Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Bhutan birding tour is a great favourite, combining some of the finest birdwatching in the Himalayas with spectacular scenery and the sheer pleasure of travelling through Bhutan, one of the friendliest and least spoiled countries in the world. Our Bhutan tour is a highly enjoyable adventure that produces an extraordinary number of Himalayan specialities. These can include White-bellied Heron, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Wood Snipe, Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Long-billed, Rufous-throated, Bar-winged and Spotted Wren-Babblers, the strange Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, the near-endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, White-naped Yuhina, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Blue-fronted Robin, Broad-billed Warbler and Beautiful Nuthatch. Our Bhutan adventure is followed by an exciting extension into the plains of Assam, to Kaziranga and Nameri, in search of a fine suite of lowland birds, including White-winged Duck, and the magnificent Asian One-horned Rhinoceros and Asian Elephant.
Monday 17th April —
Thursday 4th May 2017
Kaziranga & Nameri Extension: Wednesday 12th April — Monday 17th April (6 days)
Leader: Dave Farrow
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part, comfortable hotels/guesthouses and fairly comfortable camping
Bhutan is a land of superlatives, the last surviving example of a Tibetan Buddhist Kingdom that proudly guards and treasures its cultural and natural heritage. Blessed with a tiny population and steep inaccessible valleys, it holds fabulous forests that are still largely untouched and full of birds.
By far greatest diversity of Himalayan bird species is to be found in the Eastern Himalayas and a journey through Bhutan provides the opportunity to see such delights as White-bellied Heron, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Wood Snipe, Dark-rumped Swift, Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Coral-billed and Slender-billed Scimitar-Babblers, Long-billed, Rufous-throated, Bar-winged and Spotted Wren-Babblers, the strange Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, the near-endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, White-naped Yuhina, Fulvous, Great, Brown and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills, Blue-fronted Robin, Broad-billed Warbler and Beautiful Nuthatch, just to mention some of the endless highlights this fantastic journey has to offer.
Bhutan is an unspoilt, thinly-populated country that offers not only the finest birding in the Himalayas but also a wonderful cultural and travel experience. Hotel accommodation ranges from good to reasonable and roads are fairly good, but on this comprehensive itinerary, that produces numerous Eastern Himalayan specialities, we will still have to stay in outfitted camps (in quite comfortable style, complete with sleeping, dining, toilet and shower tents) in areas with no guesthouses. Being able to stay right in the midst of such superb Himalayan environments, with the best birding in the country all around us, is an experience that greatly adds to the wonders of our Bhutanese journey. All in all, Bhutan offers the discerning birder a truly unforgettable adventure!
We are most fortunate to be able to visit such an exciting place and our tour will explore the very best of Bhutan’s bird habitats, concentrating on the central and eastern parts of the country, which are the richest of all.
From Paro, where we start our Bhutanese journey, we will drive over high passes into forested valleys at Punakha, Trongsa and Jakar and then continue eastwards to the superb and seldom-visited ‘Lingmethang Road’. From this magnificent area we will return westwards and then head southwards through some magnificent lower altitude forests around Tingtibi and beyond until we reach the border town of Gelephu. Here we finally leave the country and enter the wide plains of Assam in northeast India.
Nearly two-thirds of Bhutan is forest, the remaining fraction is either above the treeline or under agriculture in the narrow valley bottoms, most of the land being too steep for any settlement or farming. There is only one road traversing the country, and prior to the 1960s there were none. The Buddhist values of the Bhutanese people mean that they have for centuries led their lives in harmony with their environment; their beliefs show a deep reverence and respect for all sentient beings, and they are thus perfect guardians of what is now emerging as the ultimate place for birding in the mountains of South Asia. The country has only opened its doors to foreigners quite recently, and although it does so with outstanding hospitality, it is not without some reserve, wishing to avoid the negative side-effects of uncontrolled tourism apparent in other developing nations. Numbers of visitors are restricted to a strict quota and the government imposes a fixed and high daily tariff, which, bizarrely, is exactly the same whether one is staying in the best hotel in Thimphu or camping in the hills!
The government’s stated commitment to conservation and sustainable development ought to ensure that the sublime forests of Bhutan are protected, and that they still hold a bounty of birdlife just waiting to be enjoyed in the years to come, but in many areas of the country deforestation is already gathering pace. For now, however, there is still plenty of forest remaining, even along the roads, and so our tour will spend day after day immersed in lush mountain forests while our travels will be enlivened by a series of splendid and impressive dzongs (fortress monasteries) that usually occupy eagles-nest locations of strategic importance. The Bhutanese people still dress in traditional garb and their customs and lifestyles are preserved with enthusiasm and pride. All these factors combine to make this country one of the most rewarding and thrilling bird tour destinations available today.
After our wonderful journey through Bhutan there will be an optional extension to two fantastic national parks in the plains of Assam, Kaziranga and Nameri.
During the first part of the extension we will visit the magnificent Kaziranga National Park. This famous reserve needs little introduction, what with its world-famous populations of Asian One-horned Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer and wild Water Buffalo, as well as Asian Elephants. The extensive wetlands, grasslands and woodlands of Kaziranga also provide vital habitat for such rarities as Swamp Francolin, Greater Adjutant, Slender-billed Vulture, Bengal Florican, Blue-naped Pitta, Slender-billed Babbler, and Bristled and Indian Grassbirds.
Finally we explore Nameri National Park, situated at the edge of the Assam Plains. Based at a comfortable tented safari-style lodge, we will be searching, amongst a wide range of lower elevation species, for the rare White-winged Duck, as well as the restricted-range White-cheeked Partridge and Pied Falconet.
Birdquest has operated tours to Bhutan since 1997.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are of good to medium standard during the main tour, good throughout during the extension. On the Lingmethang Road and in the Tingtibi region we will camp for a total of nine nights in a total of four different localities, all arrangements being made by our competent and friendly Bhutanese camp staff. Sleeping tents are 2-person size (but are available for single occupancy) and we will also have toilet tents, a shower tent and a large dining tent, so the whole experience is quite comfortable and the settings often delightful. Road transport is by small coach and roads are reasonably good (with very little traffic).
Walking: The walking effort is easy for the most part, sometimes moderate.
Climate: Conditions at this season range from fairly hot at lower altitudes to warm at middle altitudes and cool or even cold at high altitudes. Sunny periods alternate with wet and overcast conditions.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.
Bhutan Tour Prices: Bhutan is a fascinating country with some unusual customs, in more ways than one. For many years the country has had an official policy of ‘limiting tourism through price’. The way this works is that each year the Bhutan government dictates minimum (but very high, by Indian subcontinent standards) per night prices to all the country’s tourism agencies. Even more quirky to an outsider’s eyes is the fact that even if you are trekking or, as with bird tours, camping for part of the time, or staying in simple guesthouses, you end up paying the same per night charges as if you were staying in a comfortable hotel!
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £5490, €6480, $7190 Guwahati/Paro. Kaziranga & Nameri Extension: £1350, €1590, $1770.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room/Tent Supplement: £340, €401, $445. Extension: £260, €307, $341.
Deposit: £600, €800, $900. Extension: £150, €200, $250.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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