The Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is in the Indian state of Orissa. More specifically, it is situated in the district of Kendrapara and is the largest breeding area of turtles and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a notable achievement as it means that it is globally recognised as indicating an extraordinary place of natural beauty and abundance. This is the natural habitat of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, which is known the world over and is one of the smallest sea turtles in existence. Despite being one of the smallest, it still weighs over 45 kilograms and measure approximately 75 centimetres in length as an adult. Its shell displays a distinctive heart shape and olive green colour. Their diet comprises mainly of crustaceans, algae, sea grasses, fish and little invertebrates. They are quite amazing in their ability to dive 150 metres down in search of food.

The Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is made all the more exquisite for its long stretches of pristine beaches, which lure tourists from all over the world to indulge in the hot weather and stunning surrounds. The entire sanctuary covers an area of approximately 1435 square kilometres, all of which is ultimately dedicated to the preservation and protection of the
Image of an Olive Ridley Turtle in Tamil Nadu, India
An Olive Ridley Turtle in Tamil Nadu, India
turtles that live within its borders.

Turtles have experienced major threats to their population numbers due to hunting and fishing. They are caught in fishermen’s nets and die while waiting for release. Many of the seamen eat the turtles as a delicacy or sell them to merchants on the shore. Although this trend is waning somewhat, it has taken many years for their population numbers to recover. There is a nesting beach within the sanctuary that is a protected area and part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary is also protected in an effort to guard the turtles and aid in the increasing of their numbers.

Of course, turtles are not the only animals that have made Gahirmatha their home. Nature lovers may spot a great variety of both plant- and animal species that make for perfect photographs and lasting memories. Some of the animals include leopards, crocodiles, hyenas, Chinkaras, Sloth Bears, Nilgai, Barking Deer, Wild Boar and Four-horned Antelope. Vegetation comprises Teak Trees, Bamboo plantations, Sal Trees, Casia, Tendu and Palas. However, these are only a few of the many plants that make this area as lush, green and abundant in natural life as it is.

The Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary enjoys a wet climate due to the monsoon season, which stretches from June to September. During this time, visibility and accessibility may not be optimal, so tourists and visitors are advised to visit between October and March. Gahirmatha is accessible by road, rail and air. The closest airport is in Bhubaneswar (75 kilometres from the park), and nearby cities include Bhawanipatna and Nowrangpur. In addition, the waterways stretch between the sanctuary and Ragnagar, Gupti and Chandabali, making for a novel and exciting way to travel in India.

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