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Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek

Island camping trek on the backwaters of Hirakud Dam

TREK DIFFICULTY

Easy-Moderate

TREK DURATION

3 Days

TREK STARTS FROM

Sambalpur

AGE LIMIT

8-62 years

Island camping trek on the backwaters of Hirakud Dam 

Odisha has always been famous for its food, culture, and spectacular scenery. However, trekking in the region has always remained an elusive opportunity for all. And that is about to change. 

Debrigarh, more than a wildlife sanctuary, is a natural wonder. Never before have we seen such diverse ecosystems in a single place. The Mahanadi River, also known as the holy Ganga, serves as the lifeline of this region. 

The Hirakud reservoir has given rise to numerous islands here. Each island has a delicate ecosystem of its own. But here’s where the magic unfolds: During winter and summer, as the water level recedes, newer islands come to life, setting up a perfect home for migratory birds coming in winter. The islands here are ever-changing. 

Zoom out on Google Maps, and you will see names of islands inspired by bats, peacocks, cattle, and even sunsets! 

Our team of explorers returned absolutely enchanted by this trek. We can understand the reason why: On the first day of the trek, you hop on the back of a gypsy and start your trek from Zero Point. This jungle safari offers you many facets of experience. It takes you from visuals of the longest earthen dam in the world to the stillness of a dry deciduous forest.

On the second day, you get ready to hop on a boat from the Bat Island. At this juncture, you could be wondering why the place is called an island if it is connected to the mainland? We were surprised by this too! During the monsoon, the path that you came trodding on will disappear due to rising water levels. Doesn’t this fact make you wonder about the countless mysteries that lie submerged in the vast backwaters of the dam? 

After you take a long boat ride with nothing but water and small islands in sight, you arrive at your camp for the night. The cattle island. An island with very interesting inhabitants and history. We’ll circle back to this. 

Come evening, when the sun dips below the horizon, casting its final glow across the water, the vastness of the Hirakud reservoir will become strikingly apparent. 

Visiting Debrigarh is not unique. But trekking on its trails definitely is! As you make your way through bamboo thickets and dense canopy, you are constantly reminded of the diverse flora and fauna of this region. Be on the lookout to spot the paw prints of endangered species of wolves and tigers. Walking beside the backwaters is a joy for birdwatchers and photographers. The sheer variety of fauna you will spot on this trek will leave you trembling in awe. 

An island hopping trek like this is very rare. Combine this with a safari and trek around the island, and it becomes a must do trek for anyone who wants to get introduced to nature. 

Odisha has always been famous for its food, culture, and spectacular scenery. However, trekking in the region has always remained an elusive opportunity for all. And that is about to change. 

Debrigarh, more than a wildlife sanctuary, is a natural wonder. Never before have we seen such diverse ecosystems in a single place. The Mahanadi River, also known as the holy Ganga, serves as the lifeline of this region. 

Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Videos

About the Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek
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Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek

We have always wanted trekkers to be well-informed before they go on a trek. Knowledge is the difference between a safe trek and a dangerous one. It’s also the difference between a wholesome experience and a superficial experience.

Use this section to learn about the Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek. It has in-depth information about each day of the trek, what to expect, and how you need to prepare for it. Many years of expertise have gone into this content. Trekkers find that extremely useful.

Expert Speak

Nitesh Kumar J

Chief Explorer and senior trek leader

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Nitesh Kumar J

Chief Explorer and senior trek leader

Nitesh Kumar is the Chief Explorer and one of the Senior-most Trek Leaders at Indiahikes. He has led & explored the most famous treks across our country, like Bodpathri Meadows, Chhattisgarh Jungle Trek, and Brammah Valley. He is also the mastermind behind the design of the Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek itinerary. Read what he has to say about the trek here.

What I like about the Odisha Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek

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Nitesh Kumar J

Chief Explorer and senior trek leader

Nitesh Kumar is the Chief Explorer and one of the Senior-most Trek Leaders at Indiahikes. He has led & explored the most famous treks across our country, like Bodpathri Meadows, Chhattisgarh Jungle Trek, and Brammah Valley. He is also the mastermind behind the design of the Debrigarh Sanctuary Trek itinerary. Read what he has to say about the trek here.

1. Camping on Cattle island

“When I set my foot down on the island, I was instantly transported back to my childhood. Camping on an isolated island, like in movies, was one thing that had always been on my bucket list. I took off my shoes and took a long walk on the gravelly shores. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I saw the sun disappearing into the water on the horizon.” 

You cannot convince yourself that you are indeed inside a sanctuary and not in the vast ocean. But wait, there’s more. Come next morning, you will see the sun painting the quiet expanse of water bright yellow! 

Did you know how the cattle island came to be in the first place?

When the Hirakud dam was being constructed, thousands of families were displaced. Many had to leave their livestock behind. After the dam was completed and the area started to submerge, the many cattle left behind ran for higher ground. The Bhujapahad became their safe haven. 

60 years later, the once mighty hill has become an island teeming with white cattle. Many locals around the area have tried catching them, but to no avail. Due to the unavailability of any natural predators, the population has thrived and grown wild for over 60 years. Normally, tourists cannot camp on the shores of this island. You should enjoy this exclusive experience to the fullest! 

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Wild Cattles seen grazing on the cattle island. Picture by Nitesh Kumar

2. 20 km boat ride and birds that you see 

This boat ride will make you weak on your knees. You cannot believe that you are riding waves in a reservoir and not in the ocean. The heat that you had experienced before vanishes as the cool breeze hits you. You pass one island after another. You are surrounded by water as far as your eyes can see, with some parts going as deep as 250 feet. 

This boat ride is also a photographer’s delight. You see flocks of migratory birds going about their day. You see Geese, Grebes, Cormorants, Pochards, Golden Oriole, Great Egret, Little Fern, and other flocks of migratory birds, especially during monsoons. It is estimated that over 100 species of birds, around 3 lakh in number, visit the sanctuary every year. And the number has only been increasing thanks to the local communities and forest official’s efforts. 

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This trek is filled with all sorts of water birds. In the frame, is a sea gull that is cruising over the surface of water. Picture by Nitesh Kumar

3. Trekking in the Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary

This is the jewel of the crown. A very well known wildlife sanctuary in this part of India. However, for the first time, an organised group has been allowed to trek and camp for two days in its untouched jungles. You trek through so many diverse terrains that you often find yourself wondering how can this be possible. In the span of only two days, you trek through a tall bamboo forest, grasslands, walk on shorelines, climb hills, explore caves and spot many varieties of animals too. The forest officials accompany you throughout the trek for an additional net of safety. 

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Sal, teak and other hardwood trees dominate the deciduous forest in the region. Photo by Nitesh Kumar

4. The immense richness of fauna

An area spread over 350 sq km, combined with abundant water sources and a tropical climate sounds like the perfect recipe for a thriving jungle. And it surely is! Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the richest biodiversity pockets in Eastern India. 

This place is home to a large population of Indian Bison. Shy but short-tempered, it is best to keep distance. Herbivores like spotted deer, sambars and nilgai also graze on the grasslands near the shores. Look up the trees and you might find a family of langurs looking down curiously at you. 

Big cats like leopards, tigers are extremely elusive, but their paw marks remind you of their presence. Endangered species of Indian wolves and hyenas although few in number, are also on top of the food chain here. On top of all these you find different species of bears, insects and reptiles living harmoniously here. 

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A family of Chital staring at the camera with caution. Each day is a battle for survival in the jungle. Their senses are always heightened. Photo by Nitesh Kumar

Trekker Reviews

Sipun

November 2023

These 3 days have been out of imagination for me even as a local
I am a local from Sambalpur. I had always thought of exploring these parts but never could. Something or the other would pop up and I would end up cancelling the trip. When I saw the Indiahikes mail a...Read More
I am a local from Sambalpur. I had always thought of exploring these parts but never could. Something or the other would pop up and I would end up cancelling the trip. When I saw the Indiahikes mail a...Read More
Divakar

November 2023

It was so wonderful seeing my 9-year-old manage the challenges
We have just returned from Debrigarh Nature Trek. This is my 3rd trek with India Hikes. And, in each of them, I experience something unique every time. It is always a wonderful experience. This time I...Read More
We have just returned from Debrigarh Nature Trek. This is my 3rd trek with India Hikes. And, in each of them, I experience something unique every time. It is always a wonderful experience. This time I...Read More
Aarab Gupta

November 2023

This trek had everything. I am sure I am going to come on many more treks here
I am 10 years old and this is my 2nd trek with Indiahikes. My first trek was to Deoban. But I was rather young at that time. Debrigarh Sanctuary trek is actually the favourite time I have spent in the...Read More
I am 10 years old and this is my 2nd trek with Indiahikes. My first trek was to Deoban. But I was rather young at that time. Debrigarh Sanctuary trek is actually the favourite time I have spent in the...Read More
Puneeta Sandhu

November 2023

I'm sure all Indians must visit this place. Even for a seasoned trekker like me, this has been a totally different experience
And for me to visit the Hirakut Dam has been an amazing experience.I trek multiple times each yesar. I think I can't even count how many I've done. This is my 5th trek with India Hikes. And I must say...Read More
And for me to visit the Hirakut Dam has been an amazing experience.I trek multiple times each yesar. I think I can't even count how many I've done. This is my 5th trek with India Hikes. And I must say...Read More
Sipun

November 2023

These 3 days have been out of imagination for me even as a local
I am a local from Sambalpur. I had always thought of exploring these parts but never could. Something or the other would pop up and I would end up cancelling the trip. When I saw the Indiahikes mail a...Read More
I am a local from Sambalpur. I had always thought of exploring these parts but never could. Something or the other would pop up and I would end up cancelling the trip. When I saw the Indiahikes mail a...Read More
Divakar

November 2023

It was so wonderful seeing my 9-year-old manage the challenges
We have just returned from Debrigarh Nature Trek. This is my 3rd trek with India Hikes. And, in each of them, I experience something unique every time. It is always a wonderful experience. This time I...Read More
We have just returned from Debrigarh Nature Trek. This is my 3rd trek with India Hikes. And, in each of them, I experience something unique every time. It is always a wonderful experience. This time I...Read More
Aarab Gupta

November 2023

This trek had everything. I am sure I am going to come on many more treks here
I am 10 years old and this is my 2nd trek with Indiahikes. My first trek was to Deoban. But I was rather young at that time. Debrigarh Sanctuary trek is actually the favourite time I have spent in the...Read More
I am 10 years old and this is my 2nd trek with Indiahikes. My first trek was to Deoban. But I was rather young at that time. Debrigarh Sanctuary trek is actually the favourite time I have spent in the...Read More
Puneeta Sandhu

November 2023

I'm sure all Indians must visit this place. Even for a seasoned trekker like me, this has been a totally different experience
And for me to visit the Hirakut Dam has been an amazing experience.I trek multiple times each yesar. I think I can't even count how many I've done. This is my 5th trek with India Hikes. And I must say...Read More
And for me to visit the Hirakut Dam has been an amazing experience.I trek multiple times each yesar. I think I can't even count how many I've done. This is my 5th trek with India Hikes. And I must say...Read More