Tourism in Orissa has grown considerably in recent years due to the various attractions of Orissa, ranging from wildlife reserves and beaches to temples and monuments and the arts and festivals. One of Orissa’s major attractions is its 500 km long coastline and beaches and natural scenery such as Chilka Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lake. Tharea is an important bird sanctuary for millions of birds, and is also noted for its population of Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), the only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India.
It is one of only two lagoons in the world that are home to this species. Dolphin tourism provides an important alternative source of income for many local residents. There are four tourist associations in Satapada employing three hundred and sixty 9-HP long-tail motor boats taking tourists to a 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi) area of the lake for dolphin watching. About 500 fishing families are involved in this business.
The Orissa Tourism Department and the Dolphin Motorboat Association, an NGO at Satpada, report about 40,000 tourists visit Chilika every year for dolphin Watching. October-January and May-June are the peak season for tourists at Chilika, with a maximum 600-700 per day during December-January. The Dolphin Motorboat Association has 75 8-passenger motorboats for dolphin watching. Tourists pay Rs. 250 for 60–90 minutes per trip. According to the Association, most tourists see dolphins. Only 5% return disappointed. Besides the Association, the Orissa Tourism Department organises “dolphin-watch” for tourists. Even during monsoon, about 100 tourists/day visit the lake.
Major beaches in Orissa include Gopalpur, Puri, Chandipur and Chandrabhaga and the waterfalls of Barehipani and Joranda, Badaghagra, Sanaghagra and Khandadhar are common attractions. The hot springs at Atri, Deulajhari, Taptapani and Tarabalo also attract tourists.