Location: Southwest of Puri
Area: 1,100 sq km
Best time to visit: October to March
The Chilka Lake in Orissa is Asia's largest inland salt-water lagoon. Studded with small islands- including the picturesquely-named Honeymoon Island and Breakfast Island- the lake is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge. The pear-shaped lake spreads across 1,100 sq km, and has a unique ecosystem with a range of aquatic flora and fauna found in and around its brackish waters. An impressive array of bird life, both native and migrant, makes Chilka one of the best places in India for a bit of satisfying bird-watching.
The lake hourbours the "aquatic vegetation" of its own and is typically represents by Algal forms (e.g. Chaetomorpha and Enteromorpha widely distributed algae followed by Lyngbya, Ulva, Cladophora and others like Gloeocapsa, Nostoc, Sprigyra, Oedogonium, Chara, Nitella, Gracilaria etc.), a number of Diatoms/Phytoplanktons and a few species of brackish water submerged phanerogams like Potamogeton pectinatus, Halophila ovalis, Ruppia maritima, Naja faveolata, Hydrilla verticellata and Ceratophyllum demersum etc. Some floating plants like Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes and Azolla pinnata etc. enter the like with flood water but disappear after a few months. The communities of Schoenoplectus littoralis in association with Eleocharis dulce, Phragmites karka, Myrostachya wightii & many other grasses and sedges also exist in shallow muddy areas.
Species like Salicornia brachiata, Suaeda maritima, Sesuvium portulacastrum, Phyla nodiflora, Heliotropium curassavicum & some others occur in marshes and salt fields along the edges and other shallow areas. The present scanty littoral and scrub jungles on lake margin, islands and rocky faces are represented by the species like Salvadora presica, Pongamia pinnata, Colubrina asiatica, Cassipourea ceylonica, Aegiceras corniculatum, Azima tetracantha, Pisonia aculeata, Clerodendron inerme, Carmona retusa, Carissa spinarumm, Crateva spinarumm, Meytinus emarginatus, Opuntia dillenii, Ficus sps., Crateva adansonii spp., Lepisanthes tetraphylla, Streblus asper etc. and a number of climbers/twinners and herbaceous ground flora. The dunes & sandy areas of the beaches near lake have the floral composition of their own, favoured in the conditions they offer. The land lying between Sea and Lagoon exhibits rich growth of casuarina equisetifolia, planted by Forest Dept.
There is a wide varity of animal life forms representing various groups of Animal Kingdom (ranging from Protozoa, Porifera, Polyzoa, Brachiopoda, Coelenterata, Ctenophora, Isopoda, Echiura, Sipuncula, Chaetognatha, Platyhelminthes, Annelida, Crustacea, Arachinida, Insecta, Mollusca to Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mamals). The more details of some of these fauna arefurnished here. Around 158 species of fishes and prawns have so far been recorded.Crabs like Scylla serrata & Neptunus pelagicus are the predominent types available here. Oyster (e.g. Ostrea talpur, Arca, Meretix etc.) occurs in small patches. Nearabout countless types of Amphibians Reptiles viz. Snakes, Lizards, Turtles & Crocodiles. Discovery of Limbless skink (Barakudia insularis), a rare reptile which was reported first time from loose soil of Barakudia island by Annandale (1917), attaches much significance to this place. The Dolphins have been reported mostly near Satapada-Magarmukha area and occasionally between Kalijai and Balugaon. Other mammals reported from small pockets in the surrounding hlls/forests/scattered islands & amidst the vegetation of sandy ridge facing Chilika and Sea include Black bucks (Antilope cervicara), Spotted deer, Fox, Jackal, Hyaena, Jungle Cat, Hare, Rat, Pachyura (an insectivora), Common bat, Otter, Common mongoose, Monkey, Squirrel, Porcupine etc.