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Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Gahirmatha is a beach on the Bay of Bengal in Orissa and is the World’s largest rookery of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles. The turtles travel all the way from the Pacific Ocean to Orissa to mate and nest in large colonies. Observing this rare phenomenon is an experience of a lifetime.

Located in the Kendrapara district of Orissa, the Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is spread over an area of 1435 sq/km. It covers 35 km along the coastline of Gahirmatha. Known as Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, this was declared a protected site by the government in 1979 to save the endangered turtles. It is world’s largest mass mating and nesting site of Olive Ridley Turtles. The mating pairs are mostly seen off the coast of Ekakula. The mass nesting practice is known as ‘Arribada’. The beaches Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 are the main islands for the nesting. Other beaches which observe this phenomenon are Babubali at the mouth of Rushikulya river and the mouth of Devi river.

The turtles come out of the sea in thousands on wintery nights. They dig holes in the sandy beach with their hind flippers. Each turtle lays around 200 eggs in flask shaped cavities,  hides the eggs under a layer of sand and crawls back into the sea. This amazing drill finishes in 45 minutes, providing a rare and mesmerising sight to all who visit during this time.

These turtles feed preferably on jellyfish which eat small fishles. Thus they help in increase of the fish population. The Gahirmatha sanctuary receives maximum footfall during this nesting period.

Hatching takes place after an incubation period of 50-60 days. Once emerged from their egg shells, the hatchlings immediately move towards the sea orienting themselves by the reflection of the stars on the sea water. They then start to move with the water current. This is another sight worth watching: the young miniature size turtles emerging from their nests  on a winter’s night and heading straight to the sea.

Another attraction of Kendrapada is Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, an important mangrove forest supporting a large variety of flora and fauna that includes the largest reptiles in India: the Eustarine Crocodile and the rare white Crocodile. Around 200 species of various migratory birds can also be seen here. The rich biodiversity here further boasts about 63 species of mangroves.

Olive Ridley Turtle
These turtles were named after H.N. Ridley, who first reported sighting of these Olive coloured Ridleys in Brazil in 1887; they are the smallest of the marine turtle and grow to a length of 70 cm. The adults weigh about 40-45 kg and have an average life span of 50 years. The most fascinating feature of the Olive Ridley turtles is their mass nesting which occurs at intervals of one to four years.

They have one of the most extraordinary nesting habits. Large groups of female turtles initially gather offshore of the nesting beaches and then all at once come ashore and start nesting to lay their eggs.

Threats
The principal cause of the decline of the Olive Ridley sea turtle is due to the collection of eggs and killing of adults on the nesting beaches. Due to their nesting habits, the females are easy prey for humans, who kill them for their meat, skin and shells.

In an effort to conserve the turtle population, the Indian government has made the turtle trade illegal.

Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary
Known as the best reptile refuge in the country, this sanctuary has a unique bio diversity. It occupies an area of 650 sq/km and is home to dense mangrove forests, a large variety of fauna including the largest reptile in India, the Eustarine Crocodile, as well as rare white crocodiles, Gangetic Dolphins, Green and Leatherback sea turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles and the largest Indian lizard, the Water Moniter. Aquatic bird species include Spot-billed Pelicans, Painted Storks, Great Cormorants, Black Ibis, Grey Herons, Great Egrets and a variety of Kingfishers. Mammals in sanctuary include leopards, striped Hyenas, spotted dear, small Indian Civets, Smooch Indian Otters, porcupines, Fishing Cats and Jungle Cats. Rivers like the Brahmani, Baitarani and Dhamara surround the sanctuary thus providing a great habitat to aquatic reptiles. Due to its unique location, rich mangroves and vast reptile population it was declared a wild life sanctuary in 1975.
Baladev Temple - Kendrapara
Kendrapada is also known as ‘Tulasi Kshetra’ and is famous for its Lord Baladev Temple. It is said that Lord Balram killed Kenderasura at this place. Later he settled here after marrying Kendarasura’s daughter Tulasi. The main temple with height of 75 Ft (convert to meters!) was built in seven-step architecture form. Sri Jagannath and Devi Subhadra are the presiding deities here. Other idols are Sri Sudarshan, Sri Balgopal, Sri Govind Ji and Mahalaxmi. The shorter middle temple has a five-step architecture. Other temples here include the Ashtasambhu Temple, Baikunthnath Temple, Kalki Temple, Tulasi Temple, Navagraha Temple, Sri Ganesha Temple, Vasudev Temple, Padapadma Temple. An annual festival called the ‘Brahma Taladhwaja Ratha’ is organised here: deities ride on a chariot believed to be the largest of its kind in the world. The procession is similar to the Puri Chariot Festival.
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The land of mangroves and tranquil water courses, Bhitarkanika is a hot-spot of biodiversity. It's home to the largest population of estuarine crocodile in India. It is also home to more than 215 species of birds. It is the second largest viable Mangrove Eco-System in India after Sunderban.
The uniqueness of Chandipur sea beach lies in the movement of the sea here that recedes up to 5 KM. during low tide and comes back all the way during high tide.
190 Km
Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, is the seat of Tribhubaneswar or 'Lord Lingaraj'. Bhubaneswar is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre. While hundreds of temples dot the landscape of the Old Town, which once boasted of more than 2000 temples, the new Bhubaneswar with its modern buildings complements its modern aspirations. This city is most renowned for changing the conqueror Asoka to the conquered. The great Kalinga War took place here between Emperor Asoka and Kalinga (the old empire of Odi
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Weather
Season Min. Temp. Max. Temp.
Summer 25 °C 36 °C
Winter 14 °C 27 °C
The climate is humid due to the proximity of the Bay of Bengal. Gahirmatha receives quite a bit of rainfall during the monsoons form mid-June to September. Winters are mild with temperatures ranging between 14-27 C. January - March is the best time to visit.
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