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Sprawling over an area of 672 sq km, Bhitarkanika National Park lies in the Keonjhar district of Odisha(Orissa). Nature has bestowed its immense beauty on Bhitarkanika National Park. The park has estuaries, Brahmani-Baitrani Delta, creeks, backwaters, mud flats and accreted land which enhances the need of its perseverance as all these combined together significantly influences the geomorphic, biological and ecological balance of the region. The Bhitarkanika sanctuary surrounds it while the Gahirmatha Beach fences its boundaries.Considering all these implication the core area of the sanctuary was declared a national park in the September of the year 1998.
The proximity to the coastal areas increases the salt content of the soil and hence the flora and fauna found in the park are predominately those which are present in the tropical and subtropical inter tidal regions. The ecosystem of this park is dominated by the Mangroves which are available in abundance in these forests making it the 2nd largest Mangrove ecosystem of India. These mangroves are spread all over the park, in the dry land or the swampy and marshy mud pulls and even amidst the creeks and the mud huts. The other significant flora of the region is thespia, casuarinas and sundari. It also has the indigo bush grasses.
It is the habitat for eight different varieties of Kingfisher which takes the count of the avi fauna of the park to 215. Egrets, Cormorants, Black Ibis, Darters and Asian Open bill are the frequently sighted birds of the parks. The park has got international acclaim for being able to maintain the immense population of salt water crocodiles. Around 700 of these aquatic beasts are flourishing the rivers and creeks flowing in the national park of Bhitarkanika. The size of the salt water crocodiles of Bhitarkanika make them unique in the entire world as around 10% of the adults of this species are more than 6m of length. This park is also known for the rare white crocodiles, snakes life cobras and pythons, wild boar, rhesus monkeys, chital and water monitor lizards.
One of the largest rookery of the Olive Ridley Sea turtles lie on the Gahirmatha and other nearby beaches of the national park. The beach has got the recognition from UNESCO for being the nesting ground for these wonderful creatures.
A boat ride between Khola to Dangmal provides you a glimpse on life of these giant salt water crocodiles in their natural habitat.
The best time to visit Bhitarkanika is between November to March.
This erstwhile hunting range of the royal family of Kanika is approachable only through water ways. The nearest airport being Bhubaneshwar; Cuttack and Bhadrak are the nearest railheads. The nearest town is Chandibali. Motorboats from Chandibali and Rajnagar are the only medium to reach the woods of Bhitarkanika.