A late night rendezvous.

Every time I visit Orissa, and more specifically, the Bhitarkanika National Park, I cherish the hope of meeting a crocodile. And not just any crocodile. Bhitarkanika has the distinction of being home to the largest saltwater crocodile in the world. A 7 meter beast of questionable disposition.

Somewhat disappointingly, this time it was not meant to be. Instead, we stumbled upon a 5.5 meter crocodilian. It was 10pm. We were 600 meters from civilization. All that separated us from this ancestor of the dinosaurs, was a flimsy fishing net. Delight, fear, curiosity, more fear, and disappointment at not being able to use my dead camera, attempted to wash over me at the same time. It’s odd that at such a time Never Smile at a Crocodile should also sing through my head. Within seconds, I was urgently ushered away from this general state of madness and the crocodile (who was somewhat preoccupied by a wild boar running in all directions, away from his deadly jaws).

In all, my second trip to Bhitarkanika turned out to be quite the workout. On a scale from one to Lord of the Rings, we walked the equivalent of Bilbo’s journey from the Shire to Mordor. Bhitarkanika is India’s second largest mangrove ecosystem, and more often than not we were cosmically compelled to take a roundabout route due to incoming tides, fallen trees and inexplicably placed barriers by the Forest Department. Although we managed to spot a fair amount of wildlife, I  never did get a good photo of a crocodile.

An extremely alert chital (Indian Spotted Deer) stag stares directly into the camera at Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

An extremely alert chital (Indian Spotted Deer) stag stares directly into the camera at Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

A herd of chital (Indian Spotted Deer) graze at Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

A herd of chital (Indian Spotted Deer) graze at Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

A water monitor lizard lounges in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

A water monitor lizard lounges in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

AWater Monitor Lizards are deceptively slow, Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

AWater Monitor Lizards are deceptively slow, Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Painted Stork migrate back towards Orissa around April, in Rajnagar, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Painted Stork migrate back towards Orissa around April, in Rajnagar, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Rainbow beeaters are commonly sighted around Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Rainbow beeaters are commonly sighted around Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Collared Kingfishers are amongst the eight kingfishers found in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Collared Kingfishers are amongst the eight kingfishers found in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Grey Indian Hornbills are commonly found in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Grey Indian Hornbills are commonly found in Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Baya Weaver birds industriously work to put together they nests © Nisha D’Souza

Baya Weaver birds industriously work to put together they nests © Nisha D’Souza

The Water Mango plant has a sweet smell when blooming, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

The Water Mango plant has a sweet smell when blooming, Orissa © Nisha D’Souza

Sunrise over Bhitarkanika NP © Nisha D’Souza

Sunrise over Bhitarkanika NP © Nisha D’Souza

     

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