Chilka & Simlipal disappointed

This item appears on page 58 of the December 2008 issue.
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My husband, Clyde, and I were in Orissa, India, in February ’07. Like Joyce Bruck (Sept. ’08, pg. 40), we visited Lake Chilka hoping to see the migrating birds in that famous bird sanctuary and were disappointed. A few ducks swam by our boat but nothing terribly exotic or exciting. At Kalijai Temple, on an island in the lake, we saw several free-range chickens.

Our driver queried our private boatman, who reported that the changing weather patterns were at fault. It was so warm to the north that the birds didn’t bother to come south.

Joyce suggested that her “time could have been better used in visiting an area such as Simlipal National Park, which has wild elephants, tigers and many other animals and reptiles.” We spent three nights at Simlipal at the Chahala hunting lodge, former home of the Maharajah of Mayurbunj. We stayed in a very rough and basic “villa” located right in front of a prime salt lick.

Yes, we saw peacocks and langurs and other monkeys plus many varieties of deer (including a barking deer, which I hand fed) and rare giant black squirrels. We also heard numerous exotic birdcalls. But the guidebook literature about this park was basically misleading.

When we tried to get our driver to take us to the Bachhurichara grasslands (famous for its elephants), we were told that that area and many other areas of the park were off limits to tourists. Instead, we were dragged to several waterfalls, since our driver was fond of them.

Back at the park headquarters at Chahala, I confronted several workers and finally was told bluntly, “No provision is made for tourists to view the animals.”

One evening in a pouring rainstorm we heard elephants trumpeting. We rushed to the blind near the salt lick and were able to see their eyes when we shone our flashlights in their direction.

On our last day, I finally hunted down the chief park ranger, who appreciated our interest in the elephants and said he would help us see some. He gathered us at our bungalow around 9 p.m., saying the trackers had reports of elephants at a different salt lick. We raced down there in our jeep and can claim that, by the light of several flashlights and our camera flashes, we saw a mother and two baby elephants. Our very black photos showed them only after we played tricks with Photoshop.

On balance, I can say to Joyce, ‘You didn’t miss much by missing Simlipal.’ When we visited, tigers were out of the question and elephants were almost impossible, and to see the other wildlife meant being in just the right place at just the right time — which could mean staying several days in fairly plain accommodations that weren’t really very romantic or adventurous.

JANE B. HOLT

Hinesburg, VT

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My husband, Clyde, and I were in Orissa, India, in February ’07. Like Joyce Bruck (Sept. ’08, pg. 40), we visited Lake Chilka hoping to see the migrating birds in that famous bird sanctuary and were disappointed. A few ducks swam by our boat but nothing terribly exotic or exciting. At Kalijai Temple, on an island in the lake, we saw several free-range chickens.

Our driver queried our private boatman, who reported that the changing weather patterns were at fault. It was so warm to the north that the birds didn’t bother to come south.

Joyce suggested that her “time could have been better used in visiting an area such as Simlipal National Park, which has wild elephants, tigers and many other animals and reptiles.” We spent three nights at Simlipal at the Chahala hunting lodge, former home of the Maharajah of Mayurbunj. We stayed in a very rough and basic “villa” located right in front of a prime salt lick.

Yes, we saw peacocks and langurs and other monkeys plus many varieties of deer (including a barking deer, which I hand fed) and rare giant black squirrels. We also heard numerous exotic birdcalls. But the guidebook literature about this park was basically misleading.

When we tried to get our driver to take us to the Bachhurichara grasslands (famous for its elephants), we were told that that area and many other areas of the park were off limits to tourists. Instead, we were dragged to several waterfalls, since our driver was fond of them.

Back at the park headquarters at Chahala, I confronted several workers and finally was told bluntly, “No provision is made for tourists to view the animals.”

One evening in a pouring rainstorm we heard elephants trumpeting. We rushed to the blind near the salt lick and were able to see their eyes when we shone our flashlights in their direction.

On our last day, I finally hunted down the chief park ranger, who appreciated our interest in the elephants and said he would help us see some. He gathered us at our bungalow around 9 p.m., saying the trackers had reports of elephants at a different salt lick. We raced down there in our jeep and can claim that, by the light of several flashlights and our camera flashes, we saw a mother and two baby elephants. Our very black photos showed them only after we played tricks with Photoshop.

On balance, I can say to Joyce, ‘You didn’t miss much by missing Simlipal.’ When we visited, tigers were out of the question and elephants were almost impossible, and to see the other wildlife meant being in just the right place at just the right time — which could mean staying several days in fairly plain accommodations that weren’t really very romantic or adventurous.

JANE B. HOLT

Hinesburg, VT