BHUBANESWAR: The magnificent Chilika lagoon has all the characteristics and environment to be developed as a world destination for stand-up paddle (SUP), a watersport that has become a rage across the globe.
The lagoon with its tranquil bearing and wide diversity of wildlife including the famous Irrawaddy dolphins, thousands of species of migratory birds and abundance of marine life can emerge the most preferred exotic location for international SUP enthusiasts, a survey by international SUP experts has stressed.
The study undertaken by Active360, a leading SUP promotion and training organisation of UK, and Surfing Yogis organisation of Odisha has, in fact, found the lake safer than river Thames, sans any significant current or obstructions where paddlers could potentially be pinned. The lake averages depth of about five feet in most parts with exceptions of some locations where depth is up to 15 feet. The water is mostly calm and flat, particularly in the morning, which is ideal for relaxed paddling and for teaching beginners.
Chilika provides a similar experience to open ocean paddling but with significantly lower risks. The Eastern Ghats lend a dramatic backdrop for paddling and lake is dotted by scenic islands and historical landmarks like the 19th century British Tax Collection point building, Director Active360, Paul Hyman said in the report.
“SUP travel is a much more effective and eco-friendly way to traverse the lake and observe its flora and fauna like the dolphins, birds and marine life. SUP paddlers can not only sight the elusive dolphins in greater numbers but also from very close quarters than visitors on motor boats. Same can be said for the wide range or birds,” Hyman stated.
The Surfing Yogis has submitted a proposal to the State Government for developing Chilika lagoon into a major SUP destination, drawing enthusiasts from across the world. The organisation’s chief Sanjay Samantray on Wednesday held discussions with State Tourism Minister Ashok Panda and officials of the Department in this connection. Surfing Yogis has prepared a concept ‘Cruisers of Chilika’ to not only shape the SUP destination but also give boost to eco-tourism and economic empowerment of local communities by directly involving them in the project.
An eco-route for Chilika lake would be prepared with real-time SUP paddle lanes. Each route will be specifically designed on the basis of strengths like island hoping, camping, dolphin sighting, bird-watching, etc. It will also host annual events to promote Destination Chilika among domestic as well as international visitors.
Local boatmen will be trained in SUP to become coaches and guides while community members will be involved in managing camps, transport and food for tourists. They will be engaged in conservation and environment protection activities.
The Minister has shown interest in the project and we are sure that ‘Cruisers of Chilika’ project will put the lagoon on the global tourism, paddle and surf map,” Samantray said.