Please note: this page gives details of our 2010 trip.
For details of our 2011 trip please click here
Bhutan has incredible mountain scenery, is steeped in Buddhist tradition and folklore and is rich in wildlife. There is now a good tourist infrastructure but do not expect to bump in to many other westerners. Importantly from a wildlife perspective, much of Bhutanís land is protected. It is the most forested area of the Himalayas. Eastern Bhutan has been recognised as one of the top ten biodiversity hot spots in the world. Being a Buddhist country, hunting is illegal and consequently many species of bird and mammal are surprisingly tame.
Four species of pheasant can be seen from the roadside. Close views of Blood Pheasants and Satyr Tragopans are very likely, along with Himalayan Monal and Kalij Pheasant. We visit in April which is the best month for birding. The weather is generally good at this time of year and it is also the main time for traditional festivals in Bhutan. We will see many of the spectacular dzongs (monasteries that doubled as forts and now double as administration centres). There are over a hundred species of Rhododendron native to Bhutan and many will be in flower in April along with large numbers of epiphytic orchids.
We will visit the special habitats of Bhutan, the high elevation broad-leaf and coniferous forests where we can expect to see some very special birds such as the sought-after Wardís Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Wedge-billed Wren-babbler. Bhutanís mammal list is outstanding. We actually saw twenty species of mammal on our recce, including River Otter, Giant Red Flying Squirrel, Giant Malay Squirrel, several species of monkey, Sambar and Muntjac Deer and Goral, a kind of antelope-goat.
Tourism is strictly regulated. The high daily tariff charged by the government deters the more casual visitor but much of the money is ploughed back into infrastructure and preservation of the traditional way of life and natural landscape.
We arrive in Delhi late on day one and will transfer to our hotel. We will have a leisurely programme the next day. There is some good birding to be had around Delhi itself, with large wetlands holding thousands of birds such as Painted Stork, Bar-headed Goose and White-tailed Plover. We shall spend two nights in Delhi, before flying to Paro in Bhutan.
Arriving at Bhutanís only airport, formalities are quickly dispensed with and we will soon be on our way to the capital, Thimphu. After lunch we will check the river for Wallcreeper, White-capped Water Redstart, Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck and Black-tailed Crake. Here we may see our first Ibisbill along with Plumbeous Redstart and River Lapwing. We will spend the night at the Riverview Hotel looking across the Thimphu River to the lights of the city.
The next day we will make an early start and walk around the area of two monasteries on the edge of the enormous Jigme Dorje National Park. In the afternoon we can visit one or two cultural sites around Thimphu. After two nights in Thimphu we move on to Punakha, birding en route in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Birds include Collared Owlet, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-headed Tesia and Whistlerís Warbler, plus our first chance of the near-endemic Wardís Trogon.
We will spend two nights in the beautiful Mo Chhu Valley. We may see our second trogon species, the more widespread but equally beautiful Red-headed Trogon. Other birds should include Ultramarine, Sapphire and Verditer Flycatchers.
After lunch at the hotel we will visit the Punakha Dzong and a tributary of the Mo to try for White-bellied Heron. On our recce we had spectacular views of two close-by Golden Eagles and a pair of Pallasís Fish Eagles.
We will spend the next day driving east, birding en route. We will spend one night in the Phobjika Valley. Some of the wintering Black-necked Cranes may still be present. Rosefinches here may include the Beautiful Rosefinch and the even more beautiful Pink-browed Rosefinch.
We drive over Pele Pass at 3420m and follow the edge of the Black Mountains, where we may see our first Yaks. We will spend one night at the very well appointed Yangkhil Resort just outside Trongsa and overlooking the Trongsa Dzong.
BUMTHANG AND BEYOND
From Trongsa we will climb out of the valley in the early morning through the Yotongla Pass looking for one of the regions most prized birds, Himalayan Monal. Once over the pass, we enter the Bumthang Valley, famous for its many temples, stupas and dzongs. The surrounding hills, woods and streams provide a home for Yellow-bellied Fantail, Rufous-gorgeted and Snowy-browed Flycatchers.
Beyond Bumthang Valley is the Ura Valley, where we will spend one night at a height of nearly 10,000 feet. We are in a great area for early morning birding in search of the Satyr Tragopan.
We continue south and east to the area known as the Upper Yongkhola Valley in the Thrumshing National Park, where we will stay at a simple guesthouse for three nights. The woodlands here create beautiful scenery, rich in wildlife. We should see Wardís Trogon and Wedge-billed Wren Babbler at probably the best sites in the world for these elusive species. Capped Langur, Grey Langur, several species of Flying Squirrel, Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear and Lynx can be found in this area. Birds seen on our trip include Crested Goshawk, Black Eagle, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Barred Cuckoo Dove.
RETURN TO PARO
On day 13 we will wend our way back through fantastic scenery stopping one night at a lodge in the Bumthang Valley and one night at the beautifully situated Kichu Resort, just north of Wangdi Phodrang. The last two nights we will spend near Paro. We should arrive early enough in the Paro Valley to allow for a walk to view the Tigerís Nest Monastery.
The next morning we will make an early start and climb (by bus!) up the Chelela Valley. Here we have further chances to see the Himalayan Monal, Kalij Pheasant and Blood Pheasant along with Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, White-browed Rosefinch and Fire-tailed Sunbird. After lunch at our hotel we can visit the Paro Dzong or take a walk along a forest trail. We may see Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrushes and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler.
Finally, after many wonderful experiences in Bhutan, we will fly back to Delhi in the afternoon, spending one last night there. We will have the whole of the next day in Delhi, birding at the superb Sultanpur lagoon. In the evening we will fly back to the UK.
Early to rise and early to bed are the norm in Bhutan and this fits in well with the best birding times. We will generally make early starts but rest in the middle of the day and/or have early nights. There is very little uphill walking and then it is done at a sensible pace. We do drive over some high mountain passes and reach 12,400 feet but most of the birding is done below eight thousand feet. The higher areas are visited towards the end of the trip, allowing plenty of time for acclimatization.
Full-board accommodation is provided. We have two nights at the Orchid Hotel in Delhi, two night at the Riverview Hotel in Thimphu, two night at the Meri Puensum Resort, Punakha, one night at the Dewachen Hotel, Phobjika, one night at the Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa, one night at the Arya Zambala Hotel, Ura, three nights at the Yongkhola Guesthouse, one night at the Gongkhar Lodge, Bumthang, one night at Kichu Resort, Wangdi Phodrang, two nights at Janka Resort, Paro and one night back in Delhi. All the hotels have private facilities en-suite. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared when camping.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 1st, ending with dinner on 17th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, park entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Cost of obtaining an Indian visa (approx. £40). Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flights from most UK airports (via Amsterdam) to Delhi using the scheduled services of KLM, then from Delhi to Paro using Druk Air. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back mid-morning.
18 nights including
one overnight flight:
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
16th December 2009):
31st March to 18th April 2010
10 clients with one leader
and a local guide
£3850 per person sharing
£4000 per person sharing
Pictures from the recce in April 2009
Ward's Trogon - a much sought after species.
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill
Malay Giant Squirrel
Crested Serpent Eagle
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