The government of Odisha had planned to start river cruises in five places across the state, namely Hirakud Reservoir, Satkosia Gorge, Chilika Lake, Mahanadi River and Bhitarkanika mangroves. The plan got delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as travel restrictions are relaxed gradually, the Odisha government is moving forward with the river cruise project under Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
The Chief Secretary of the state, Asit Kumar Tripathy, has given orders to the tourism department to begin the initiative as soon as possible. He further said that river cruising is compatible with the restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
The state tourism secretary, Vishal Kumar Dev, has informed that the three principal river cruise routes could be developed on Chilika Lake, Dangmala Reserve Forest and Mahanadi river, including the National Waterway 5 going from Dhamara to Paradeep.
The Chilika circuit is going to connect Chilika Lake with other tourist-friendly locations in the state which could span over 4 days and 3 nights. The Bhitarkanika circuit shall connect areas like Chandbali-Aradi-Dhamara-Khola in Bhitarkanika which can be a cruise comprising of 6 days and 5 nights.
The largest salt water lake in Asia, Chilika is a paradise for bird-watching enthusiasts and is one of the popular tourist destinations in Odisha. Dolphin sightings are common here and it has many small islands with salt pans.