Wildlife conservation is a significant part of tourism of any state. India is a country that displays a vast galore of wild animals and birds. Many states in India like Orissa, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, etc. house a number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Among the sanctuaries of Orissa, the Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary deserves special mention.
This turtle sanctuary is one of the largest breeding places of turtles in Asia. It is declared as a World Heritage Site. Mouth of the Dhamra River is the breeding ground at Gahirmatha. It is considered to be one of the largest nestling grounds for the Giant Olive Ridleys which come from the Pacific Ocean to mate and lay their eggs. The breeding area near the seashore, i.e. the Gahirmatha Coast was declared as a protected area by the State Government in 1997.
It was declared as a turtle sanctuary in the year 1979. Many attempts were made to restore the ecological balance of the area by designating Bhitarkanika as a wildlife sanctuary in 1975.
The Orissa State Govt. and many national and international NGOs have taken efforts to successfully create a natural habitat perfect for the survival of the turtles. Strict adherence to legislatures banning fishing trawlers and clamps was the key behind this success.
There was a time when the number of these innocent creatures started depleting. The locals used to catch these in their fishing nets and this also led the turtles to forcibly change their nestling locations. However situation changed; fishing and poaching stopped with the positive initiative of the government; and today oodles of travelers visit the place making it one of the premier tourist attractions in India.
Area and location:
The Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary covers a total area of 1435 sq. km. It is located in the Kendrapara District. The 35 km Gahirmatha Coast is the home to the giant Olive Ridley sea turtles.
As the name suggests, Giant Olive Ridley Sea Turtles are the main attractions of the sanctuary. These are famous throughout the world because of their epic journeys through the oceans to breed.
When to visit?
The ideal time to visit the sanctuary is from October to February. Try to avoid the period between mid-June to September because during this time there is a lot of rainfall in the area. The proximity of the sanctuary to the Bay of Bengal makes the climate wet almost throughout the year.
- By road: All the major cities of Orissa like Bhuvaneswar, Bhawanipatna, Nowrangpur, etc. are well connected to the turtle sanctuary. Again if you are in some other state, you can travel to all these places by Volvo, A/C, Non A/C coaches and then travel to your destination.
- By rail: Bhadrak railway Junction is the nearest railway junction. It is 49 km from the sanctuary. You can also take trains Cuttack, Balsore and Bhubaneswar.
- By air: Bhubaneswar airport at a distance of 75 km from the sanctuary is the nearest airport.
- By water: It is very interesting to note that you can travel to the sanctuary by water also. Take waterways from Ragnagar, Gupti and Chandabali to reach the sanctuary.
What else do you get?
- Visiting the turtle sanctuary would give you lots of chances to explore and unwind. You can roam around the nestling beach of Gahirmatha which is a segment of Gahirmatha (Marine) Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Additionally you can visit the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park which is the second largest Mangrove ecosystem in the country.
- If you take tourism packages, you can spend some time in the 9th century Lord Shiva Temple in Dangmal, Ratnagiri, Udaygiri, Lalitgiri Buddhist complex and Chandipur Beach that are very near the turtle sanctuary.
The Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is home to the rare and wonderful creatures known as Giant Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Take a chance to experience the lifestyle of these creatures in the lap of nature thus making it a part of your tour itinerary of Orissa.