there before we headed back to our boat for our return. For the heat and the hunger that had caught us by now, we decided to skip the lake mouth. The sea shore at Rajhans was reassuring enough for the day.

We reached back at the shore in another 45 mins and that was a killer of time. Exhausted and parched. Was wondering how our boatsman managed to stand in that hot sun all this while and we the delicate lot even under the tarpaulin sheet were feeling the heat. Well nature has its own way of balancing it I suppose. The cool breeze made us to catch up with couple of winks before we reached our destiny.

20161006_144403
Lunch stop after the ride

The hungry souls finally got satisfied with a feast on awesome fresh sea food catch. You name it and it was there and the food was of local flavour which was finally topped up with some delightful pan (beetle leave).

Though the journey back was in the cool air condition of the car but the heart was left behind in the pristine waters of Chilika, as if it beckoned us to come back again and be a part of that wonder….

20161006_145230

Some experiences:

  • Avoid the touts trying to lure you in for a private trip.
  • Cover you head with caps and wear loose cotton clothes. 
  • Carry loads of drinking water while on the boat.
  • Carry fruit juices and not aerated drinks. You could juices near the boating area.
  • Liquor is not allowed on the boats.
  • Try to get a covered boat
  • There are no proper restrooms around
  • Food for vegetarians could be a challenge
  • Swatch Bharat… the place is relatively clean, try and keep it that way.

20161006_150814

Shelled Shore!!!

She sells sea shells in the sea shore,
But would she sell on a shell shore…  🙂

West coast travel-400
Sea Shell Beach – St. Mary’s Island, Udupi

Nature, has built in its own ornaments and placed it beautifully across the globe. Am sure, while building its ornaments, it did ensure that India has a fair share of jewels and treasures hidden in the various parts of the country. The more I travel and explore, I realise that the less I know about this beautiful country. One of such lovely treasures is a small island called “St. Mary’s Island“. A very small island 6 kms off the Udupi beach into the pristine blue waters of the Arabian sea. An Island that seemed to have been discovered by Vasco da Gama.

It was a very tiring day for me as I have been driving for 6 consecutive days travelling from East coast (Chennai) to West coast (Mangalore / Udupi) of India. After having visiting the famous Krishna temple at Udupi (Odipu in Tulu), I wanted to head back to Mangalore which was our base for the day. Half hearted I said yes to heading towards the Malpe beach. I kept saying, “Same water, same blue, yeah!! may be more clear”. Still my partner insisted and I said ok.. I would I have cursed myself more, had I not head her. (Lesson: Listen to your partner often ;))

West coast travel-390The beach brought back my life in a flash, it was the humid breeze that lifted my sagging spirits again and we started to walk around. It was 2.30 pm in the afternoon but was certainly a very busy afternoon, with kids and locals jumping and playing around. The street vendors were setting up their shops.

West coast travel-391As we strolled there were couple of young guys who kept asking, “would you like to go to the St. Mary’s island?” and I was like what’s there??

He said, “Sir, nice beach.. very different from here!!”

What, how can a beach be different, it is a beach and it will be the same all over.. Half hearted I said yes and gave the money after consent from my partner.. It was Rs 150/- bucks per person.

Well we had to wait for 20 mins before we got our ride on.. Clutching my camera bag, water bottles (a must, the sea makes you more thirsty) and cap we started. Once all the Landmass looked so different, and my fear of deep waters started getting the better of me. My little champ kept nudging and asking his 100 questions, which seemed to have helped in my journey of 6 kms in the sea.

20141225_143927
The boat ride

As we got down we were welcome by extremely soft white sand and round pebbles everywhere. While getting down the boat man said one hour and 5.30 pm is the last ride back. Alright, we got down and was admiring the coconut trees and the kids playing in water. I saw a lot of smooth small pebbles that looked like volcanic rocks smoothened by sea waves. At that moment we saw a lot of people walking though the bushes. The curiosity got the better of us and we followed them through a 150 mts patch of bushes to the other side of the island.
Woho, what a view!!! I was awe struck…

West coast travel-401
Shell beach

I seemed to have been transported to a different place. The beach felt different against a crystal clear blue sea and hexagonal pillared rocks marking the outlining the beach. A closer look and I was stuck by the beach.. It was a beach filled with sea shells. Never in my life had I seen so many sea shells on a beach. First reaction, it is fake and let’s dig it and I did just to feel the pain of the sharp shells. It was not man made rather a natural phenomena where sea shells had been deposited on the beach along this part of the coast. I was jumping on the beach like a Kid. (Had I continued a little longer Mr.Vasco da Gama would have come down to cool me off)

West coast travel-416
Rock with Shells glued to it!!

We spend more than an hour soaking the beautiful sea shell beach and the amazing hexagonal rock structures, which seemed to be prehistoric and volcanic in nature. I still was amazed by this beautiful phenomena. But did feel sad looking at the glass bottles (some broken) people have left behind at various places. One needs to be careful which climbing the rocks and explore.

 

West coast travel-402
Shells, water, rocks and horizon… Aha!!

It is a small island but really a phenomenal place to explore and soak in the nature’s beautiful creation.

I am surprised that Indian / Karnataka tourism does not speak much about this natural wonder at all. I do not think across the globe you would see such a marvellous nature “Sea shell beach.”

As we hurried to catch our ferry and head back, I was even more charged up. I was thinking of the rechargeable battery and me. For me St Mary’s was a free soul charging point. I was jumping like the Duracell bunny all the way back to Mangalore that day.

West coast travel-399
Shell, Oh Shell, which Shell do I choose!!

The funny part was, normally I had a tendency to pick some shells from any beach that I visit, but here I was spoilt for choice and I could treasure the moments and awesomeness of the place…

St Mary’s.. you will always be shelled in my memory….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.