Monday, February 6

Satkosia – The unknown tiger reserve in Orissa

“Just by walking into a tiger reserve doesn’t guarantee a sighting, even the tiger rewards only the patient and long term visitor”, Divisional Forest Officer, Angul Division, tells me as I quietly sauntered through the deeply vegetated trail to the banks of Mahanadi, one of India’s longest rivers.
He was on his way to an inspection at the eco tourism tents at Tikarpada when I engaged him in a conversation. I told him that my only intention to spend some time at the Satkosia Tiger Reserve, wasn’t to catch a sight of the big cat, but to soak in the aura of this rich biodiversity still left untouched by the package tourist.
    Satkosia boasts of a stunning gorge cradling the Mahanadi river and offers a plethora of sightings for the nature enthusiast. It is a natural habitat to two of the most endangered fresh water crocodiles, the Gharial and Mugger and home to many elephants, leopards, deer and its flagship species, the tiger. It took 30 long years for the Satkosia Gorge sanctuary and the Baisipalli sanctuary to be combined and renamed as the Satkosia Tiger reserve, owing to the handy presence of the animal, yet one needs to be patiently fortunate to see the big cat.


    The shimmering blue waters meandering through the gorge offers a stunning sight and there couldn’t have been a better vantage point to appreciate the grandeur of the surrounding landscapes than the river bank, which hosts the colorfully collaged tents. The tents are basic but well maintained and appointed by locals who run this eco tourism venture owned by the Forest Department.
The place gets extremely hot post noon thanks to the beaming sun and the yellow sands, the presence of a breeze to soothe things off looks a distant possibility and the river water in front lures for a dip. We had fallen into the lure already and off went the clothes to be followed by the plunge. The pleasantly cool water and the mild current ensured a refreshing swimming session for the evidently tired biking group, of which I was a part. The best times in life are never uninterrupted and this was never looking to be an exception. I could see a group of attendants on the shore, signaling us to return. ”We are not interested for an early lunch” I thought and returned to the rhythmic movement of arms. A few minutes more and I could hear a bit of noise from the shore, this time frantic calls from almost the whole crew! By the time we got ready to end our session of joy and return to the shore, a speedboat had been readied to gun us down, off course, not literally.



   The manager explained how irresponsible it was on our behalf to have ventured into the crocodile infested water and how we risked his job and his child’s future. We were utterly ashamed at our deed and asked for apologies straightaway. “We were lucky,” I thought munching on the fish fries for lunch. A bit of odd luck and we could have been someone else’s lunch.

   
The evening was spent lazing on the sands watching the crimson sky unfold itself against a few fishermen boats returning home after a tiring day at work. The place has a silent charm and is a bird watcher’s paradise.


There is hardly anything to do here after sunset; the silence amidst the wilderness around can be boring for a lone traveler. But when bikers meet, biking adventure stories flow and there is never a moment of boredom. The chats and discussions flowed with the bonfire in company. The dinner was served and I took the opportunity to take a stroll towards the river. The murmur of water created a symphony setting my mind into a trance. ”Beware of crocodiles, Sir, please come back”, another call of caution from one of the staffs put me back into retreat, thinking “ Aren’t they afraid of humans like we are afraid of them? Do we really need to be afraid?” I didn’t find my answers but knew that the crocodiles surely rule the roost in this tiger country.



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THE INFORMATION
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How to Reach:

The Satkosia Tiger Reserve is situated about 200 kms from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. Take the NH 6 till Cuttack and then get on to NH 42 till Angul. You will have to take the permits from DFO Office at Angul. From Angul proceed to Pampasar, which is the main entry gate to the reserve. Motorcycles are allowed inside the reserve, unlike many other reserves in India.
Buses are available from Bhubaneswar to Angul and then one can organize private transport from Angul or Dhenkanal.

Where to Stay:
The forest department has a number of forest guest houses in the reserve. The best accommodation is undoubtedly the nature camp at Tikarpada on the banks of Mahanadi. Check the website of the forest department for all the necessary details and bookings.

What to Do:
You can laze of the banks of Mahanadi and watch the interesting landscape consisting the Satkosia Gorge. A boating to check out elephants or dolphins can be arranged. A small trek to the forest area is a part of the stay package at the nature camp; make sure you don’t miss it. There will be a local guide to help you out.If you want you can try angling as well, but talk to the authorities and take the necessary permissions.

For Detailed information:
Visit the website of the Forest and Environment Department, Government of Orissa for all bookings and detailed information:
                                                              http://www.satkosia.org/

 

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