Friday, July 11, 2008

Orissa Trip - Day 7 Chilika

We were given the early morning time to visit Nalabana. It was good in a lot of ways. The lake would be quieter and the number of boats and noisy tourists minimum. The birds would be just starting the day. And of course we would get less of the hot sun.

'Nala' means reeds and 'bana' means jungle. Where we were going is a marshy place full of reeds. It is 18 kms away from mainland and the boat has to be a small and light one ... as the water as little as less than four feet deep when we approach Nalabana.

This place is ideal for migratory birds as it is in the middle of nowhere ... so the birds are not disturbed or threathened in any way. There is water everywhere ... so food is easily available. And the marshy land allows the birds to walk around. The Orissa govt. has declared this area a sanctuary and tourists are supposed to view the place from afar only.

We left with our guide and boatman at 7 am sharp. The sun had already risen and it was very bright all around. On our way we saw the fishermen rounding up their nets. There were numerous birds around. Land was nowhere to be seen and it was only water and water. Even though we could watch the variety of birds it was very difficult to take snaps as the sound of the mtor boat drove them away. And if we cut the engine the boat started to lurch so badly in the water that it was difficult to keep balance and click snaps. Besides the boatman insisted on taking the boat real close to the birds ... and in the process drove them away. Our requests to stay far ... and that we had a good camera with zoom .... were either not understood or ignored.

After about 40 mins we neared Nalabana. We could see the lots of birds from afar. Then our guide started to convince us how it would be a waste if we can't see the famingos after coming all the way.... a routine we suspected. When asked why can't we see them , he explained that they are too far away and the boat cannot go in there . He showed a little land and a tower. It was rescue tower 1. He said he has a friend there and if we wanted we could go there and view the flamingos from their high quality telescope. We were apprehensive .... as it was against the rules. What if a guard comes around and catches us? Our guide insisted that no such thing will happen as his friend is the guard. We hesitantly agreed. Then comes the best part. He says it will cost Rs. 250. We had already our tickets for Rs.1000. But then he insisted that is the only way we could see the flamingos. We agreed. Unfortunately we could not get any pictures of flamingos.

On the rescue tower we were met by a friendly man. These people stay away from their homes for months together and naturally feel happy to meet with people. As I could speak in Oriya he was only too happy to chatter away. He indeed had a great telescope .... provided by the govt to keep a watch on the birds and approaching boats and poachers. He showed us the flamingos and named at least 25 other birds.
For me just being there on the tower and seeing water as far as eyes could see was an experience by itself. After a good while we started back. On the way back the sun was so bright we could not even look out as the water also reflected it. But the breeze was beautiful and we enjoyed the ride back.

We left Chilika the same day after breakfast and went straight to Bhubaneswar. Roamed around in Bhubaneswar the evening .... visiting local markets, Ekamrakanan and having more phuchkas and masala muri. The next morning we caught the flight back home.

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