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INDIA'S NORTHEAST FRONTIER

The final frontier of Indian birding

Birdquest’s India’s Northeast Frontier birding tour explores the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland in far northeast India. Our India’s Northeast Frontier tour covers an extraordinary range of habitats, from the elephant grass of the Assam plains to a high Himalayan Pass at Mayodia, and everything in between. In doing so we will be looking for a stunning array of specialities ranging from Swamp Francolin, Slender-billed Vulture, Blue-rumped Pitta, Marsh Babbler, Black-breasted Parrotbill and Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush to the gorgeous Blyth’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Mishmi Wren-Babbler, and the strange Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler. Two optional extensions, firstly to Meghalaya and Nagaland and latterly to Namdapha National Park in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, offer the chance to see additional specialities like , White-bellied Heron, Dark-rumped Swift, Tawny-breasted and Naga Wren-Babblers, Yellow-throated Laughingthrush and Snowy-throated Babbler. Additionally, there will be a great chance to see some of India’s threatened megafauna, in the form of Asian Elephant, Asian One-horned Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer and wild Water Buffalo.

Saturday 7th April — Sunday 22nd April 2018
(16 days)


Namdapha National Park Extension: Sunday 22nd April — Friday 27th April (6 days)

Leaders: Craig Robson and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and comfortable to simple accommodations (including some simple camping during the Namdapha extension)

One third of the whole world population of the endangered Greater Adjutant can been seen at one rubbish dump outside Guwahati! (Hannu Jännes)

One third of the whole world population of the endangered Greater Adjutant can been seen at one rubbish dump outside Guwahati! (Hannu Jännes)

Most of us have a fantasy birding destination. Somewhere remote and largely off-limits to foreign travellers, where the beautiful surroundings are home to rare endemics and regional specialities. Tucked-away in the northeast corner of the Indian subcontinent, is one such place, encompassing the little-visited and culturally varied states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Dominating this remote area, the mighty Brahmaputra River sweeps down from southeast Tibet and through the fertile Assam plains before bending south around the hills of Meghalaya towards the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh. Only recently has the Indian government allowed access to certain parts of this remote area.

The northeast Indian subcontinent is one of the most biologically diverse parts of Asia, where a meeting place of Himalayan and Indo-Malayan species forms an extremely rich and varied avifauna. This unique tour is a must for anyone with a keen interest in eastern Himalayan birds and is the only Birdquest tour which takes in the endemics of the ‘Assam Plains Endemic Bird Area’. Very much a journey for those birders who want to reap the rich avian rewards of this remotest corner of India.

During the first part of the tour we will ascend from Guwahati in the Assam plains to 1500m at the old hill-station of Shillong in Meghalaya. The uplands around Shillong are sometimes referred to as the ‘Scotland of the east’ and the wonderful mixed broadleaved evergreen and pine forests which clothe the ridge above the town harbour a good range of interesting montane species and, along with the magnificent wooded cliffs and waterfalls of the Cherrapunjee escarpment, are home to three particular specialities, Dark-rumped Swift, Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler and the near-endemic Assam Laughingthrush, as well as other good birds such as Grey Sibia, Rusty-capped Fulvetta and Brown Bush Warbler.

From Meghalaya we will travel east to explore the little visited state of Nagaland, nestled against the Burma (Myanmar) border, where we will focus our search on the rarely seen Naga Wren-Babbler and near-endemic Yellow-throated Laughingthrush.

Next 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.

Further to the northeast, but still in the plains of Assam, we will explore Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the forests of the Digboi oilfields. Wedged between the Brahmaputra and Dibru Rivers, Dibru-Saikhowa holds some of the last remnants of a once extensive grassland and seasonally wet forest mosaic. Here we will search for such rare endemics as Swamp Prinia, Marsh Babbler and the feisty Black-breasted Parrotbill, as well as some other rare and threatened species, including Jerdon’s Babbler and Smoky Warbler. The open forests at Digboi are an excellent place for Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush and Collared Treepie.

From the Assam plains we will travel northeast and, by way of a small ferry across the vast Brahmaputra River, make our way up into Arunachal Pradesh and the remote and little explored Mishmi Hills, which rise steeply above the small town of Roing to an elevation of about 3000m near the Mayodia Pass. This superb place, which very much rivals the famed Eaglenest region in terms of its huge range of eastern Himalayan specialities, is the new frontier of Himalayan birding. Amazingly, we are likely to be the only birders along the 90km forest-flanked paved road that stretches from Roing to Hunli.

The biggest prize here will be the endemic Mishmi (or Rusty-throated) Wren-Babbler, which was only rediscovered in December 2004, after having not been definitely recorded since its discovery in 1947, but there will be many more exciting species to look for, including Blyth’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Rusty-bellied and Gould’s Shortwings, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Long-billed and Bar-winged Wren-Babblers, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Spotted Elachura (now a monotypic family), and Beautiful Nuthatch.

The optional extension provides a unique opportunity to explore the huge Namdapha National Park bordering northern Myanmar (Burma), one of India’s biggest protected areas. Still largely unexplored, the superb evergreen forests and river systems within the park are home to such sought-after specialties as White-bellied Heron, White-winged Duck, Pied Falconet, White-cheeked Partridge, Ibisbill, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush and Snowy-throated Babbler.

Birdquest has operated tours to northeast India since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges at Kaziranga, Tinsukia and Shillong are of fairly good standard. The small lodge at the Mayodia Pass is pleasantly situated but very basic, although the rooms have private bathrooms. At Khonoma during the pre-tour extension our accommodation consists of a simple ‘homestay’ with shared bathroom facilities. During the post-tour extension, the resthouse at Deban in Namdapha National Park is pleasantly situated but very basic, although the rooms have private bathrooms and for three nights we will stay in simple tented camps specially erected by our friendly local camp staff. Sleeping tents are 2-person size (but are available for single occupancy) and we will also have a toilet tent and a large dining tent, so the whole experience is quite comfortable and the settings delightful. Road transport is by large, jeep-like cars and roads are variable in quality (on average mediocre).

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate during the main tour and easy to moderate during the extensions (there are several quite long walks at Namdapha but on good, broad trails and without a lot of elevational change).

Climate: Conditions at this season in the plains are cool and overcast to hot, dry and sunny. In the hills it is cold to warm, and sunny periods alternate with occasional wet and overcast spells.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

These are provisional prices

Tour Price: £3660, €4320, $4790 Guwahati/Dibrugarh. Namdapha National Park Extension: £1180, €1400, $1550.

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.

Single Room/Tent Supplement: £495, €584, $648. Extension: £110, €130, $144.

Deposit: £450, €540, $590. Extension: £150, €180, $200.

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.

With great deal of luck the secretive and very rare White-bellied Heron can be found by the fast flowing rivers at Namdapha National Park (Craig Robson)

With great deal of luck the secretive and very rare White-bellied Heron can be found by the fast flowing rivers at Namdapha National Park (Craig Robson)

... whereas the stylish Ibisbill, which shares the same habitat, is almost guaranteed (Hannu Jännes)

... whereas the stylish Ibisbill, which shares the same habitat, is almost guaranteed (Hannu Jännes)

Kaziranga is the strongholds of the endangered Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, and many other   large mammals (Hannu Jännes)

Kaziranga is the strongholds of the endangered Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, and many other large mammals (Hannu Jännes)

Many passerines like this stunning Crimson Sunbird are drawn to flowering trees, and often allow  great views (Hannu Jännes)

Many passerines like this stunning Crimson Sunbird are drawn to flowering trees, and often allow great views (Hannu Jännes)

The colourful Golden-fronted Leafbird is another species favouring flowering trees (Hannu Jännes)

The colourful Golden-fronted Leafbird is another species favouring flowering trees (Hannu Jännes)

Excellent close-up views of the majestically ugly creature (Greater Adjutant) can be obtained at the dump (Hannu Jännes)

Excellent close-up views of the majestically ugly creature (Greater Adjutant) can be obtained at the dump (Hannu Jännes)

Pallas's Fish Eagle breeds in Kaziranga National Park, and both adults and juveniles are usually easy to see (Hannu Jännes)

Pallas's Fish Eagle breeds in Kaziranga National Park, and both adults and juveniles are usually easy to see (Hannu Jännes)

Grey-headed Fish Eagle is another eagle breeding in Kaziranga (Hannu Jännes)

Grey-headed Fish Eagle is another eagle breeding in Kaziranga (Hannu Jännes)

The diminutive Pied Falconet is a speciality of Namdapha National Park (Hannu Jännes)

The diminutive Pied Falconet is a speciality of Namdapha National Park (Hannu Jännes)

Brown Fish Owl, yet another large avian predator, which is relatively easy to see at Kaziranga (Hannu Jännes)

Brown Fish Owl, yet another large avian predator, which is relatively easy to see at Kaziranga (Hannu Jännes)

The mighty Great Hornbill is still doing well in the mature lowland forests of Namdapha (Hannu Jännes)

The mighty Great Hornbill is still doing well in the mature lowland forests of Namdapha (Hannu Jännes)

Small groups of elegant Pin-tailed Green Pigeons can be seen in fruiting trees (Hannu Jännes)

Small groups of elegant Pin-tailed Green Pigeons can be seen in fruiting trees (Hannu Jännes)

This gorgeous Blue-throated Flycatcher is one of the 15 or so flycatchers recorded on this tour (Craig Robson)

This gorgeous Blue-throated Flycatcher is one of the 15 or so flycatchers recorded on this tour (Craig Robson)

With the inclusion of Mismi Hills in the itinerary we have improved our chances to find many exciting Himalayan specialities like this Golden Bush Robin (Hannu Jännes)

With the inclusion of Mismi Hills in the itinerary we have improved our chances to find many exciting Himalayan specialities like this Golden Bush Robin (Hannu Jännes)

Taiga (or Red-throated) Flycatcher is a winter visitor and transient migrant here (Hannu Jännes)

Taiga (or Red-throated) Flycatcher is a winter visitor and transient migrant here (Hannu Jännes)

This cute Red Giant Flying Squirrel and the recently discovered Namdapha Flying Squirrel are both possible to seen at Namdapha (Hannu Jännes)

This cute Red Giant Flying Squirrel and the recently discovered Namdapha Flying Squirrel are both possible to seen at Namdapha (Hannu Jännes)

A view from Namdapha National Park (Craig Robson)

A view from Namdapha National Park (Craig Robson)

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

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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