A wildlife sanctuary. A mangrove forest. A treasure trove of biodiversity. Here’s what you need to know before you visit
The Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is located near the port city of Kakinada in East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. It has the distinction of being the second largest mangrove forest in the country after the majestic Sunderbans, but surprisingly, it is still relatively little-known among tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.
The sanctuary, established in 1978, is spread over an area of 235 square kilometres and is home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna, including the elusive Fishing Cat and the Indian Smooth-coated Otter.
The twin islands of Hope and Sacramento serve as important nesting sites for the globally threatened Olive Ridley turtles, as well as a variety of shellfish species. In all, Coringa is home to 36 near-threatened species, making it an important wetland conservation area and a potential Ramsar site.
Plan Your Trip
The nearest airport is Rajahmundry Airport (70km; 1.5 hours). It is well connected to all the metros in the country. The nearest international airport is Visakhapatnam Airport (145 km; 3 hours).
The nearest railway station is Kakinada Junction, 3km from the city centre. Kakinad, which is about 18km from the sanctuary, is connected to Hyderabad by overnight trains. All other major cities also have regular trains to Kakinada.
To reach the sanctuary from Kakinada, go via Kakinada-Yanam Road. It is well connected to Rajahmundry, which is around 70km from Kakinada. Private and state transport buses ply frequently on this route.
best time to visit
Winter: If you are going to see migratory birds, then October to March is the best time for you. Temperatures in this season usually range from 19°C to 31°C.
Summer: If seeing Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings is on your bucket list, then you need to make a trip in March. The summer months are a good time to see the resident water birds or catch otters, Fishing Cats and jackals. In summer, temperatures range from from 25°C to 40°C.
For a luxurious stay, Hotel Royal Park in the heart of town is your best bet – it is about 16km from the sanctuary. A king suite with all the creature comforts will cost around ₹7,000 per night. The rooms are spacious and elegantly designed.
Most of the good mid-range hotels in Kakinada are located on Cinema Road.
The rooms at Jaya Residency are good value, at around ₹2,300 per night. They are well equipped, with a work table, intercom, and luggage rack. Another option to consider is the Balaji Grand with (₹1,500 per night) well-furnished rooms and comfortable beds. The travel desk can also help arrange transport to the sanctuary.
Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is named after a small village and is one of the most unique ecosystems on the eastern coast. Not only is it a birding heaven, it is also home to a number of threatened and rare species.
The early morning safaris are the best for birding as well as spotting the elusive Fishing Cat. Insist on a good local guide while booking your safari.
It is a beautiful sight to watch Red Sea Ghost Crabs scurrying around on the beach at Sacramento Island. During the nesting season in March, they share their home with the Olive Ridley Turtles.
Black-crowned Night Heron is a common sight at most wetlands in the country. They usually rest during the day and fly out at dusk to feed near the mangroves.
The Large Egret is a resident bird of Coringa and mostly found near marshes, tidal estuaries and mangroves. Fish, frogs, crustaceans and water insects are its main food.
Small Blue Kingfishers are usually found on over hanging branches scanning the waters below. They feed on small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects.
Brahminy Kites with their distinctive chestnut wings and white head are found in a wide range between India and Australia. They nest near the river or coast and prey on fish and small mammals.
Migratory birds like the Pallas Gull, Caspian Tern and Brown-headed Gull are mostly found in Hope and Sacramento islands and Kakinada Bay. They arrive from Central Asia or Tibet in October and fly back around mid-April.
The Asian Openbill Stork is an abundant, breeding resident of Coringa. It is mostly found in paddy fields surrounding the sanctuary. The maximum number recorded of this species here is 6800.
The fishing community helps the forest department in conservation by keeping a tab on the turtle eggs on Hope and Sacramento islands.
Add More Images
See | Do
The sanctuary is home to 35 species of mangroves, nearly 266 species of birds, and mammals such as the Fishing Cat and the Indian Smooth-coated Otter. During October to March the sanctuary turns into a wintering ground for over 85,000 water birds. 93 of these are migratory species, with the prize sightings being the Indian Skimmer, Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit.
- The best place to explore in Kakinada is the beach. If you get there at dawn you will see the fishermen bringing in their fresh catch of the day. Evenings are best for leisure walks, where you can also enjoy views of the century-old Kakinada Port in the distance.
- If you’re interested, you can also walk around the port from 6am-7pm, but make sure to keep your camera in the bag, as, like in most ports, photography is prohibited for security reasons.
- Don’t miss the boat safari from Ramannapalem. It takes you to places where you are likely to spot the Fishing Cat and otters. Ask your guide; he should be able to help with this.
Good to know
- The sanctuary can be accessed at three places: Ramannapalem, Chollangi or Matlapalem. For the boat safari (Rs 50) you need to drive down to Ramannapalem (25km from Kakinada). You will need to make a booking in advance at the Forest Department office in Kakinada (Division Forest Officer, Kakinada). Call 0884-2379381, 0884-2367460 or 7382607946.
- At Chollangi you can visit the Nature Interpretation Centre, which is open from 9am to 5pm. Here, you can read some general information about the flora and fauna of the sanctuary. Chollangi also offers an hour-long shared boat ride, which takes you through the mangroves right up to the mouth of the sea. It’s a shorter ride – good to get yourself an orientation of the sanctuary. But for birding and spotting Fishing Cats, otters and turtles, the longer boat safari from Ramannapalem is the best option. The entry fee at Chollangi is ₹25 and the boat ride is ₹100. Before getting on any of the boats, make sure they have life jackets and keep them on throughout the trip.
What to pack
- Carry enough water and food to last for 6 hours. Sandwiches, chocolate bars and dry fruits are all good options, because the boat ride will take around four hours and there aren’t many options to grab a bite to and from the base.
- If you’re there during winter, pack a light jacket as it gets quite cold early in the morning.
- As when visiting all wild spaces, wear earthly browns and greens, not bright colours.
- Keep a hat or cap and sunscreen handy for the later part of the ride, when the sun becomes more intense.
- Carry a pocket notebook and pen.
- If you have a dry sack use it to secure your gear on board.
- Telephoto lenses will be a good choice. Alternatively you could use a 2x convertor on your 70-200mm lens.
- If you have a second camera body, you can keep a wide angle on for shots of the forest and the boat ride. This will give you a range of shots to weave a complete feature of the sanctuary.
- If you shoot video, carry a tripod or monopod according to your preference. The smooth sway of the speedboat makes for brilliant footage.
- And yes, remember to get the front seat on the boat.
- While in Kakinada, you cannot possibly miss out on the lip-smacking meals prepared by the folks at Subbayya Hotel. It is your one-stop place for authentic vegetarian Andhra meals.
- Find your way to Nukalamma Temple Street and ask anyone about this no-frills place. The meals are served on a banana leaf in classic, all-you-can-eat Andhra style. The service is very efficient, just as you would expect at a thali place. On the way out, don’t forget to grab a packet of their homemade pickles and masalas. It is open from 11am to 10:30pm, but expect a waiting time of 30 minutes during peak service hours. You can expect to spend around ₹300 per person.
Budget per person
A 2-night, 3-day trip to Coringa can be managed within a budget of ₹12,000-₹18,000, depending on the accommodation you choose. Hotels in Kakinada range between ₹2,000 to ₹7,000 a night. Food can be budgeted at ₹600 per day at the mid-range hotels.
You will need to hire a car for pick up and drop to Ramannapalem, which should come to around ₹2,000 per day. The boat safari costs ₹5,000 per trip. You will need to do at least two safaris for a fair chance to spot different species.