Mangalajodi (includes an update)

B. Chandrasekhar and Sudipta Mukherji

Right Months to go: November - February

Distance: 72 km from Institute gate

Route: Turn right from Achariya Vihar. You are on NH5. Follow it past Khurda. Pay toll at Sunakhela (Rs 70 both ways, Rs 45 one way) and keep going till Chandpur Tangi. It takes about an hour and ten minutes to cover this distance. Just before Tangi, on your right you will see a hard-to-miss board "Pattanaik's bar and restaurant". Leave NH5, turn left. Follow the road through Chandpur market place. Keep going until you see "Way to Mangalajodi" written in green on a clearly visible board. Turn left and follow the road. Once you reach Mangalajodi, you will find on your left "Mangalajodi Eco Tourism" office (Phone: 095836-19624). Look for Santosh Mahapatra or Lakhmi.

Staying: They have two huts (one double and one single room). You need to reserve in advance if you want to stay overnight. Toilets are clean!

Lunch: Right there they cook and serve you hot food. You may wish to try Prawn Malai Curry (little spicy curry but Prawns are fresh from Chilika!). Cost is about 200 Rs. Drinking beer is not allowed though.

Boat trip: The office will provide you with a guide (ours was 22 years old ever-smiley Ashoke. We were told that the best guide is Madhu Behera. He was not available the day we went.), a binocular, a book called "Bird Atlas of Chilika", and arrange a boat for your bird watching. The whole trip is going to last about 3 hours on this locally made boat which they call "dangi". We saw these are being made by local people. They use "Chakundi" wood (Siamese Senna) and these trees are available there in plenty. The trip starts from the watch tower which is about two kilometers away, close to which we found this board declaring that this is designated as Ramsar site . Best time to start the journey is around 3 pm when sun starts becoming weaker (or during the sun rise if you plan to stay over night). Boat ride costs Rs 600 for four visitors. One more person can be accommodated paying Rs 150 extra. No food stuff is allowed on the boat. For other rules, see here. However, do note rule number 7 and compare it with the first picture just below!

Birding: Your boatman (ours was Shankara) will follow one of the 30 channels to take you into Chilika and that is the start of a journey which is surely hard to forget. This Northern Sector -- primarily a fresh water zone --is the largest and the shallowest area of Chilika. The most common marsh plant in this region is Khagra Reed (Phragmites Karka), see the pictures. This region provides shelter to many fresh water birds like moorhens, crakes, warblers and ofcourse, the near threatened, black-tailed Godwits. In fact, Mangalajodi is the most favoured foraging ground for Godwits. On our way, we came to know that, under Ramsar criteria, if a wetland supports one percent of biographical population of one species or subspecies of waterbirds, the wetland is considered to be internationally important. Incidentally, for five species, over thirty percent of the threshold population was recorded in Chilika! Below are some of the birds that we saw on our way. They are extremely visitor-friendly, we could picture (or should I say record) them with a normal camera, with 30-110mm lens.

A Suggestion: Once you are done with the birds, and you are about to return back, buy small prawns from local fish market (Rs 100 a Kg). Simply boil it with little salt, dip each in Mayonnaise and enjoy the taste of Chilika!

Black-tailed Godwit

Large Egret

Median Egret

Indian Pond Heron

Little Cormorant

Grey Wagtail

Brahminy Shelduck

Purple Moorhen

Common Snipe

Grey Heron

Asian Pied Starling

Marsh Sandpiper

Whiskered Tern

Black-winged Stilt

Bronze-winged Jacana

Purple Heron


We went there again this year (30 December, 12). Quality of the "Mangalajodi Eco Tourism" huts have somewhat deteriorated. However, for staying, "Godwit Eco Cottage" looked like a good option. They have seven clean cottages and a tent. The manager Rabindra Nayak (Phone: 84550 75584, 82706 10025) promised us very attractive local Oriya cuisines when we visit him next. Indeed we found that the hotel has a reasonably big restaurant called "Jacana".

The number of birds in Chilika has certainly reduced compared to what we saw last time. However, the black-tailed Godwits and Terns are there in plenty -- some pictures of which our friend Subhasis Rana has captured.


Acknowledgements: Thanks to Neha for a couple of pictures.
23 Jan, 2012