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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Satkosia Gorge, a tryst with unspoiled nature

Satkosia Sands Resort:

This time, the decision to travel was taken for completely different reasons; this trip was not for the sake of experiencing a new place. The location was chosen by my son and he made all the necessary arrangement. Since I started to drive, he has been a constant companion and my trusted navigator. This time, it was the same. The following is a write-up from his point of view. If readers like it, I would request them to put down a few words of encouragement for him. The photographs are all mine, and I shall add more as I get more time. At the very end of this travelogue, I shared the necessary details for future travellers.

Travelogue by Annwoy Roy Choudhury:

We Bengalis are "travelaholics". I was born and brought up in such a manner that roaming is a part of my everyday life. Jokes apart, I and my family go on brief sojourns both inside and outside my state, almost five to six times a year. I have a crave or maybe a desperation for nature and nature and I are tied up by a bond of unknown love. India has a lot of gorgeous places to visit and Odisha is a treasure trove for travellers like me. This time, it was Satkosia.

We started around 4:30AM, even before the dawn broke, on our own four-wheeler. Being habituated in long drives, it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable in mornings like this. After being seated for almost 11 hours, we received a smiling welcome at Satkosia Sands Resorts. One of the four available AC tents (no. 03) was booked online by us. It was really good, importantly, very clean and hygienic. I was overjoyed to find so many modern cycles ready for a willing rider to paddle them out. So without wasting a minute, I went for cycling just after getting the luggage off my back. The cycling was a startling experience, as I followed the main road through the jungle having the mountains and setting sun before me. The tribal help (like Manju didi) were extremely courteous and well behaved and made us feel quite at home. The food was awesome, and having dinner in the middle of the sands, beside the Mahanadi, surrounded by Eastern Ghat with the starlit sky above my head, the words fall inadequate to describe the feeling.

Next day, I was awakened by the chirping of the birds. We boated in the river through the gorge, watching the calm Crocodiles sunbathing and the turtles looking at the intruders surprisingly. After the boating, I swam in the bounded patch of the river with my father, which was a wonderful activity. It was my first swim in any river. That evening I went through a heavenly experience. I sat on the deck chair on the balcony. It was dark like cruel mind, and the wind was blowing like as if it was trying to escape from him. The river growled like a hound. And the sky started to cry fiercely. I will surely never forget the evening. I couldn’t sleep at all. Our tent tried to be on wings and fly away. Somehow the night passed.

As every good thing must come to an end, our stay also reached our last day. Sadly, there was no more swimming for us, as our manager, Mr Mohanty advised against the same, considering the sudden increase of the level of water in the river. Still, I was glad to watch the morning rituals of two Giant Squirrels atop the trees beside our dining hall.

In those three days, I gathered so many memories to cherish for my whole life. The beautiful folk dance in the evening got me hooked. Though the language was not known to me, the linguistic proximity of Odiya and Bengali, my mother tongue, did not make the dialogues completely alien to me. How energetically they danced and played, though the presence of synthesizer in a folk music performance was a bit of a misfit. One of those three afternoons, we were taken to the nearby village Bethiasahi to visit the temple of Lord Jagannath. Fortunately, it was the last day of a month-long religious festivity for the villagers, and we were lucky enough to witness a part of it. It was an opportunity for me and my family to have sweets from the village sweet shop. The sweets were so good, and we packed a kilo of Chhena Pora, the local delicacy for our home. My father made sure that he does not miss an opportunity to click the fragments of village life and the inhabitants. The locals are always smiling and started to chat with my father as if they knew him for long. It was really heart-warming. Mr Mohanty was extremely helpful throughout our stay. As my father said, he treated the establishment like his own baby and cared for the guests as if they are his own. He never missed making sure that we had our lunch and dinner in a proper manner and always had food after all the guests had their fill. Even after so much work, the smile never left his face. So were Manju didi and another lady who mostly accompanied her. Sadly, I have forgotten her name. The organic vegetables were really so nice to have. I hope that one day we can be back again.


A small introduction to Satkosia and Satkosia Sands Resort by Srijan Roy Choudhury:

My words are totally inadequate in describing the experience that I had. I have been to many places, but never been to a place so differently beautiful.

The evenings were always greeted by raging wind which turned to a roaring storm in one of the nights. I always venture a little away to capture a landscape differently. That evening, I was caught completely off-guard. As I was photographing a sandstorm in front of me, I completely missed the wind running towards me from my left. My ears did register strong thudding sound which I am failing to describe. It was so alien to me. I ran for cover in one of the nearby Swiss tents but the storm laughed at my futile attempt and the whole tent came crashing down on me. I was lying on my face on the sand with the tent covering me and could only hear the wind raging above my head. Thankfully, it subsided after some time, and I was rescued by the employees of the resort. 

The whole evening, the sky poured over to soak the dry land to the bone and during the night the wind again came howling. I was wide awake and in a complete awe by the raw force of nature. The storm was trying to uproot the whole tent and shaking it so vigorously. Next morning, the locals confirmed it was quite normal. So, if you really want to experience please hit the road. I was also informed that during monsoon, the Mahanadi reaches the foot of the hill and crocodiles come so near that you may observe them from the balconies attached to the tents!

Satkosia is famous for two things, the marvellous Gorge of the Mahanadi river and the wildlife thriving in the Satkosia Tiger Reserve. The wildlife includes mammals and reptilians, both, along with many avian species. One of the famous residents of this forest is Indian giant squirrel, or Malabar giant squirrel, (Ratufa indica). Quite a few of the endangered species of turtles and tortoises coexists with all the three types of endangered crocodiles found in Indian river systems. We were lucky enough to have a glimpse of two types of Mugger Crocodiles and one species each of Tortoises and Turtles.

The Sands Resort is so located that spectacular Sunrises and Sunsets can be viewed without venturing outside the compound. The booking system is completely online, and boarders need not pay separately for various activities that they offer, including a one 45 min boating session every day on the Mahanadi gorge for both the occupants and a child below 12 years of age. Here I must mention, one high-quality Nikon binocular is offered for free for each family.

There are 40 high-quality bicycles available for boarders in case they want a bit of exercise. A jungle trek with a guide is offered in the morning. The food is pretty good. Local tribal people work here and they are extremely friendly, supportive and courteous. The vegetables are grown locally, so visitors get organic foods. If you love to swim, take a dip in the Mahanadi, but venturing out of the enclosed swimming area is a strict no-no.

To reach this place, you need to pass Chhamundia Check Post and without the entry fee, that is not permitted. While booking in this resort, an entry ticket is issued by default for some extra charges. No extra charges are required to be paid for the vehicle. So keep the entry ticket very safe, as that is kind of passport for all the visitors.

Finally, all the above come in a package and included in the room rent paid. Sweet!

All the following photographs are available in print, so if required, please get in touch with me.

 Mugger Crocodile

  Mugger Crocodile

 A pair of Tortoises

 Mugger Crocodile sunbathing

 The sound of boat's motor made it slither into water

 This one decided not to come up

A pretty big one- Gangetic Soft Shell Turtle

 The sound of the motor made it curious

 But at the end, the sense of safety prevailed

These Swiss tents are only available until February from October

A sandstorm was brewing nearby

 Sandstorm and I thought it was a feature of a desert!

 As the sun rises in the east, the moon bids adieu in the Western sky

 Even though cloud is considered a bane for good sunrise, I always felt just the opposite

 As the molten gold is poured over the water of the Mahanadi

 A panorama of the Eastern Sky and the Mahanadi river

 The mirror of nature

 Local tribals are so friendly and welcoming, you never feel like an outsider

And that's what I call a smile!

A local religious festival organised in the village nearby

A spectacular sunset over Easter Ghat mountains and clouds are like ornaments of nature

 Before I embarked on our return journey, the sun decided to show up without the entourage of clouds

 The clouds gathered

 A remnant of last rainy season


 The famous Satkosia Gorge of the Mahanadi river

Striated Heron aka Little Heron 


 The AC Tents. AC cottages are located a bit higher up the slope. (mobile phone photo)

Inside of our tent (mobile phone photo)

Inside of our tent (mobile phone photo)

The Dining hall! Every evening, a cultural programme is arranged in front of this place.

For more travel related photos and videos you are welcome to visit my 500px page, Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

Here are few videos:

How to reach:

Satkosia Sands Resort is on the Southern bank of the Mahanadi river and located at Badmul, Nayagarh District of Odisha.

By Air: The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar. From there hire a car for Satkosia Sands Resort, which is an about 3hrs drive. The Cost of a car is about 6500/- for drop and pick up.

By Road: Drive along NH16 (old name NH6) and take a  right turn at Khurda bypass square and then drive more or less straight along NH57 till Baghamari-Kalapathar road, which later becomes Fategarh road and finally Gania-Kantilo road. The destination would be on the right. The distance from Kolkata is about 550km. It is better not to follow Google map as that instructs to take a right turn at  Balikuda traffic signal and leave NH16 for Banki-Cuttack road. This road, though shorter, takes a much longer time and is infested with humps! Take note that, after NH16, you will be greeted by an army of humps. So whenever a village or settlement approaches, slow down, as there will certainly be two humps at least, one while entering and other while leaving. In Google Map, set the final destination as "Satkosia Sands Resort" (Badmul, Nayagarh district) but add Bhubaneswar as an intermediate stop, then the road I have suggested above will be displayed.

By Train: The nearest station from where cars are available is Bhubaneswar.

By Public Transport: Either from Bhubaneswar or Cuttack, take a bus for Chhamundia. From there autos ply to this place.

Booking: Please visit Eco Tour Odisha and book online.

Finally, it's a beautiful place, so if you intend to drive from Kolkata, it is preferable to stay for at least 3 days to soak the beauty of this place.


Note: As this post has generated so much interest, (thank you for that) I would again like to request you to go through the complete Blog post before venturing out, everything is detailed out here. Most importantly, please do not visit this place without prior booking, as this is located inside Satkosia Tiger reserve, entry permission is mandatory, and booking includes the entry fee as well as permission.

Thank you for being so considerate for not engaging yourself in "not so social activity" of copyright violation. Please understand that all the above photos and the writing (whole/part of) are fruits of labour. So please refrain from any unauthorized usage which not only violates copyright laws but also disheartens me to work harder and produce better content.  

Prints of photos are available, so please get in touch with me for any requirement.
Visitors are welcome to share the link to this write-up.