Located southwest of Puri, Chilka Lake is Asia's largest lagoon dotted with islands and noted for the many migratory birds like osprey, grey-legged geese, herons, cranes and flamingoes, which flock to the nestling sanctuary in winter. The shallow lake, about 70km long and averaging 15km wide, is separated from the sea by a long low sand bar. These shallow waters enclose an immense area of marshes, lowlands and islands. Wildlife abounds on some of the larger islands and surrounding hills and sandy stretches. Fauna to be seen include the chital, black buck, monkey, fishing cat, mongoose and porcupines. At the channel meeting the sea, dolphins can be seen cavorting playfully. Snakes, turtles and lizards inhabit the surrounding beach area and wooded undergrowth.
Kalijai Island, Honeymoon Island, Breakfast Island, Birds Island, Nalabana (Island of Reeds) and Parikud Island are some of the important and interesting spots inside the lake. The Island of Kalijai is popular for its temple dedicated to Goddess Kalijai who is venerated by the local fisher folk. This island plays host to a huge fair on 'Makar Sankranti' held annually in the month of January. The large fishing community adds flavour to the lake with their traditional colourful sailboats bobbing expertly across the water, reminiscent of the ancient maritime heritage of Orissa. The Island of Nalabana, which has a varied flora and fauna, forms the core of the Chilka sanctuary and happens to be the central point for the migratory birds.
Chilka is worth visiting the year round, however, the winter months, when the air reverberates with the din of the birds, are the nicest times. The atmosphere is just serene and undisturbed amidst the blue expanse of water on one side and an evergreen range of hills on the other.