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Sailing with the Irrawaddy Dolphins

Our car drove through the foggy single lane road, with trees forming a canopy of leaves over the road. With very little visibility, as it was very early in the morning and our sleepy heads were still taking some time to wake up, the whole setting felt eerie. Thankfully our driver was well acquainted with the place and the road that reassurance got the strange feeling out of my head and I began enjoying the drive towards Satapada thoroughly.

Satapada boating signage
Often seen signage on the road to Satapada from Puri.

We decided that we would do an early morning boat ride one day to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins in Satapada the next time we visited Puri. So last year in January we did just that. Satapada is a town located 50 kilometers from the famous temple town of Puri. It is situated on the south eastern part of Chilika Lake; this is the place where the Lake meets the Bay of Bengal. The lagoon serves as the perfect spot for viewing the dolphins.

Chilika Map
Map of Chilika from the Interpretation Centre in Satapada

We started from Puri at 6; it took us nearly an hour and a half to reach our destination. As the sun rose further in the sky and the fog lifted, we managed to do some birding along the way. Nearer to Satapada, Durgesh spotted a Stork billed kingfisher perched on a low hanging electric wire, patiently waiting to hunt. We stopped and took our time to observe the bird through our binos. While we stretched our limbs after the long drive, watching the bird waiting for its breakfast made our stomach grumble for ours. So we got in the car with breaking fast being the only thing in our minds. It took some half an hour to cross the village and our destination arrived. We went to the first tea stall we could find and ordered tea. After satisfying our hunger with homemade muffins that I had packed for the journey the day before, we were ready for our boat ride to see the dolphins.

Chilika Dolphin Boats
Tourist boats approaching the Dolphin sighting area in Chilika Lake

Equipped with our protection gear we set sail on Lake Chilika. The sun was up now but the January winter hid its strong rays pretty well. With fresh sea air blowing from all direction, my mind was filled with nothing but the day’s journey ahead. I love how travel does that to you. No matter what one goes through in their day to day lives, a journey always helps to give one a renewed sense of motivation to face them head on. For me it is the best kind of meditation. Honestly it is the only kind of meditation I have ever tried.

Fishermen Chilika
Fishermen carrying on with their activities in Chilika Lake

Our boat passed through many fishing nets and reached towards the area where the water was a little deep. Soon we spotted one lone dolphin near the boat. After that we saw many dolphins in quick succession. We followed their trail and were rewarded with a unique sighting of five to six dolphins. Soon our boat began moving with them, their roundish head rising and falling in the water as they swam. Durgesh recorded a small video of the sighting while I simply watched. Although I have been here once or twice before this trip it was the first time I have had such a brilliant sighting of the Irrawaddy dolphins.

Swipe left for more pictures of Irrawaddy Dolphin sightings in Satapada area of Chilika >>

Satapada is known for the dolphins and it didn’t disappoint. It is also a good area to spot waders or shore birds. You can often find gulls, sandpipers, terns, egrets, herons, ducks, kingfishers, sea eagle and kites in this area.

White bellied Sea Eagle perched on a pole

Various festivals and seminars are organized by the forest and tourism department of Odisha every year in Satapada making this place a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. There are not a plenty of accommodation option available here, so people usually prefer to stay in Puri. There is a beautiful interpretation centre maintained by Chilika Development Authority which informs the visitors about Chilika Lake’s biodiversity and its role in sustaining livelihoods of the locals in the area.

Video of Irrawaddy Dolphins sighted in Satapada

Our trip to see the Irrawaddy dolphins was a success. Early mornings are perfect for sightings; we came about this realization on this journey. Being the first boat on the lake there were lesser distractions for the dolphins and they moved about much freely. Wildlife sightings should not be about the constant chase to view the wild; it should be about allowing the animals to move freely in their natural environment and observing them patiently. Though we did not predict that we would be rewarded with such a good sighting of the dolphins, we did hope for it to happen. It’s the unpredictable nature of the wild that is really fascinating. I would have been happy with just the boat ride in the vast expanse of Chilika Lake any given day but luck would have it that I would also enjoy an amazing time sailing with the Irrawaddy dolphins.

Do have a look at our Itinerary page for our wildlife itineraries specific to Odisha

Best of the Natural World in Odisha

#irrawaddy #dolphin #seaeagle #wader #chilika #bhubaneswar #satapada #satpada #puri

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