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ULTIMATE NORTHEAST INDIA

Eaglenest, Assam, Nagaland and Mishmi, with Meghalaya and Namdapha

Birdquest’s Ultimate Northeast India birding tour explores the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, including famous Eaglenest Sanctuary. Our unique Ultimate Northeast India itinerary covers an extraordinary range of habitats, from the elephant grass of the Assam plains to high Himalayan passes, and everything in between! In doing so we will be looking for a stunning array of specialities including Swamp Francolin, Slender-billed Vulture, Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Blyth’s Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Bengal Florican, Ward’s Trogon, Blue-rumped Pitta, Marsh Babbler, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Yellow-throated, Chestnut-backed, Brown-capped, Striped and Bhutan Laughingthrushes, the recently-described Bugun Liocichla, Ludlow’s Fulvetta, Naga and Mishmi Wren-Babblers, the extraordinary Fire-tailed Myzornis and the strange Sikkim and Cachar Wedge-billed Babblers. Two optional extensions, firstly to Meghalaya and latterly to Namdapha National Park in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, offer the chance to see additional specialities like White-bellied Heron, White-winged Duck, White-cheeked Partridge, Dark-rumped Swift, Tawny-breasted Wren-Babbler, Snowy-throated Babbler and Rufous-vented and Assam Laughingthrushes. Additionally, there will be a great opportunity to see some of India’s threatened megafauna, in the form of Asian Elephant, Asian One-horned Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer and wild Water Buffalo.

Wednesday 4th April — Wednesday 25th April 2018
(22 days)


Meghalaya Extension: Monday 2nd April — Wednesday 4th April (3 days)

Namdapha National Park Extension: Wednesday 25th April — Monday 30th April (6 days)

Leaders: Craig Robson and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Mostly easy walking (but moderate in Namdapha); accommodations range from comfortable to simple

The newly discovered and described Bugun Liocichla has firmly put Eaglenest on the ornithological map in recent years (János Oláh)

The newly discovered and described Bugun Liocichla has firmly put Eaglenest on the ornithological map in recent years (János Oláh)

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.

Imagine stunning mountain scenery and birding along a drivable jeep track through magical, untouched old-growth montane forest, where waves of beautiful birds sweep by, and almost every turn brings another rarely-seen Eastern Himalayan speciality!

This dream become a reality at amazing Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, situated just a stone’s throw to the east of the Bhutan border, in western Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. It was here that the most sensational ornithological discovery in India for over half a century was recently made, in the form of a new species for science, the beautiful Bugun Liocichla.

Arunachal Pradesh is now recognised as one of the worlds top biodiversity hotspots, the profusion of species being due to its unique location (at the junction of the Palearctic Region with both the Indo-Malayan and Indian sub-regions of the Oriental Region), topographical range (with 7000m peaks on its northern border with Tibet, looking down on the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam which, just 150 kilometres away, has an elevation of only 100m or so), and high rainfall.

We begin this mouth-watering tour at Orang National Park, which is sometimes referred to as ‘the little Kaziranga’, where we have good opportunities to see grassland specialities of the Assam plains, such as Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Babbler, and both Bristled and Indian Grassbirds, as well as the magnificent but endangered Asian One-horned Rhinoceros.

Next we will penetrate deep into the main Himalayan range, winding our way through deep valleys, to Dirang, a small town situated along the road to the famed Buddhist monastery at Tawang. Based at Dirang, we will reach our highest altitudes of the trip, notably when we ascend to almost 4200m at the Sela Pass, one of the highest road-passes in the Himalayas. Here, we will seek out Snow Partridge, Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal and Grandala, while closer to Dirang, in the Sangti Valley and along the wonderful Mandala road, we will find species ranging from Black-tailed Crake and Long-billed Plover to Bhutan Laughingthrush, Ludlow’s Fulvetta and Fire-tailed Myzornis.

Moving on, we come to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, a prime focus of this speciality-laden tour. We will use two established safari-style camps for bases, have vehicles at our disposal throughout, and the walking effort will generally be easy. There is no need to trek at Eaglenest because of the good road access, and we aim for maximum comfort and flexibility. Along a drivable jeep track through the awe-inspiring forests, we will be searching for a mouth-watering selection of Eastern Himalayan gems, ranging from Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Blyth’s Tragopan and Ward’s Trogon, to Long-billed and Rufous-throated Wren-Babblers, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler and Beautiful Nuthatch. We will, of course, make a particular effort to see the recently described Bugun Liocichla, which is still only known from Eaglenest and its border areas. All in all this wonderful new area offers disciples of Himalayan birding an extraordinary experience.

From Eaglenest we will travel southwards to explore the little visited state of Nagaland, nestled against the Burma (Myanmar) border, where we will focus our search on the little-known Naga Wren-Babbler and near-endemic Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, as well as the near-endemic Brown-capped and Striped Laughingthrushes.

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 may 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 Rusty-bellied and Gould’s Shortwings, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler and Spotted Elachura (now a monotypic family). We also have second chances for Blyth’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis and Beautiful Nuthatch.

During the first optional extension 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.

The second 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 are of good standard. At Eaglenest we will stay in permanent tented camps. Sleeping tents are of the large, 2-person, walk-in size with two beds (but are available for single occupancy). We will also have toilets, washrooms and large dining areas. Hot water is available in buckets/bowls for washing on demand. So the whole experience is quite comfortable and the settings delightful. At Khonoma in Nagaland our accommodation consists of a simple ‘homestay’ with shared bathroom facilities. The small lodge at the Mishmi Hills is pleasantly situated but very simple, although the rooms have private bathrooms. 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 are of course superb. Road transport is by large, jeep-like cars and roads are variable in quality (on average good, although the track through Eaglenest is quite rough in places).

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate for most of the tour, but moderate in Namdapha where there are some longer hikes needed between our accommodations.

Climate: In the Himalayas it is cold to warm, and sunny periods alternate with occasional wet and overcast spells. It will be distinctly cold at night at higher elevations and there may even be some snow. Conditions at this season in the plains and low foothills are typically hot, dry and sunny, but it is sometimes overcast and cooler.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Tour Price: £4890, €5770, $6410 Guwahati/Dibrugarh. Single Accommodation Supplement: £630, €743, $825. Deposit: £600, €720, $780.

Meghalaya Extension: £490, €580, $640. Single Room Supplement: £80, €95, $105. Deposit: £50, €60, $70.

Namdapha National Park Extension: £1190, €1410, $1560. Single Room/Tent Supplement: £110, €130, $144. Deposit: £150, €180, $200.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Stunning Himalayan specialities abound on this tour, with great species, such as this Gold-naped Finch, being seen from the roadside! (Craig Robson)

Stunning Himalayan specialities abound on this tour, with great species, such as this Gold-naped Finch, being seen from the roadside! (Craig Robson)

Stunning scenery is another feature of the tour, such as the Se La Pass (Hannu Jännes)

Stunning scenery is another feature of the tour, such as the Se La Pass (Hannu Jännes)

... and this is one of the spots where we have found the magnificant Himalayan Monal (Hannu Jännes)

... and this is one of the spots where we have found the magnificant Himalayan Monal (Hannu Jännes)

The incredible Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler is relatively common in this part of the world (Craig Robson)

The incredible Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler is relatively common in this part of the world (Craig Robson)

One third of the whole world population of the endangered Greater Adjutant survives in Assam (Hannu Jännes)

One third of the whole world population of the endangered Greater Adjutant survives in Assam (Hannu Jännes)

The secretive and endangered White-bellied Heron can be found by the fast flowing rivers at Namdapha National Park (Craig Robson)

The secretive and endangered 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)

Eastern Himalayan specialities include such stunners as Ward's Trogon (Craig Robson)

Eastern Himalayan specialities include such stunners as Ward's Trogon (Craig Robson)

... Beautiful Nuthatch (Craig Robson)

... Beautiful Nuthatch (Craig Robson)

... Himalayan Cutia (János Oláh)

... Himalayan Cutia (János Oláh)

... Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill (János Oláh)

... Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill (János Oláh)

... and Grey-headed Bullfinch (János Oláh)

... and Grey-headed Bullfinch (János Oláh)

Other more widespread, but attractive, species include Blue-headed Rock-Thrush (Craig Robson)

Other more widespread, but attractive, species include Blue-headed Rock-Thrush (Craig Robson)

... and Collared Grosbeak (Craig Robson)

... and Collared Grosbeak (Craig Robson)

Yellow-rumped Honeyguide is a highly-sought and elusive Himalayan speciality (Hannu Jännes)

Yellow-rumped Honeyguide is a highly-sought and elusive Himalayan speciality (Hannu Jännes)

The gorgeous Himalayan Monal is likely to be one of our birds of the trip! (Hannu Jännes)

The gorgeous Himalayan Monal is likely to be one of our birds of the trip! (Hannu Jännes)

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

Excellent close-up views of the majestically ugly creature (Greater Adjutant) can often be obtained (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)

Golden Bush Robin is a typical bird of the upper levels of the Mishmi Hills (Hannu Jännes)

Golden Bush Robin is a typical bird of the upper levels of the Mishmi Hills (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)

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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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