Mangalajodi - A Lesser known Avian Haven in Odisha

A sleepy hamlet called Mangalajodi adjacent to Chilika - Asias largest salt water lagoon is gaining popularity among the birders community. A wet-land which is famous for migratory birds across globe. In winter visitors in large numbers flock here to have a look at the colourful birds and scenic beauty.

Mangalajodi - A Lesser known Avian Haven in Odisha
Whiskered Tern on the perch

After Savouring the beauty  of  Chilika managed by CDA ( Chilka Develpoment Authority ), this November  we set out on a day tour to a relatively less popular destination closeby , the Mangalajodi Bird Sanctuary. The coastal state of Odisha  has some of the most beautiful eco sensitive hotspots in the country. Apart from World renowed Temples, Heritage sites, of course.!

A post on less known offbeat place called  Mangalajodi bird sanctuary will sure enthrall the readers and  motivate them to visit this paradise.

Come, let’s explore the offbeat Mangalajodi Bird Sanctuary together.

We were pleasantly surprised with a line up of narrow long colourful wooden boats with a canopy Shikara , each named after a bird, namely Godwit, Stork, Ibis, Plover  At the jetty. clad in uniform boatmen and guides sporting a sun cap with a frown on their faces welcomed the visitors heading for a boat ride. No bargains, hassel free , pay the standard price as per the tour you wish to explore and get going.

Where is the Mangalajodi Bird Sanctuary?

Mangalajodi is a small hamlet located on the northern shores of the Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lake in Asia. It is a mere 70 km (About 2 hours drive) from Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha.

Significance of Mangalajodi ?

The Mangalajodi side of Chilika is filled with marshy wetlands. That makes this area a perfect spot for birds which visit during winter across the globe to, nest, and breed.

More than 230 species of birds live in peace in Mangalajodi or call it their home during the winter months. It is also one of the largest wintering grounds in Asia. Over 100 exotic bird species fly in from Eurasia and the Arctic regions every November – February to escape the chilling cold of their home bases. Mangalajodi provides them with warmth and friendly environs.

You will have probably heard of the  Chilika Lake, the first Ramsar Site of India. However, Mangalajodi is much less-known except in the birders community. Hundreds of bird lovers flock to this sleepy village every year to get some gorgeous frames of their winged visitors.

From A Poaching Village then To  a Santuary Now  ?

Mangalajodi was titled as 'poachers' village' because of the involvement of villagers in water bird poaching on a large, commercial scale. Even the eggs were not spared. It was no surprise therefore, when the census in the year 2000, the count dwindled to a mere few thousands  birds in these waters.

Villagers unanimously decided to put an end to this menace and  decided to revive the bird-friendly ecosystem of the village.

What is Mangalajodi Ecotourism?

Fishermen with local boats leading a sustainable way of life !

Mangalajodi ecotourism is a joint initiative by the State government and the people of the village to conserve the Chilika wetlands at Mangalajodi in a sustainable manner.

It was only only 2 decades ago, Mangalajodi was favourite hideout for bird poachers. There were only few thousands species of birds here in the peak season. But today, the situation has been far better with only the chirping sound of birds. Poachers have turned protectors. They are actively involved in guiding,  tracking and monitoring bird numbers.

Tourism holds great promise in this region. Villagers engage in guiding tourists through the brackish water lanes, enlightening them on bird species and origins, and helping them get the best shots.

What to look for at Mangalajodi?

Birds, of course during our visit here , I spotted plenty of egrets (both Great and Little varieties), Purple Moorhens, Whiskered Terns, Water Crows, Glossy Ibises, Purple Herons, Kingfishers, Pond Herons, Brown Headed gull, Swallows, bronze Winged Jacana and much more. And this was just the beginning of the migratory season. During peak migration in December and January, there will be more than 200 species.few commonly sighted species include Little Grebe, Warblers, Pipits,Jacanas, Black Tailed Godwit, Robins,Little Ringed Plover and many more..

                                                                          Black Winged Stilt

                                                                            Greater Egret in Flight

                                                                    Purple Swampen

Glossy Ibis

And it is an absolute delight to just sit and watch their antics.Their calls,feeding young ones, flight, few soaring in the sky,Tiny Kingfishers perching on twig and plunging into the water is a sight to behold, their busy schedule will sure keep you mesmarized !

You can also spot fishes as they jump in and out of water. The purple heron is believed to feed solely on snakes.We saw one feasting on it !

Vegetation in Mangalajodi is quite unique. The wetlands are covered by Nala Dala (the common reed) that helps in nesting of birds and Chari Dala (pondweed) that are conducive for the proliferation of fish and prawns. The Nala Dala flower (pictured above) is an interesting one which draws ones attention  Water lilies which grow abundantly here are also found in different colors will sure amaze you by its enchanting colors

What is the best time to visit the Mangalajodi bird sanctuary?

Onset of winter , November to March is considered to be a great time to visit the bird sanctuary at Mangalajodi. Birds start flying in from October and usually stick around until March.

However, the migration happens in phases and you can see the maximum number of birds and species in December and January. Temperatures are also the lowest during this time of the year which means you can spend more time on the lake.

The best time during the day

During the day, it is best to visit the lake either early morning or late afternoon. Birds come out to feed during these times and it is easy to spot them. Evenings are especially great if you wish to see flocks returning to their folds. Tours start as early as 6 am with the last one leaving around 4 pm.

Lighting is also good in the morning and late afternoon – an added advantage for photographers. Middays are hot and sunny even during winters.

You will find a lot of variety of birds depending upon the season. Remember, some specific bird sightings will remain a matter of luck.

What is the best way to explore Mangalajodi?

The best way to explore the wetlands of Mangalajodi is on a small, flat-bottomed wooden boat called a Nauka or Dangas. These Naukas have been used here since ages because they can easily glide over the shallow waters.These boats are propelled by the boatman pushing against the shallow-water bed by a long pole.Also, they are noiseless and do not disturb birds during your tour.

I sincerely DONOT recommend taking motorboats because they are noisy and will drive the birds away.

Your exploration begins with a  helpful birding guide armed with a Binocular and hold a Book of Dr. Salim Alis handbook of Indian birds, usually a villager with deep knowledge of the migratory and resident birds. He will be accompanied by an expert oarsman who can easily maneuver your Nauka -  Shikara type boat which will protect from harsh sunlight through the shallow marshes.

Our guide Anand Behra had a sharp sight and would identify birds by their calls. He used to point distant birds, explain their behavior, and tell the country of origin for migratory birds visiting these wetlands.You will be awestruck when you see their interest and  dedication, you will appreciate their knowledge of the birds here. They are the guardians of the migratory and local birds of this avian heaven.Their dedication in helping to preserve the natural eco-system is laudable !

Hotels would more than happy to organize your tours for you. You just have to give them your slot time and they will take care of the rest. Boat Tours usually last for 2 hours and can extended with prior notice.

I would highly recommend doing boat tour both in early morning 5:30 am and a late afternoon tour after 4 pm..

However the western skies can look more picturesque with myriad vistas, the sunset  will make your visit memorable forever ! 

Birds are more active and engaged in the morning and you will see a lot of feeding activity. We witnessed  nesting activity and scenes of mating as well. Evenings, on the other hand, are more charming with low temperatures

Birds start flying back to their nests, or in the sky. You can hear sometimes the cacophonous sounds. However carry a good binocular and a good Tele photo lens with good focal length to overcome dim light.

Greater Spotted Eagle

How to reach Mangalajodi?

Mangalajodi is in the northern end of Chilika Lake and is in Khorda District . It is 67 kms from Bhubaneshwar and 72 kms from Puri by road.

Since Mangalajodi is pretty close to Bhubaneswar it is easy to get here by car. The drive takes less than 2 hours. You can also take one of the numerous trains available from Bhubaneswar and get down at the Mukteshwar train station. Which is the nearest railhead.

Mangalajodi is at a walking distance from the railway station.

Where to stay in Mangalajodi?

Since the village is trying to pave a path for sustainable tourism in Odisha, we decided to stay at The Ecotourism Resort in Mangalajodi. The resort is nestled at the base of a hill and is often referred to as the Mangalajodi Nature Camp. There are 12 cottages here and the entire facility is managed by villagers themselves. You can try some delicious, homecooked local seafood cuisine  here.

Mud Thatched Cottage at Eco Resort

A couple of other preferred and highly recommended accommodation options here are the Godwit Eco Cottage (budget) and the Swosti Chilika Resort  A luxury stay

Though our visit was limited for a day, I recommend  Swosti resort for those seeking comfort cosy stay. Though Swosti is a little further ahead from the Mangalajodi swamps and it can take an hour to reach here by own transport.

What to Carry during your Bird Tour

1.A Sun Cap

2.A Powerful Binocular 

3.A SLR Camera with Telephoto lenses

4.Tripod

5.Note pad and Pencil

6.Carry water bottle as their are no shops closeby.

7.Carry eatables as per requirment.Please DONT LITTER plastic or feed birds.