Birding Tour Bhutan: Bhutan in Spring March 2021/2022/2023

Upcoming Tours:

 

(Click on the + or on the date for prices )

30 March - 18 April 2021

Spaces Available: 6

Tour Costs

Price: US$9,341 / £7,533 / €8,373 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$1,375 / £1,109 / €1,233

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

30 March - 18 April 2022

Tour Costs

Price: US$10,681 / £8,613 / €9,574 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$1,395 / £1,125 / €1,251

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

30 March - 18 April 2023

Tour Costs

Price: US$11,995 / £9,673 / €10,751 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$1,425 / £1,149 / €1,277

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Tour Details

Duration: 20 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Paro, Bhutan
Tour End: Guwahati, India

Price includes:
All accommodation (as described above, please note that the accommodation in the mountains of Bhutan is basic to very basic, often with shared bathroom/toilets and in permanent camp sites away from the cities)
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until lunch on day 20)
Drinking water – two bottles of mineral water per day per person from our tour vehicle, please bring a refillable water bottle (if taken from the hotel this will be at your own cost)
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide fees
National park/birdwatching reserve entrance fees
All ground transport and tolls while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off

Price excludes:
Flights to Paro, Bhutan and from Guwahati, India
Visa
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Optional tours (e.g. monument entrance fees and associated additional travel expenses)
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Camera (still/video) permits
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

Dylan VasapolliDylan Vasapolli

Bhutan in Spring: Birding the Pristine Forests of the Eastern Himalayas March 2021/2022/2023

 

The Kingdom of Bhutan, known as “the Land of the Thunder Dragon” and “a Kingdom in the Clouds”, is a quaint, quiet, and scenically spectacular country with a strong conservation ethic rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions. The people are extremely friendly, there are many environmental protection laws, and the air and water are clean and refreshing. There is nothing quite like experiencing the Kingdom of Bhutan (simply referred to Bhutan hereafter) firsthand.

Himalayas birding toursThe unique Ibisbill is a target on this trip.

We begin our tour with a flight arriving in Paro in the west of Bhutan and gradually make our way eastward through a range of habitats (and at a range of elevations), such as pine and spruce forests, subtropical broadleaved forests, bamboo, alpine scrub, rivers, and many others until we reach Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast. We will exit Bhutan into northeast India, where the tour concludes in Guwahati, Assam.

Vast areas of unspoiled forest still cover the Himalayan foothills, which spread over much of the country. We expect to find most of Bhutan’s fabled Eastern Himalayan species, such as the stunning Beautiful Nuthatch (and other nuthatches), the gorgeous Ward’s Trogon, the unbelievable Fire-tailed Myzornis, the giant Rufous-necked Hornbill, the scarce Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and of course the spectacular pair of Satyr Tragopan and Himalayan Monal (as well as other vivid pheasants). Other highlights include beautiful sunbirds, five species of parrotbills, up to ten species of laughingthrushes, striking and gorgeous forktails along the fast-flowing rivers – in addition to a plethora of other tantalizing jewels, potentially even the Critically Endangered (IUCN) White-bellied Heron. We also have the opportunity of seeing three different monotypic families of birds on this tour, namely Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, and Spotted Elachura; this tour is great for family listers and those interested in seeing great birds.

Himalayas birding toursWallcreeper occurs sporadically across Europe and Asia but is always highly sought due to being monotypic, unique, beautiful, and interesting to observe.

In addition to this host of fabulous birds we expect to also find a range of fascinating mammals, including Himalayan Serow, Gee’s Golden Langur, Black Giant Squirrel, Yellow-throated Marten, and many others. Beautifully crafted dzongs (the word means “fortress”, but these days they are indeed mostly fabulous monasteries) and temples, such as the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, dot the awe-inspiring landscapes of the vast Himalayas.

This Bhutan birding adventure can be combined with our Birding Tour Assam, India:  Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks, which has been designed to be the perfect extension to this tour. On the extension you have the opportunity for lowland Indian-plains birds including Bengal Florican, Greater Adjutant, Blue-naped Pitta, Indian Grassbird, Swamp Francolin, and White-winged Duck, as well as some awesome mammals such as the magnificent trio of Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, and Bengal Tiger.

 

Itinerary (20 days/19 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Paro

Our flight arrives at the spectacular Paro International Airport, which is walled in by mountains. Here we will not only be introduced to the fantastic and unusual architecture of Bhutan, but we will also immediately start exciting Himalayan birding. The strange-looking Ibisbill lurks along the stone-strewn riverbeds, as does Black-tailed Crake in nearby cane marshes and a host of other highly sought-after birds such as Brown Dipper.

Overnight: Paro

 

Day 2. Chele La Pass

We head up a spectacular mountain pass, the famous Chele La Pass, which reaches 3,988 meters (about 13,083 feet), looking for different birds as we ascend. The biggest prize for most birders is the Himalayan Monal – famous for its kaleidoscopic, vivid rainbow hues. The monal comes out onto the mountain pass at dawn. In addition to this bird we can also find up to four additional pheasant species today (e.g. Blood Pheasant). Other targets include jaw-dropping Himalayan species such as Spotted Laughingthrush, Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, and Golden Bush Robin. We will look for flocks of Snow Pigeons, Grey Crested Tits, colorful Green-backed Tits, as well as the fabulous ever-popular Yellow-cheeked Tits, while the attractive White-browed Fulvetta is found in most feeding flocks. Also possible are four different redstarts, a variety of rosefinches, White-collared Blackbird, and a plethora of other birds. Spotted Nutcracker is common here, as it is over much of Bhutan. We will see the amazing Tiger’s Nest Monastery high on a ledge – please ask us if you want to hike up to it so we can factor that into our plans.

Overnight: Paro

Himalayas birding toursA striking Blood Pheasant pauses for a moment before heading down the rocky slope.

 

Day 3. Jigme Dorji National Park

An early morning departure sees us heading for the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu. En route we again search for the enigmatic Ibisbill along with Brown Dipper, Ruddy Shelduck, and the local form of Great Cormorant, among others. We will arrive at a section of Jigme Dorji National Park by midmorning, where we have a stakeout for the tricky Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. Also possible here are Kalij Pheasant, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, the elusive Maroon-backed Accentor, and many more. After Jigme Dorji we visit a breeding program for a most bizarre Himalayan mammal – the Takin. It is a goat-antelope (Caprinae) and accordingly looks like a cross between a giant mountain goat and an antelope! We return to Thimphu in time to search for Black-tailed Crake in the early evening and enjoy some capital-city sights, or rest!

Overnight: Thimphu

 

Day 4. Dochula Pass and Lampelri Royal Botanical Park  

Today we head east to the Dochula Pass, which provides fabulous views of Bhutan’s seven highest Himalayan peaks. Birding here and in the forests below is also impressive, and we will search for the illustrious-looking Yellow-billed Blue Magpie and the vividly colored Whistler’s Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, and Chestnut-crowned Warbler. The recently declared Lampelri Royal Botanical Park is our next stop as we descend in elevation. It has been amazingly productive on our past tours. The birds here are so good and so many that it is hard to decide where to look! Our targets at this site include the enigmatic Brown Parrotbill, the pretty Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, the vivid Chestnut-capped Babbler, the petite Black-throated Bushtit, the busy Whiskered and Striated Yuhinas, the gorgeous Ultramarine Flycatcher, the colorful Himalayan Bluetail, and the raucous Striated Laughingthrush and White-throated Laughingthrush. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler and Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler skulk about in the bamboo, and vivid minivets and nuthatches are circling in the trees above. Mountain Hawk-Eagle can be overhead, so we need to remember to look up!

Overnight: Wangdue Phodrang Valley

Himalayan birding toursThe gorgeous Himalayan Bluetail is a highlight bird on any occasion.

 

Day 5. White-bellied Heron and the forests of the Mo Chhu River

We start birding the fantastic Wangdue Phodrang Valley, where we could find birds such as Crested Serpent Eagle, Slaty-backed Forktail, Little Forktail, various flycatchers, the monotypic Wallcreeper, and a host of others. With luck we might encounter Tawny Fish Owl, and we will start looking for White-bellied Heron, a bird that was historically widespread through the foothills of the eastern Himalayas but has declined dramatically and now has a world population of perhaps only 250 birds. Today Bhutan must be the best country for this species, but with the low numbers in existence it is a tough one; however, we have a couple of spots on this tour route to search for them. While looking for the heron we may encounter Spotted Forktail, the colorful Common Kingfisher, Upland Buzzard, and the impressive Crested Kingfisher, among many others.

After our search for the heron we explore and bird the magnificent forests along the Mo Chhu River. Here we dive into a further Himalayan birding spectacle with species such as the diminutive, yet spectacular Chestnut-headed Tesia and Slaty-bellied Tesia being possible, as well as the brightly colored trio of Scarlet Minivet, Short-billed Minivet, and Long-tailed Minivet. With luck and some patience Scaly-breasted Cupwing (formerly Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler – the Pnoepyga genus recently having its English name changed from wren-babbler to cupwing) is possible. Here we will also look for Spotted Elachura, a species that formerly was called Spotted Wren-Babbler (not related to the aforementioned wren-babblers), but has since been promoted to full, monotypic family status, making it a must-see for any family lister or anyone interested in looking for a skulking forest dweller.

Himalayan birding toursSpotted Elachura is highly sought; it is in its own family after all, but it is also a skulker!

This area is also a site for that most tricky of accentors – Maroon-backed Accentor, which we will be looking for. While stalking the birds in the forest we will all also keep an eye to the sky for Mountain HawkEagle, Crested (Oriental) Honey Buzzard, and flocks of Himalayan Swiftlets. After this birding spectacle we visit the legendary Punakha Dzong – Bhutan’s most impressive dzong, currently being used as a monastery. The dzong is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers and has been subject to many attacks, floods, fires, and earthquakes since it was built in the 1600s. The beauty and tranquility of this edifice is inspiring to most.

Overnight: Wangdue Phodrang Valley

 

Day 6. Pele La Pass to Trongsa

An early start will see us searching for the attractive Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler around our hotel gardens, where Little Bunting, Rosy Pipit, and Citrine Wagtail may also be possible. We then start ascending again toward the high-altitude Pele La Pass and will keep a lookout for roadside attractions such as Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush, and we may also encounter White-throated Kingfisher. The roadside forests on our ascent are home to Himalayan specialties such as Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Speckled Piculet, Rufous-fronted Bushtit, and Black-chinned Yuhina. If we have not done so yet we will start enjoying the attractive, busy flocks of Rufous-winged Fulvettas. Rufous-bellied Woodpecker is always a delight to all. The pass also offers a chance at one of Bhutan’s mega birds – the legendary Ward’s Trogon. The aptly named Fire-tailed Myzornis may be smaller, but it is no less spectacular. As we ascend higher the mixed broadleaved forest gives way to stands of rhododendron and coniferous forest, and this is where we start looking for another Bhutan mega – the remarkable Satyr Tragopan. At the top of Pele La Pass we will search for Great Parrotbill, White-winged Grosbeak, and Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds. Your guide will keep a constant eye to the sky for Himalayan Vulture, Steppe Eagle, and Long-legged Buzzard among other raptor delights.

As we descend again toward Trongsa roadside stops may yield the colorful Fire-tailed Sunbird, Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, and Green-tailed Sunbird, while other possible species could include a loitering Collared Owlet, bustling flocks of White-throated Laughingthrushes, and the striking Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler. We will also keep a lookout for flocks of Asian and Nepal House Martins.

Overnight: Trongsa

Himalayan birding toursCollared Owlet is often mobbed by a wide range of birds, and we hope that we can find one as they are often great for pulling in something exciting (and the owl itself is very exciting too).

 

Day 7. Birding the spectacular mountain passes of Zhemgang

The road toward Zhemgang must be one of the most spectacular birding roads on the planet. Sheer drop-offs to thousands of feet far below make for a most memorable birding experience. The forests and forest edges host a plethora of outstanding species, including Slaty-backed Forktail, the delicately colored Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, the gaudy Common Green Magpie, the sizeable Blue-bearded Bee-eater, the striking Rufous-bellied Niltava, and, with a bit of luck, the forest-patrolling Rufous-bellied Eagle. A highlight for many is likely to be the rather funky and handsome Sultan Tit. Other birds possible during the day include Bhutan Laughingthrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Greater Yellownape, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Striated Bulbul, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Spotted Forktail, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, and further chances of Spotted Elachura.

Our campsite at Zhemgang is phenomenally located high atop a Himalayan ridge next to a Buddhist chorten (a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics), overlooking the valleys far below. A night walk may deliver Mountain Scops and Brown Wood Owls and the mystical-looking Black Giant Squirrel.

Overnight: Camping, Zhemgang

Himalayan birding toursA sighting of Sultan Tit is always popular, and it is easy to see why!

 

Days 8 – 10. Zhemgang to Tingtibi to Trongsa

We will bird around Zhemgang before continuing to Tingtibi for a couple of days and nights, targeting some of the key species of the region before continuing to Trongsa. The elegantly plumaged Beautiful Nuthatch is one of our main targets in Zhemgang. Birders are likely to be equally awed by the gigantic and noisy Rufous-necked Hornbill. While looking for the nuthatch there will be plenty of distractions, which may include Himalayan Cutia, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Rusty-fronted Barwing, and Blue-bearded Bee-eater – all highlight birds in their own rights!

As we descend in altitude toward our campsite at 600 meters (1,970 feet) altitude in Tingtibi we will notice the air temperature increase and the birds change. Great Hornbill is usually a common (and spectacular) sight here, and these low-altitude forests provide opportunities for many delightful and different species from those observed over the first week of the tour. New birds we will be on the lookout for include Long-tailed Broadbill, Orange-bellied Leafbird, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Mountain Tailorbird, Sikkim Treecreeper, and the extravagant Crimson Sunbird. We will spend time chasing skulkers including Blue-winged Laughingthrush, the aptly-named Golden Babbler, and Golden Bush Robin, while troops of exotic-looking Gee’s Golden Langurs scurry through the forest canopy above and noisy flocks of the iconic White-crested Laughingthrush scour the forests for grubs lower down.

There are so many birds to look for in this area that we are sure to find plenty to keep us going during our time here, such as Common Green Magpie, Great Barbet, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Black-chinned Yuhina, Grey Treepie, Maroon Oriole, Grey-hooded Warbler, Streaked Spiderhunter, Jungle Babbler, Himalayan Bulbul, and Blyth’s Shrike-babbler.

We will have plenty of time to work the area for a range of birds, and we will continue our search for the Critically Endangered (IUCN) White-bellied Heron, which can occasionally be found in the rivers of the area.

After relishing these impressive birds we return to Trongsa before starting our drive toward the legendary Lingmethang Road.

Overnight days 8 and 9: Camping, Tingtibi

Overnight day 10: Trongsa

Himalayan birding toursLong-tailed Broadbill can sometimes be present in large flocks at Tingtibi.

 

Day 11. Trongsa to Bumthang

An early morning outing around Trongsa may deliver views of Hill Partridge and Kalij Pheasant scurrying through the forest undergrowth. The petite Pygmy Cupwing (formerly Pygmy Wren-Babbler, see note on day 5), Nepal Fulvetta, and the near-endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush as well as the striking Striated Laughingthrush can be found, as too can Golden-naped Finch, Golden Bush Robin, and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird. We will make our way toward Bumthang, where we will stock up on supplies for our camping excursion along the Lingmethang Road. After this we will search for species like Plain-backed Thrush, flocks of Red-billed Choughs, the quintessential Bumthang Valley Black-rumped Magpie (a ‘new’ species following the split of the widespread Eurasian Magpie complex), the aptly named Plain Mountain Finch, and the more colorful Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch. The Bumthang River also allows more views of Brown Dipper and the monotypic Ibisbill, and we will scour the marshes for the tough Solitary Snipe.

Overnight: Bumthang

 

Day 12. Bumthang to Sengor via the Thrumshing La Pass

Today will be another day of climbing up to nearly 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) on another spectacular mountain pass, the second-highest one in Bhutan – Thrumshing La Pass. Up in the high mountains we should pick up flocks of Snow Pigeons as they flutter over the valleys. Other species en route can include Upland Buzzard and Himalayan Vulture, and bird parties at this altitude are likely to yield many an adorable White-browed Fulvetta, Grey Crested Tit, and Green-backed Tit. Also, with some focused effort we are likely to get cracking looks at Blood Pheasant. In the late afternoon we will approach our camp, which is at around 2,600 meters (8,530 feet) at Sengor – our site for the gorgeous, red-and-black, white-spotted Satyr Tragopan.

Overnight: Camping, Sengor

 

Days 13 – 16. Birding the Lingmethang Road to Mongar

The name ‘Lingmethang Road’, along which we have campsites at either end for a total of three nights, will send shivers of delight down the spine of many an avid world birder. In the higher reaches we search for Satyr Tragopan – it is not overstating it to say that this is probably one of the most-wanted birds in the world for many people. There is, however, an abundance of other spectacular species awaiting us as we work the road up and down: Fulvous Parrotbill, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, and the petite Black-throated Laughingthrush, along with Scaly Laughingthrush, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, and yet more laughingthrushes. We will also be looking for Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing (formerly Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler), and with a lot of luck the bizarre and huge Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler (formerly Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler), an interesting mix of species. Further excitement can come in the form of Ward’s Trogon, Red-headed Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Golden Babbler, the extravagant Himalayan Cutia, and the monotypic and interesting Wallcreeper.

Himalayas birding toursWith some luck Ward’s Trogon can be seen for extended periods of time.

Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and White-tailed Nuthatch can be seen here, and the collection of fulvettas includes the exquisite Golden-breasted Fulvetta and the subtler Yellow-throated Fulvetta. We also hope to find Rusty-fronted Barwing, Hoary-throated Barwing, Red-headed Bullfinch, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Green Shrike-babbler, White-browed Bush Robin, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, and Golden Bush Robin; the list of possible species here is endless and the above is just a sample of the great birding we will have over these few days! Night outings may yield Himalayan Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Indian Scops Owl, and Mountain Scops Owl, as well as Grey Nightjar. Doubtless our time along the Lingmethang Road will be the tour highlight for many. After three nights camping we travel through steep chir-pine-sloped valleys to Mongar, where we refresh and clean up at our hotel.

Overnight day 13: Camping, Sengor

Overnight days 14 and 15: Camping, Yonkala

Overnight day 16: Mongar

 

Day 17. Ward’s Trogon at the Kori La Pass

An early start gets us to the exquisite-looking forest on Kori La Pass as the birds awaken. The birding here is usually red-hot throughout. Feeding flocks may include Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Whiskered Yuhina, and Grey-chinned Minivet aplenty, as well as Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay (this subspecies is a potential future split), and Greater and Lesser Yellownapes. Other specialties we have recorded here on past tours include delights such as Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blue-fronted Robin, White-tailed Robin, Maroon Oriole, Pygmy Flycatcher, and Sapphire Flycatcher. As we cross more deeply-incised river valleys populated by chir-pine forests we will look out for Pallas’s Fish Eagle.

Overnight: Trashigang

Himalayas birding toursThe smart-looking Golden-breasted Fulvetta can be seen in bamboo stands.

 

Day 18. Trashigang to Narphung

We bird the forests from Trashigang to Narphung, stalking parties of tits, niltavas, fulvettas, minivets, and more while catching up on the odds and ends that we may have missed earlier or desire better views of. If we have not already, we are bound to encounter groups of attractive Capped Langurs on this day. Oriental Skylark and Grey Bush Chat frequent our campsite in Narphung as does White-breasted Parrotbill, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, and Silver-eared Mesia.

Overnight: Camping, Narphung

Himalayan birding toursAlways impressive, Silver-eared Mesia will delight us.

 

Day 19. Narphung to Samdrup Jonkhar

Our last full day in Bhutan will likely be as spectacular as any other. The forests and scrub below our campsite may yield an array of goodies, including Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Black-throated Sunbird, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher.

We will commence our descent to the lower-altitude areas north on Samdrup Jonkhar, where plenty of new birds will await us. Species usually encountered at lower altitudes on the plains of India, such as Common Rosefinch, are likely to start showing up. Previous tours have yielded Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush and Red-faced Liocichla as well as Golden Bush Robin from these forests and shrubs along our route.

As we descend closer toward Samdrup Jonkhar and the plains of Assam a great variety of new birds will delight us: White-naped Yuhina, Long-tailed Sibia, Blue-eared Barbet, Green-billed Malkoha, Common Iora, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Black-crested Bulbul, and Red-whiskered Bulbul. We also have a chance for better and further views of birds like Himalayan Flameback, Great Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Ashy Wood Pigeon, and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker. We have another site for Beautiful Nuthatch near the garrison town of Deothang, and as we approach Samdrup Jonkhar we will search for White-crowned Forktail, Black-backed Forktail, Blue-eared Kingfisher, and the tricky and range-restricted Dark-rumped Swift.

Overnight: Samdrup Jonkhar

Himalayan birding toursIt is tough to pick a favorite forktail on this tour; will Spotted Forktail top the list?

 

Day 20. Samdrup Jonkhar to Guwahati, India, and departure or start of extension

Today we enter India and the Plains of Assam as we drive to Guwahati for your flights home or to continue your travels with our Birding Tour Assam, India: Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks. Along the way stops could yield Striated Grassbird, waterbirds, and other common Indian lowland roadside birds. We will also call in at the infamous Municipal Solid Waste Management site in Guwahati, where we will hope to see the Endangered (IUCN) Greater Adjutant as well as the more-widespread Lesser Adjutant. We will finish the tour at Guwahati airport around lunchtime in time for afternoon/evening flights out of the city. For those taking the extension we will continue to Kaziranga for the first of our four-night stay there.

Overnight: Not included

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

 

Download Itinerary

I had an awesome two weeks’ trip in northern India in January 2016 with Andy Walker of Birding Ecotours. Total bird species seen by the group was 401. Highly recommended for life birds, “collecting” bird families and beautiful scenery. Some highlights included: Hill Partridge, Painted Spurfowl, Koklass and Cheer Pheasants, Black Bittern, Himalayan Vulture, Sarus Crane, Barred Buttonquail, Ibisbill, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Indian Courser, Painted Sandgrouse, Sirkeer Malkoha, Crested Treeswift, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Himalayan Flameback, Collared Falconet with prey (Cinereous Tit), Chestnut-headed Tesia, Striated Laughingthrush, White-rumped Shama, White-tailed Rubythroat, Golden Bush Robin, Brown Dipper, Pink-browed Rosefinch, Crested Bunting and Altai Accentor. The group total also included 10 owls and 17 woodpeckers, all seen.

Lisl van Deventer — Pretoria, South Africa

Himalayas birding tours

Preparing for Bhutan and Assam: what to expect

(in autumn/fall/early winter, i.e. November and in early spring, i.e. March/April)

We can arrange your Bhutan visa, but you will need an Indian visa for the March/April tour, which ends in Guwahati, India, even if you are not joining our Assam tour (e-visas are easy to arrange). The Bhutanese government requires clear, color copies of the main page of your passport, so please send us a photo or scan of it after booking a Bhutan tour with us – THANKS!

Bhutan, known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is an idyllic Himalayan kingdom. Our November tour means traveling in early winter in the Himalayas, so it can be rather cold. On our March/April tour you can actually expect similar temperatures, especially near the start of the trip, as this is effectively late winter/early spring weather. Expect night time temperatures in some of the higher-altitude locations to be freezing or possibly sub-zero. So make sure you bring enough warm clothes, including lots of layers and thermal underwear for some nights/days, fleeces, and windbreakers. Warm layers for sleeping at night might also be necessary, as the accommodations may not be heated.  We also ascend to around 4000 meters (over 12000 feet) above sea level on at least one day to search for Himalayan Monal, Snow Pigeon, and other specials. The scenery up there is mind-boggling. But yes, it can be cold. However, layers are important, as you may also experience warm to hot weather at times, so you may need t-shirts etc.

Being more specific about the temperatures to be expected on these tours, in November and March temperatures during much of the itineraries can certainly reach freezing or below (sometimes with a major wind-chill factor), but they are arguably more often around 7 °Celsius (44.6 °Fahrenheit) at night and around 16 °C (61 °F) maximum in the middle of the day – and about 6 °C (43 °F) more than this in the “subtropical” parts, e.g. Punakha, Zhemgang and Mongar.

Once we enter India at the end of many of these trips it gets hot, hence the need for layers (so that some of them can be removed!).

On our Bhutan tours we have some nights of camping, but all sleeping bags etc. will be provided.

Please note that Bhutan is a tiny country with only one main road from east to west. Road works have plagued this road for some time, so expect delays; one has to approach it philosophically and not get impatient if the going is slow at times. The road is windy, so if you have problems with motion sickness precautions are recommended. Some areas (e.g. Trongsa) have also been affected by construction of hydropower plants etc. Camping helps us to get away from the roadworks and other construction. But often we do a lot of our birding from the roadside. Sometimes we opt to hike along trails as well.

Accommodation in Bhutan and India can be rather basic, so please do not expect luxury. Bhutan is one of the last countries to open its doors to Western tourists. This is good overall, but it also means you can’t always expect it to have western facilities.

For health information see http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/bhutan and http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/india/. So-called Delhi-belly can be a problem. Probiotics can reduce the risk. Anti-bacterial handwash is also very useful. Imodium, Valoid, and an antibiotic such as Cipro (or a newer one as some strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to this old classic) for bad cases should be carried (but please consult your doctor or a travel clinic which specializes in foreign travel for proper advice before the trip).

Electricity and charging equipment – for Bhutan, see https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/bhutan/, and for India, please see http://www.indiaquickfacts.com/content/india-electricity-electrical-plugs-converters-electric-sockets-electric-adapters

Field guides for India and Bhutan – please see https://www.birdingecotours.com/field-guides-to-asia-what-to-take-into-the-field/

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