19 DAYS BIRDING TOUR
Bhutan is home to many species of birds that are in the verge of extinction, the Imperial Heron, which is one of the fifty rarest birds in the world and the rare Black-Necked Crane, which breeds in Tibet and then migrates over the Himalayas to Bhutan during the winter months. The Cranes can be spotted in Phobjikha in the western region of Bhutan, Bumthang in central region of Bhutan and in Bumdeling in eastern region of Bhutan. They migrate to these winter roosting sites in the months of September and October and fly back to Tibet between February and March.
Price : USD 4180.00 per person
Day 1 Arrive Paro
Day 2 Paro Thimphu
Day 3 Thimphu
Day 4 Thimphu
Day 5 Thimphu Wangdi
Day 6 Wangdi Phobjika
Day 7 Phobjika Zhemgang
Day 8 Zhemgang
Day 9 Zhemgang
Day 10 Zhemgang Trongsa
Day 11 Trongs Ura
Day 12 Ura Sengor
Day 13 Sengor Yangkhola
Day 14 Yangkhola
Day 15 Yangkhol Rongtong
Day 16 Rongtong Morong
Day 17 Moring Samdrup Jongkhar
Day 18 Samdrup Jongkhar
Day 19 Departure to Guwahati
Day 1: Arrive Paro International Aiport and transfer to the hotel
Elevation 7600 feet; Vegetation - temperate with mainly Blue Pines
Morning transfer to aiport for Paro, Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national carrier of Bhutan. Meet and greet upon arrival at Paro Airport and transfer to the hotel. On this drive from the airport to the hotel we may see our first very special species, the Ibisbill. Afternoon we explore the beautiful valley of Paro, then continue northward toward the Drukgyel Dzong. The Paro valley is mainly Blue Pine forests, which does not have the diversity of bird life found in the habitats to the east, but the woodlands around the Drukgyel Dzong area provides a hint of the great variety. The common species that can be seen in this area include Black-faced Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Brown Parrotbill, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Kalij Pheasant, Common Kestrel, White-collared Blackbird and Grey-backed Shrike. The more difficult birds we hope to encounter are marshland species, such as the Black-tailed Crake and the Solitary Snipe. O/n at Paro
Day 2 Paro Chele la Pass and evening drive to Thimphu
Elevation - 7700 feet Vegetation - Blue Pine and alpine scrub.
We start early to the Chele la Pass and spend around 4.5 hours.The drive is beautiful as it winds upward through the Blue Pines and gradually changes to higher elevation conifers, such as spruce, hemlock, fir, and juniper. At the summit the vegetation is mainly dwarf rhododendrons and open alpine meadows. The pass located at close to 13,000 feet is the highest motorable road in Bhutan. If you are lucky, on a clear blue sky day we can get a glimpse of the sacred Mt. Jhomolhari and the adjacent Mt. Jichu Drake, both are over 20,000 feet. The pass also offers a breathtaking view of the Haa and Paro valleys. The birds to look here will be the beautiful Monal Pheasant and other specialties like Blood Pheasants, Spotted Laughingthrushes, Himlayan Griffon, White-browed Rosefinch, White-throated Redstarts and Collared Grosbeaks. This is the only place we'll be above treeline in alpine scrub and dwarf rhododendrons [Rhododendron cinnabarinum, R. lanatum and others]
Breakfast will be served at the pass, we proceed back and on our way back to lower elevations, we look for the resident birds include several species of tits, Red Crossbills, Kalij Pheasants, and Yellow-billed Blue Magpies. Later in the evening we will arrive in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu followed by dinner. O/n at Thimphu.
Day 3: Tango and Cheri Valley to Thimphu
Like Paro, the Thimphu valley is relatively dry and is surrounded by Blue Pine forests. But to the north of the city in the religious valley of Tango and Cheri, the vegetation is mainly evergreen oak forest. Birds, such as the Crested Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Oriental Cuckoo, and Large Hawk Cuckoo are quite common. We might also encounter the beautiful Fire-tailed Myzornis and the Satyr Tragopan.
In the afternoon we will have some free time to wander around Thimphu. Later in the evening we will visit the Thimphu Sewerage Treatment Plant, where the enigmatic Ibisbill is quite common, along with other shorebirds, such as Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. White Wagtails and Brown Dipper also enjoy feeding near the percolation ponds. We may even see the elusive Black-tailed Crake, as well as the Common Snipe.
Tango and Cheri: elevation - 8500 feet; vegetation - evergreen forests of oak, bamboo and pines. Overnight in hotel in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimphu to Jigme Dorji National Park
Depart early for a full morning birding at the Dochula Pass. Here we shall be looking out for high elevation, mixed evergreen and birds of broadleaf forests. The call of the Hill Partridge can be heard everywhere. The temperate broadleaved forest of rhododendrons and magnolias will soon give way to a semi-tropical zone, where banana and orange trees are cultivated in abundance. Here we will look out for Eurasian Treecreeper, Golden Bush-Robin, Eurasian Jay, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Plain-backed Thrush, Great Barbet and perhaps even the rare Ward's Trogon. The sudden appearance of low elevation species, such as Red-vented Bulbuls and Common Myna, is a reminder of the astonishing diversity of Bhutan within such short distances. The vegetation changes mainly to Chir Pine.
A few migrant waterfowl, such as Ruddy Shelduck, may be seen in wetlands found in these areas. Today will be our first attempt to look out for the extremely rare White-bellied Heron. Though very rare elsewhere, the heron has been regularly located along the Po Chu River. Another rare bird we may encounter would be the Palla's Fish Eagle.
Tonight we will camp in the forest of the Jigme Dorji National Park, the largest park in Bhutan. Overnight in tented camp, Jigme Dorji National Park. (A bucket shower will be available when camping, plus toilet tents. Water for showers in camp will be warmed, but not hot.)
Docula area: elevation - 10,000 feet; vegetation - mixed evergreen and broadleaved forests (with rhododendrons and magnolias). Camp Area: elevation - 4500 feet; vegetation - warm broadleaved forests.
Day 5: Trashithang to Damji
The pre-breakfast birding will be around our camp, where the vegetation is mainly warm broadleaved forest. A pair of Tawny Fish Owls are at times sighted in a tree along the roadside. Hence we MUST start early before any vehicles pass by. It is also around this area that a pair of Red-headed Trogons show up occasionally. We shall also continue our quest for the globally threatened White-bellied Heron. Here birds often move in huge mixed flocks and identifying the assortments of warblers is always challenging. We may encounter some mammals, such as the national mammal of Bhutan, which is the Takin, as they graze in the open on mountainsides or in bamboo forest on buds and leaves. Also Leopard and Wild Boars are found in the forests that we pass through today, but rarely seen. The various elevations will produce a variety of habitats today. The newly constructed road towards the village of Damji has not really been explored and we may find a species that has not been reported in the region earlier. Later in the afternoon drive to Punakha, where we would visit the majestic Punakha Dzong built at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chuu, meaning male and female rivers, in 1637.
Trashithang to Damji: elevation - 4500 to 9000 feet; vegetation - a variety of forest types. Today we'll drive toward the Wangdue district, where we will be spending the night in a hotel.
Day 6: Wangdue to Pele La Pass via Phobjikha
Today we shall drive to Phobjikha with the hope of seeing Black-necked Cranes. Phobjikha, at 10,000 feet, is a glacial valley and is the biggest wetland in Bhutan. It is the winter home of about 350 Black-necked Cranes that arrive in late October and start migrating back to Tibet by early March. Because of the presence of the cranes, Phobjikha is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the Country. If they are not in residence, we will spend time looking for three species of parrotbills (Black-throated, Brown and Great), Brown and Red-headed bullfinch, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker; Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Fired-tailed Myzornis, and Kalij and Monal pheasants.
Pele La Pass: elevation - 11,200 feet; vegetation - sub-alpine conifers and bamboo. Overnight in tented camp at Pele La Pass or at a hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 7: Phobjikha to Camp at Wangdigang en route to Zhemgang
If at a hotel, we will want to leave very early for the hour drive to the Pele La. Monal Pheasants and Satyr Trogopan are a distinct possibility, but the bird that we will be after this morning is the Great Parrotbill. After breakfast at the pass, it will mainly be a driving day with occasional birding stops. From the Pele La we start down into central Bhutan. Nearly an hour before we reach there on the winding road, we'll have our first glimpse of the Trongsa Dzong across the breathtaking depths of the Mangde Chhu Gorge. Built atop the crest of a narrow ridge, it is, without doubt, the most spectacularly placed dzong in all of Bhutan. It is perched so far above the river that the clouds frequently float below it. From Trongsa we continue southwards until we reach the bottom of the valley and then again ascend to an elevation of about 6500 feet, where we shall camp at Wangdigang for the night. Almost all the Bhutan birding tours offered do not camp at Wangdigang, which is about 14 km before the town of Zhemgang. We always plans a night here before continuing to the regular camp at Tingtibi, even though there isn't a proper camping area, mainly for the incomparable Beautiful Nuthatch. Hishey has had 100% success so far in the quest of this exquisite nuthatch.
Wangdigang: elevation - 6500 feet; vegetation - mainly oak forest and open habitats. Overnight in camp at Wangdigang en route to Zhemgang.
Day 8 & 9 : The Zhemgang-Tingtibi Road
During these two days, we will be birding along the Zhemgang-Tingtibi Road. Here the very rare and much sought after Beautiful Nuthatch is resident. Other specialties include the Cutia, the Sultan Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, several species of fulvettas and laughingthrushes, Rufous-breasted Bush-Robin, Orange-flanked Bush-Robin, White-browed and Black-headed shrike babblers, Black-eared Shrike Babblers, Green Shrike Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Red-headed Trogon, several species of cuckoos, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, White-browed Piculet, and Scarlet Finch. Rufous-necked Hornbill is a possibility. Besides birds, the endemic Golden Langur is also common here, so we will spend time with these special primates. In fact, our campsite is in the middle of this rare primate's range.
Elevation at camp - 2000 feet, but we will be exploring mixed broadleaved evergreen forests at elevations between 2000 to 8000 feet. Overnight in camp at Tingtibi
Day 10:Tingtibi to Trongsa
After some early morning birding, we will back-track to Trongsa for the night for a well-deserved hot shower and a night in a "proper" bed.
Trongsa: elevation - 7,000 feet; vegetation - broadleaved evergreen forest. Overnight in a hotel in Trongsa.
Day 11: Trongsa to Ura
Above Trongsa the road climbs through many switchbacks, then passes through a misty forest of Silver Fir and bamboo on the way to Yotong La (11,234 feet). The drive through magnificent rhododendron and magnolia forest is simply breathtaking. White-browed Fulvettas, Grey crested Tits, Coal Tits, and gangs of White-throated Laughing thrush are fairly common. The elusive Fulvous Parrotbill is also a possibility and the Gold-naped Finch has been spotted here. Once we cross the Yotong La Pass, the vegetation is mainly spruce and Silver Fir forest with plenty of bamboo undergrowth. As we descend further, it then changes to Blue Pine forest, where the birdlife is not especially diverse. But Bumthang is the only district in Bhutan where you find the Black-billed Magpie. We shall spend some time exploring the town of Bumthang, which resembles a cowboy town of the Wild West. Later in the afternoon drive further east to the beautiful alpine valley of Ura. Ura (elevation 10,000 feet) is a large, compact, and quite wealthy agricultural village, since the advent of potato farming. It has an attractive temple and cobblestone "streets". Beautiful Rosefinch, White-browed Rosefinch, Red-billed Chough, Spotted Nutcracker, Russet Sparrows, Black-billed Magpie and Rufous-breasted Accentor are some of the rather common birds that can be seen foraging in the open fields.
Ura: elevation - 10,000 feet; vegetation - sub-alpine and open habitats. Overnight in Camp or farm house in Ura.
Day 12 : Ura to Sengor
We leave early in the morning with the hope of catching some of the most beautiful pheasants of the Himalayas feeding along the road. Flocks of Blood Pheasants feed in the open by the roadside at dawn. If lucky, we should also see Monal Pheasant, as well as the Satyr Tragopan. Flocks of Snow Pigeons have also been frequently sighted flying across the valley or foraging in the farmlands. Near Gyazamchu in a small wetland along the crystal clear mountain stream, Wood Snipe were found during our previous trips and we shall check out this site again. The beauty of the landscape against the backdrop of brightly colored rhododendrons in full blossom is unmatched. Near the Thrumsing la pass at 3,700 metres is a rhododendron garden, which has over twenty species of rhododendrons, six of which are endemic to Bhutan. Here we shall check for the gorgeous Fire-tailed Sunbird and other forest birds, such as Rufous-gorgeted and Ultramarine flycatchers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Red-headed Bullfinch, Collared Grosbeak, Rusty-flanked and Eurasian treecreepers, and a variety of tit species.
From the pass it is another hour to the beautiful alpine village of Sengor. We shall camp a little further down from the village, which is the prime Satyr Tragopan habitat. Besides the Tragopan, other beautiful species reported in this area include the Bar-winged Wren Babbler and the Spotted Laughingthrush. Sengor: elevation - 9,000 feet; vegetation - mainly cool broadleaf and fir forest. Overnight in tented camp, Sengor
Day 13- 14: Yongkhola
The road along this stretch from the pass at 12,000 down to 2,000 feet is considered to offer the best birding in Asia. During our three days here, explore the wonderfully rich, subtropical, warm and cool broadleaved forests along the lower section of this road (2,000 to 8,000 feet). The specialties here are Ward's and Red-headed trogon; several species of scimitar babblers, parrotbills, Rufous-necked Hornbill, an assortment of warblers, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Hill Partidge, Satyr Trogopan, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Sultan and Yellow-cheeked tits, varieties of bulbuls, three species of tesias (Chestnut-headed, Slaty-bellied and Grey-bellied), flycatchers, laughingthrushes and others. The first two nights we'll camp and for the third, we will drive 90 minutes to Mongar where we will stay in a hotel.
Camp: elevation - 6,000 feet, vegetation - subtropical, warm and cool broadleaved forests. Overnight two nights in a camp at Yongkhola, and one night in a hotel in Mongar.
Day 15: Mongar to Trashigang to Rongthong
A few miles from the hotel in Mongar we'll be at Korilla pass (2,300 meters), where the vegetation is mixed broadleaved evergreen forests. The expected birds are Siberian Stonechat, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Ward's Trogon, Gold-naped Finch, and Maroon-backed Accentor. We'll then proceed toward the town of Trashigang, which used to be the biggest town in Eastern Bhutan until recently overtaken by Mongar's increasing population. Our drive will take us through the famous Yadi curves, which is a series of switchbacks passing through the village of Yadi through Chirpine forest, cornfields and banana groves. Once we have descended to the valley floor, the road follows the opposite direction of the Dangme Chu River. At Chazam we turn right over the bridge and climb upwards to the town of Trashigang. We shall spend some time at Trashigang and will visit the superbly located Dzong, which was built in 1659. Later in the afternoon we shall drive to Rongthong.
Camp: elevation - 7,000 feet; vegetation - open habitat. Overnight in camp, Rongthong
Day 16: Rongtong to Morong
Prior to breakfast, we shall scan the rice fields near our camp for the elusive Black-tailed Crake. In addition, we may also see some cuckoos. Even then, we should see some gorgeous birds, such as Scarlet Finches, Black-headed and White-browed shrike babblers, Emerald Cuckoos, Crested Serpent Eagles and others. Today's drive will also take us through some fantastic broadleaved forests and we will be passing our last high point of our tour at about 9,000 feet from where we will get great views of ridge after ridge of the Himalayan hills before they flatten out on the plains below. We camp tonight beside good birding habitat in Morong.
Camp: elevation - 5,700 feet; vegetation - broadleaved forests. Overnight in camp, Morong.
Day 17: Morong to Samdrup Jongkhar
Our quest for the day in this moist broadleaved forest will be one of the cochoas, which both look beautiful and sing beautifully. A Green Cochoa might pop out on the edge of the thickets. Other specialties include the Long-tailed Broadbill, Gray Peacock Pheasant. As we drive further down into the lowlands, the vegetation is sub-tropical and corresponding species like the Hill Myna, Wreathed Hornbill, and Long-tailed Sibia should be expected. Later in the evening we will proceed to the town of Samdrup Jongkhar for a night in the hotel.
Elevation - 2,000 to 5,000 feet; vegetation - moist broadleaved and sub-tropical forest. Overnight in Hotel, Samdrup Jongkhar
Day 18: Samdrup Jongkhar
Samdrup Jongkhar is at the border of India, so we will drive back into Bhutan and explore the sub-tropical forest above the town. We'll look for various cuckoos, Black-naped Monarch, Crimson Sunbird, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Wreathed Hornbill and Great Hornbill.
Samdrup Jongkhar: Elevation - 500 feet; vegetation - sub-tropical. Overnight in Hotel Samdrup Jongkhar
Day 19: Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati
After some last minute early morning birding in Bhutan, we will bid reluctant goodbyes and proceed to the Guwahati Airport for onward departure to Kolkata. Some of the birds that we may encounter during this two to three hour drive are Greater and Lesser adjutants, Eurasian Crane, Asian Openbill Stork, and Yellow-footed Green Pigeon. Stay in transit at the New Delhi Airport to connect with the next flight.
WESTERN REGION - PARO 1N | THIMPHU 3N | WANGDI 1N | PHOBJIKA 1N
CENTRAL REGION - ZHEMGANG 3N | TRONGSA 1N | URA 1N
EASTERN REGION - SENGOR 1N | YANGKHOLA 2N | RONGTONG 1N | MORONG 1N | SAMDRUP JONGKHAR 2N
Valid from 1st Nov 2018 to 31st March 2019