BHUTAN EXTENDED BIRDING TOUR
|19 days, 18 nights
|Easy to Moderate
|* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.
DAY 0 - EARLY ARRIVAL
The tour begins in Paro, the main gateway to Bhutan and the only international airport. Paro is reached by flights from Delhi, India or from Bangkok, Thailand. Flights from Delhi may arrive in the evening, in which case it's necessary to arrive the night before the tour begins. Flights from Bangkok typically arrive in the morning. In the latter case, day tours of Paro can be arranged prior to hotel check-in if you arrive a day early. Persons arriving from Bangkok can optionall arrive the following morning, Day 1 of the itinerary, and proceed directly to Thimphu from the airport. We do not recommend this option in case of flight delays. Night at a hotel in Paro.
DAY 1 - MORNING ARRIVAL & TRANSFER TO THIMPHU
Morning transfer to the capital city of Thimphu. We'll be driving through the Paro Valley, passing the impressive Rinpung/Paro Dzong (Monastery) enroute. Certainly our most important target bird is the rare, uniquely beautiful Ibisbill that regularly occurs along the river. We'll also be seeking the secretive Black-tailed Crake and the much sought after Solitary Snipe. Other more common birds in the valley include Speckled Wood-Pigeon, River Lapwing, Eurasian Hoopoe, Gray-backed Shrike, Red-billed Chough, Large-billed Crow, Black Bulbul, Brown Dipper, Blue Whistling-Thrush, and Plumbeous Redstart. With luck we may encounter Rufous-fronted Bushtit, a regional specialty. Depending on time of year, we may encounter some lingering winter visitors such as Wallcreeper and Hodgson's Redstart. Night at a hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 2 - JIGME DORJI NATIONAL PARK
We'll depart early and drive to Jigme Dorji National Park in the Tashitang Valley. It's about a 45min. drive up the Cheri Valley to the entrance area. Much of this very large park is inaccessible. It's the only park in the world where Snow Leopards and Tigers coexist. We won't be seeing either one there. We do expect some good birding along a forest trail and from roadsides including possibly Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Long-tailed Minivet, Buff-barred Warbler, Black-browed Tit, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Brown Dipper, White-collared Blackbird, Blue-fronted Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Green-tailed Sunbird, and Rufous-breasted Accentor. After lunch back in Thimphu, we'll spend the afternoon visiting the Trashi Chloe Dzong and other cultural sites in the city. Night at a hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 3 - DOCHU LA PASS & PUNAKHA
This morning we'll drive through the scenic Dochu La Pass, reaching 10,100ft in elevation, birding enroute. The pass is colorful as well as possibly scenic with numerous prayer flags flapping in the wind and lovely Rhododendrons in abundance. Our primary target bird in the pass is Great Parrotbill. We may encounter other birds that occasionally show themselves such as the skulking Hill Partridge, as well as Satyr Tragopan, the quite common Eurasian Nutcracker, and the occasional Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Cutia, and Golden Bush-Robin. Once over the pass, we'll descend to the city of Punakha. After lunch we'll visit the majestic Punakha Dzong and also look for the critically endangered White-bellied Heron that sometimes occurs along the river. This critically endangered species was once quite common around Punakha but now we'll need a bit of luck to see it. Night at a hotel in Punakha.
DAY 4 - TSIRANG AREA
Transfer to Damphu in Tsirang District, stopping enroute to visit the White-bellied Heron breeding center and to search for the White-bellied Heron along the river. This region has only recently been opened to tourism and is the place where north meets south in Bhutan. The culture around Tsirang is a mix of two ethnic groups, the Drukpa from the north and Nepalese from the south. The habitat in this area is mainly chir pine and deciduous forest. The many possible species include Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon, Dark Hawk-Cuckoo, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Red-wattled Lapwing, Red-headed Trogon, Crested Kingfisher, Indian Roller, Blue-eared Barbet, Great Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, Pied Falconet, Puff-throated Babbler, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Black-backed Forktail, Black-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Magnificent Sunbird, and Orange-bellied Leafbird. Night at a hotel in Damphu.
DAY 5 - DARACHU FOREST & GELEPHU
We'll spend the morning birding the Darachu Forest outside Damphu. These forests around Tsirang are the best place in Bhutan to see hornbills such as Great Hornbill, Oriental Pied-Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, and Wreathed Hornbill. Other possibilities include Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, White-spectacled Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, White-naped Yuhina, Golden Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, and Forest Wagtail. We'll then bird our way south to Gelephu near the border with India. We'll stop in Sarpang for some foothills birding before descending to the plains around Gelephu. Birds we may find enroute include Indian Peafowl, Indian Roller, Bayoodpecker, Collared Falconet, Short-billed Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole, Pygmy Cupwing, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Bhutan Laughingthrush, White-tailed Nuthatch, Small Niltava, and Little Pied Flycatcher. Night at a hotel in Gelephu.
DAY 6 - GELEPHU
We'll spend all day birding around Gelephu. This lowland area features many specialties whose ranges barely extend into Bhutan from northern India. The forest around Gelephu is home to species such as Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Crested Treeswift, Red-headed Vulture, Black Eagle, Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Pied Falconet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Gray-chinned Minivet, Rosy Minivet, Indian Paradise-Flycatcher, Puff-throated Babbler, Jungle Babbler, and more. Night at a hotel in Gelephu.
DAY 7 - TRANSFER TO TINGTIBI
Transfer ascend the Himalayan foothills to Tingtibi, birding enroute. We'll stop at Tamala enroute to look for Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, White-breasted Parrotbill, Himalayan Cutia, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, and Gray-sided Laughingthrush. We should also see several troops of Golden Langur enroute. Night at rustic lodge in Tingtibi.
DAY 8 - TINGTIBI
We'll spend all of this day birding the temperate forest around Tingtibi. Of particular interest are stands of bamboo, home to bamboo specialists such as Pale-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Black-crowned Scimitar-Babbler, White-hooded Babbler, and Collared Babbler. A key target species is the rare and much sought-after Beautiful Nuthatch. Many other birds occur in this amazing place. Notable species include Green-billed Malkoha, Asian Green Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Himalayan Flameback, Lesser Yellownape, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Maroon Oriole, Sultan Tit, Black-crested Bulbul, Whistler's Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Collared Babbler, Abbott's Babbler, Long-tailed Sibia, Silver-eared Mesia, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Night at rustic lodge at Tingtibi
DAY 9 - PANBANG
Morning transfer transfer to the lower elevation site of Panbang with birding enroute. During this drive we'll be passing through the expansive and rather remote Royal Manas National Park. This large park is the oldest in Bhutan and is home to Indian Rhinoceros, Bengal Tigers, and other mammals as well as many birds. The park includes several altitudinal zones in the Himalayan foothills, but we'll be birding mainly in subtropical forest. Among the many possibilties are Greater Coucal, Himalayan Griffon, White-throated Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Great Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Greater Flameback, Scarlet Minivet, Sultan Tit, Yellow-vented Warbler, Gray-throated Babbler, Plain Flowerpecker, and Asian Fairy-bluebird. Night at a rustic lodge in Panbang.
DAY 10 - ROYAL MANAS NATIONAL PARK & NGANLAM
We'll devote the morning to birding in Royal Manas National Park. Then transfer to Nganlam, farther east in southern Bhutan. The drive takes about 2 hours, though we'll spend longer birding enroute seeking out specialties of the southern border region. After arrival, we'll be birding the foothills west of town. Possibilities there include Rufous-throated Partridge, Red-headed Trogon, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, Ashy Drongo, Common Green-Magpie, White-throated Bulbul, Rufous-faced Warbler, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler. Night at rustic lodge in Nganlam.
DAY 11 - TRANSFER TO YONGKO LA
We'll depart early for the drive north through Royal Manas National Park on a relatively new route to the lowlands west of Mongar near the Kuri Chhu River, the Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam Highway, and then drive an altitudinal transect up toward Yongko La. A key species targeted on this drive is the scarce Blyth's Kingfisher. Other possibilities include Red Junglefowl, Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-naped Monarch, Himalayan Bulbul, Striated Yuhina, Taiga Flycatcher, and Crimson Sunbird. Night at a tented or the new guesthouse at Yongko La.
DAY 12-13 - YONGKO LA
We'll spend two full days birding around Yongko La. The exact locales depend on our birding success each day. Sites include the camp at Yongko La, roadsides toward Namling, and other nearby sites. This bird rich area is one of the best birding sites in Asia. We'll be concentrating on a variety of key species such as Satyr Tragopan, Ward's Trogon, Black-headed Shrike-Babbler, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Hoary-throated Barwing, Gould's Shortwing, Golden Bush-Robin, and Gold-naped Finch. After dark we'll look for Hodgson's Frogmouth and Brown Wood-Owl. There are a couple sites where the difficult and much sought after Beautiful Nuthatch is often seen. Nights at a tented or the new guesthouse at Yongko La.
DAY 14 - CHUMEY
This day we'll drive westward toward Chumey. We'll be birding enroute around Namling and Sengor looking for species still needed for the tour at Namling and Sengor. These include Satyr Tragopan, Ward's Trogon, Golden-throated Barbet, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-headed Shrike-Babbler, Green Shrike-Babbler, Yellow-billed Blue-Magpie, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla, and Mrs. Gould's Sunbird. Night at a hotel in Chumey.
DAY 15 - THARLAPING MONASTERY & PHOBJIKHA
Depart early morning for Tharlaping Monastery to look for Satyr Tragopan and Himalayan Monal. Also possible there are Black-billed Magpie, Oriental Skylark, Daurian Redstart, and Spot-winged Grosbeak. Then drive westward over Yotong La Pass, stopping to look for higher elevation birds there as needed. Then continue on to Phobjikha, where we'll bird some wetland areas where we'll seek out Ruddy-breasted Crake and Black-tailed Crake. This is the wintering grounds for the endangered Black-necked Crane during the winter. Possible birds in the valley include Fire-capped Tit, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Great Parrotbill, Whiskered Yuhina, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Spotted Laughingthrush, Scaly Thrush, Blue-capped Rock-Thrush, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Alpine Accentor, Scarlet Finch, and Red-headed Bullfinch. Enroute we'll do some birding in Yotong La pass, another opportunity to look for higher elevation birds not yet seen such as White-browed Robin, Gray-sided Bush Warbler, Brown Parrotbill, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Robin-Chat, Alpine Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, and others. Night at a hotel in Phobjikha Valley.
DAY 16 - PELE LA PASS
Depart early for Pele La Pass for some high altitude birding around 11,220ft. Birds of interest there include Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Blyth's Swift, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Himalayan Buzzard, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Blue-Magpie, Eurasian Nutcracker, Rufous-vented Tit, Yellow-browed Tit, Nepal House-Martin, Hume's Bush Warbler, White-browed Fulvetta, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Crimson Finch, Collared Grosbeak, and White-winged Grosbeak. Afternoon transfer to Paro, about a 4½ hour drive. Night at a hotel in Paro.
DAY 17 - TIGER'S NEST MONASTERY
All day hike up to Tiger's Nest Monastery. The hike itself takes 5-6 hours. We'll do some birding enroute to the trailhead and during the hike. This will be a day to obtain some souvenirs and visit this famed site.
DAY 18 - CHELI LA PASS
All day birding the highlands of Cheli La Pass, the highest point on the road between Paro and the Ha Valley. This is an excellent site to see the iridescent Himalayan Monal if it was missed earlier. Also present there are Blood Pheasant and Kalij Pheasant. The alpine meadows at the pass and forest a bit lower down offer Snow Pigeon, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Eurasian Nutcracker, Himalayan Bluetail, Mrs. Gould's Sunbird, Alpine Accentor, Altai Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, and Plain Mountain Finch. On the lower slopes the denser forest is home to Black-faced Laughingthrush and Spotted Laughingthrush. Night at a hotel in Paro.
DAY 19 - END OF TOUR
After breakfast transfer to the airport for international flight home. Tour ends at the airport.