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A Trip to Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary

Wrapping up the photography and touring the jungle took us almost the entire morning and afternoon

Thursday February 28, 2019 9:59 PM, Hena Farhat, ummid.com

Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary

It was last January when some photographer friends tagged me along with them to the Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary. I had neither heard nor been to this part of Orissa before. So I agreed.

For those who aren’t much aware, the Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary, also called the Satkosia Sanctuary is situated in Angul, at about a two-hour drive from the state capital.

Reaching Tikarpada

We reached Bhubaneshwar in the evening and booked a reliable cab from Bhubaneswar to Angul. The idea was to reach a night before so we could start exploring at next daybreak.

The sanctuary lies in the Tikarpada village in Angul, on one side of the Satkosia Gorge. It was past sundown and the surroundings were only visible in a silhouette. But I could smell the mustiness in the air from the sal forests as we drove down the dark roads. It felt eerie and I tried to ward off thoughts of a sudden wild encounter. Thanks to my idea of hiring one of the best Bhubaneswar car rentals which made me feel safe.

We put up at the Forest Rest House run by the Tikarpada Forest Department, on the banks of the Mahanadi River, which was the highlight of the sanctuary.

A day tour of the wild

I woke up to the cacophony of migratory birds who were seasonal visitors to this dense jungle. A mild strain of themorning sun filtered through the mist and landed on the ground. That was when we say the mighty Mahanadi River, sparkling in the soft golden glow. The river cut through the sanctuary and we were on one side of it. My friends worked out some arrangements with the Forest Officer who offered to take us on a detailed tour.

The sanctuary stretches for over 22 Km. Interestingly, the stretch of the forest gives it its name. In Oriya, Satkosia translates to ‘Saat’ or seven and ‘Kosa’ or miles, or 14 miles, which equals 22 kms.

This region is considered to be rich in biodiversity with the forests of Chhotanagpur plateau merging with the dry deciduous and moist Sal forests of the Deccan plateau. The officer suggested we do a tour of the Sal forests first and then head to the riverside around afternoon for bird watching. As we walked through the narrow, dusty trail, the dry leaves crunched under our feet and echoed in the otherwise silent jungle. Despite the warm sunshine outside, it was cold and moist beneath the foliage.

On the way, the officer pointed us to different areas of the forest designated to different wild species, each marked with a board and relevant warnings. While we were all hoping to spot one, the officer joked that tigers only appear when you least expect them. Not that we could stop expecting to see the big guys (or girls for that matter). But we did spot a herd of Chital/Spotted deer and a bunch of monkeys, towards the interiors of the forest.

The forests of Tikarpada are home to Indian leopards, tigers, elephants (who come around monsoon), spotted deer, sloth bear, and jackals. But most importantly, this sanctuary is known for its Gharial Reserve, among other reptiles and amphibians like freshwater turtles, snakes, and mugger crocodiles. As surprising as it sounds, the Gharials are released in the Mahanadi River to keep the region's ecology in balance.

A morning on the Mahanadi

Wrapping up the photography and touring the jungle took us almost the entire morning and afternoon. So we came back and planned to visit the river banks the next day.

The forest officer had arranged for a motorboat to take us across the river, to the other side. We waited till the morning mist lifted off. As we glided along the still water, the avian friends started showing up along the banks. This seemed like a birding paradise. The black-crested River Lapwings who were relentlessly making a shrill sound trying to shoo away the orange-billed Skimmers who pecked on the silt, looking for snails and earthworms. A little further along the banks, camouflaged by mud and dust were a couple of greenish-grey Gharials sunbathing and occasionally swimming back in the water. Thankfully, our boat was at a safe distance from them.

I continued to photograph while the boatman proudly boasted the number of birds that come here every winter, along with other wild species. An official count of the members at Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary went something like this- 38 species of mammals, 128 species of birds, 27 species of reptiles, 4 species of amphibians and 183 species of fish, as per records. Not that I am saying that one will be able to see all of them. What I learned from that trip to Tikarpada was that spotting animals in the wild is a matter of chance and humans need to value the privacy and comfort of these animals, without so much as encroaching into their homes. If they want to be seen, they will appear. If not, visitors should just be happy that they could step into the territory of the wild animals, while we are always so protective about ours.

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