The first and the only Marine Sanctuary of Odisha is Gahirmatha. Examining the ecological connotation and diverse faunal and floral assets of Gahirmatha coastal waters and the coast, Govt. of Odisha declared it as a Marine Sanctuary in September 1997.
The sandy beach of Gahirmatha on the eastern coast of Odisha has been attended by Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys Olivacea) sea turtles since time immemorial. The virgin beaches of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary expanding over a length of approximately 705 meters, has served as a crib to adult Sea turtles and their babies.
The marine sanctuary stretches from the Dhamra river mouth (in the north) to the Mahanadi river mouth (in the south). It adds a width of approximately 20km of the sea from the high tide line. The covered area includes 1408 square km of seascape and 27 square km of land mass compose of mudflats, sea beach, and mangroves.
Sea turtles are seasonal species and some may migrate over thousand kilometers from their feeding ground to the mating ground and the nesting sites. Like most reptiles, turtles show very little parental care. The detail of male sea turtle visiting the nesting beach is extremely rare. Once they hatch, the hatchlings are independent and have to fend for themselves.
During the breeding period of about eight months, from October to May, these turtles spend an ample amount of time in the shallow waters of the continental shelf of Odisha. Olive Ridleys usually mate between November to January, when they swim to the surface of the coastal waters for drawn-out periods, making them accessible to the fishing net and the screw of the trawlers operating in the Sea.
Migrating en-mass from the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka with the onset of winter, the Olive ridley sea turtles arrive on the Odisha coastal waters for mating and breeding. In nature, sea turtles face lots of obstacles for their continuity.
Turtles are in danger at all stages of their lives from the time the eggs are laid till they hatch; during their journey as straighten from the beach to sea. The Olive ridley turtle is the smallest among all sea turtles. The main nesting season is in between January and May. Eggs take about 45 to 70+ days to hatch depending on the incubation temperature.
How to Reach
Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is well connected to major cities of Odisha such as Bhubaneswar, Bhawanipatna, Nowrangpur, and many more. Private buses and taxis are available from the cities to reach the sanctuary.
Bhadrak is the nearest railway station, located about 49 km away. Trains from Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Puri, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru, and Howrah stop at the railway station. Taxis can be hired from the railway station to reach the sanctuary.
The nearest airport is at Bhubaneswar, located about 75 km from the sanctuary. Regular flights connect Bhubaneswar to Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi. One can hire a taxi from the airport to reach the sanctuary.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the turtle sanctuary is between October and February as the climate remains pleasant. October to May is the nesting season of the Olive Ridley Turtles.
Located in: Kendrapada District
Nearest Airport: Bhubaneswar (75 Kms approx)
Nearest Railway Station: Bhadrak (49 Kms approx)
Best Time to visit: October to February