This tiger reserve in Odisha was brought about in 2007 by merging two adjoining wildlife sanctuaries that were notified decades ago (Satkosia, which spanned nearly 800 sq km, and the much smaller Baisipalli); the Mahanadi elephant reserve is also a part of this area. Today, the reserve’s 964 sq km spread falls over four districts (Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh and Boudh), with a core area of 524 sq km. The setting by the mighty Mahanadi is made even more scenic by deciduous and peninsular forests, the habitat of tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, sambhars, nilgai, sloth bears, mouse deer and chousinghas, with the gorge itself home to gharials, mugger crocodiles and rare fresh water turtles such as the Chitra indica and Aspidiretes gangeticus.
The name Satkosia comes from a narrowstretch on the Mahanadi, about14 miles long (sat = seven, kos = 2 miles),where the river cuts across the EasternGhats, which in turn meets another biogeographicregion of India, the DeccanPeninsula, to create an incredible biodiversityhotspot of great scenic beautyhere. Tikarapada, Chhotakei, Purunakoteand Badamul are particularly importantsites for visitors. Tikarapada iswhere the reserve’s eco-tourism activitiesare centred—there’s an interpretationcentre, a gharial research unit, andnature trails and overnight campingexperiences are arranged. Boating ispermitted in a section of the river—it’s aparticularly thrilling trip given the majestyof the gorge and the many crocodilesthat can be seen sunning themselves onthe sand banks. Chhotkei is the site of acommunity-run nature camp with scenicviews—mud-bathing elephant herds aresometimes seen from here. Purunakoteand Badamul are languorous meadowswhere chital and sambhar graze...and bigcats hunt. Sapapathar, a black granite outpostdeep inside the Baisipalli sanctuary,approached only by a hike, is also a goodspot for sightings.
LOCATION AND HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT
Angul, the town nearest to the Satkosia Gorge Tiger Resrve, is well-connectedto the capital Bhubaneswar by rail and road (148km/3.5hrs). Summer(which sets in fairly early from mid-February until mid-June) is undoubtedlythe best time for animal sightings, although the temperatures tend to touch thehigh forties with wholly unbearable levels ofhumidity; winter (from November to mid-February) is much more pleasant; it rains in between,and floods occur, also when the HirakudDam’s sluice gates are opened upriver. The Satkosiareserve’s enchanting riverine location is best appreciatedby staying onsite and exploring itat leisure. Fortunately, the forestdepartment’s eco-tourisminitiatives are well-established.Everything you needto know can be found at www.satkosia.org.