BHUTAN

spectacular birds in spectacular scenery

 

 

 

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 into 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 and it is also the main period for traditional festivals. We will see many of the spectacular dzongs (monasteries that doubled as forts and now serve as administration centres). There are over a hundred species of rhododendron in Bhutan and many will be in flower 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 saw twenty species of mammal on one trip, 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 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.

 

ITINERARY

 

KATHMANDU, NEPAL

We arrive in Kathmandu after an overnight flight and drive just half an hour to our hotel. Our first two nights will be spent at the fantastic Meridien Hotel, set in 470 acres of forest in the Kathmandu Valley. Here we can walk the trails in the hotel grounds in search of Whiteís Thrush, Ashy Woodpigeon and Blue-throated Barbet, amongst others. We will also visit Bouddhanath, the largest stupa in Nepal. On day four we will then fly to Paro in Bhutan.

 

THIMPHU AREA

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 Migmar Hotel on the outskirts of the capital.

 

The next morning we can visit one or two cultural sites around Thimphu before we move on to Punakha, birding en route. Birds include Collared Owlet, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-headed Tesia and Whistlerís Warbler. It will also be our first chance of the near-endemic Wardís Trogon.

 

PUNAKHA

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 a morning birding in the upper Punakha Valley and a picnic lunch we will visit the Punakha Dzong and a tributary of the Mo to try for White-bellied Heron. We have seen both Golden Eagle and Pallasís Fish Eagle here.

 

TRONGSA AND ZHEMGANG

We will then 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.

 

We will spend three nights in the remote and beautiful Zhemgang Valley, one of the best birding areas in Bhutan. Here we hope to find Beautiful Nuthatch, Long-tailed Broadbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Red-faced Liocichla. This is also the only place to see Golden Langur, a near endemic monkey. It is a beautiful and confiding animal giving great photographic opportunities. Until recently it was necessary to camp, but now a small guesthouse has opened. On day 11 we will drive back to Trongsa for another night at the Yangkhil Resort.

 

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 regionís most prized birds, Himalayan Monal. Once over the pass, we enter the Bumthang Valley, for one night, famous for its many temples, stupas and dzongs. The surrounding hills, woods and streams provide a home for Yellow-bellied Fantail, and Rufous-gorgeted and Snowy-browed Flycatchers.

 

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. 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. We are in a great area for early morning birding in search of the Satyr Tragopan.

 

RETURN TO PARO

On day 16 we will begin to wend our way back west, stopping one night at Chumey Nature Resort, Gyetsa. The next night will be spent in the Phobjika Valley, where some of the Black-necked Cranes may still be present. The following night we will stay at the Dochu La Hotel where we will be well situated to look for one of the prize birds, the Fire-tailed Myzornis. The last two nights we will spend near Paro. We may 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 Kathmandu in the early morning. We will have the whole of the day in Kathmandu, where we can visit the famous Durbar Square, with its exotic market and richly carved shrines and temples. In the evening we will fly back to the UK.

 

PACE

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. 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 12400 feet but most of the birding is done below 8000 feet. The higher areas are visited towards the end of the trip, allowing plenty of time for acclimatization.

 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full-board accommodation is provided. We have two nights at the Meridien Hotel, Kathmandu, one night at the Migmar Hotel in Thimphu, two nights at the Meri Puensum Resort, Punakha, two nights at the Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa, three nights at the Zhemgang Guesthouse, one night at the Gongkhar Lodge, Bumthang, three nights at the Yongkhola Guesthouse, one night at the Chumey Nature Resort, Gyetsa, one night at Phuntschocholing Guesthouse, one night at Dochu La Hotel and two nights at Janka Resort, Paro. Most accommodation has private facilities en-suite. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared at Zhemgang, Yongkhola and Phuntschocholing.

 

PRICE INCLUDES Ö..

All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 29th, ending with dinner on 17th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, park entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.

 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Cost of obtaining a Nepalese transit visa (approx. £10). Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.

 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flights from London Heathrow to Kathmandu using the scheduled services of Gulf Air, then to Paro using Druk Air. Outbound flight departs mid-evening, return flight arrives back mid-morning. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are avaiable on this tour. See booking form for details.

 

 

21 nights including

two overnight flights:

                               

Principal leader:

 

Local guide:

 

Maximum group size:

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before

13th December 2010):

 

Full Cost:

 

Single supplement:

 

Deposit:

 

 

           

28th March to 18th April 2011

 

Andrew Woodall

 

Hishey Tshering

 

10 clients with one leader

and a local guide

 

 

£4280 per person sharing

 

£4430 per person sharing

 

£490

 

£600

 


 

 

Pictures from the recce in April 2009

 

 

 

Ward's Trogon - a much sought after species.

 

Buddhist stupa

 

..and another.

 

 

 

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

 

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

 

Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey Langur

 

Golden Langur

 

 

 

 

 

Cutia

 

Malay Giant Squirrel

 

Crested Serpent Eagle

 

Collared Falconet

 

Blue-fronted Redstart

 

Below are photos from our 2011 tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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