AGREAT, SHALLOW lagoon covering 1,100 sq km (425 sq miles), Chilika is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge, with just a narrow channel connecting it to the sea. Believed to be the largest brackish water lake in Asia, Chilika is recognized as one of the most important wetlands in the world because of the phenomenal variety of aquatic and birdlife it supports. From November to February, the lake and its reed islands teem with nesting birds, including several winter migrants, such as the golden plover, the flamingo, the purple moorhen and the osprey. A major attraction at Chilika are dolphins, which are often spotted off Satpada Island, located at the confluence of the lake and the sea. Nalabana Island, at the core of the lake, is the best place for birdwatching. Orissa Tourism arranges boat trips to both the islands. Kalijal Temple, built on a small rocky island, is a pilgrimage spot which attracts festive crowds during the Makar Mela in January. The lake also supports the local people who earn their living from Chilika’s prawns, crabs and fish.