Birding in Central & Western Bhutan

Birding in Central and Western Bhutan

Tour Pace & Walking: Moderate pace, undemanding walks & some long drives.

Average temperature: Temperate & cold to warm tropical with some rain expected.

Number of species expected: 270 – 320

Photographic Opportunities: Excellent

Duration : 10 nights
Local Leader :  Sonam Tshering
Group Size : Maximum 12
Accommodation : 6 nights in hotels and 4 nights in camp.
Altitudes : 150m/492ft – 3,822m/12,539ft
US$5000/person

Day 1: Arrive at Paro.

Day 2: Hike/ride a mule up to Taksang Monastery (approx 4 hrs walk).

Day 3: Paro to Punakha, birding enroute at Dochu La and Lampelri, 120kms.

Day 4: Tashithang excursion, birding in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park, visit the spectacular Punakha Dzong, late afternoon birding along the Pho Chhu (river), 65km.

Day 5: Punakha to Trongsa, birding along lower Pele La, 120kms.

Day 6: Trongsa to Shemgang, birding enroute, 110kms. Camp

Day 7: Shemgang drive to Tingtibi, birding en route. 130kms. Camp

Day 8: Tingtibi, birding along Gomphu road and back. 46kms. Camp

Day 9: Tingtibi to Tama La. 42kms. Camp

Day 10: Tama La to Gelephu. 80kms.

Day 11: Gelephu to Guwahati Airport, 235kms for your onward connection to Delhi/Calcutta

Day 1: Fly to Paro, Bhutan.
This morning we take the Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines flight to Paro, Bhutan where we should have good views of the Himalayas, including many of the highest mountains in the world. After clearing customs and immigration, you will be met by your Bhutanese hosts and from there drive to our attractive hotel Olathang. We will stop by the Pa Chhu, where camouflaged amongst the glacial stones, Himalayan riverine species such as the Ibisbill can be seen as it dips in the snowmelt, searching for food. In this area we should also find: Pied Wagtail; Blue Whistling Thrush; the Plumbeous and White-capped water redstarts; Oriental Turtle Dove; Common Hoopoe; Crested Goshawk; Kalij Pheasant; Brown Dipper; White-collared Blackbird; Long-tailed and Gray-backed shrikes; Black-faced and Chestnut-crowned laughingthrushes; Brown Parrotbill; Chestnut-tailed Minla; and Common Kestrel.
Northward migration will be underway and many of the valleys throughout Bhutan act as important conduits; therefore, it is possible that we may see species as yet not recorded in Bhutan.

NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro (2,300m).

Day 2: Birding in the Paro Valley and hike/ride a horse to Taksang Goenba.
Today you will have a fabulous first full day in Bhutan with a great mix of birding and some of the Paro Valley’s cultural treasures. The cultural highlight will be the walk up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, Taksang Monastery.  The monastery is perched some 600m up on a cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is a steep uphill walk through woods, of about 1½-2hrs, to reach a tea house (an ascent of 340m). Apart from offering welcome refreshment this tea house is one of the principle viewpoints of the monastery, and those who prefer not to climb any further can relax here whilst others continue on.  If there is a particular religious gathering or VIP visit in progress, you may not be able to enter the Monastery but the further half hour’s ascent above the tea house is well worth it, as it brings you to another viewpoint directly across from the monastery.  If you are allowed to visit the monastery the final section of the walk takes you from this viewpoint steeply down 100m into the gorge that separates you from the monastery and then climbs back up again to reach the monastery gate – the monastery was designed to be isolated!  You will then descend back to the valley floor by your outward route back to where your vehicle will be waiting. The full walk to the monastery and back involves approximately 740m of ascent.

Along this hike we may see bird species such as Green-backed, Coal, and Grey-crested tits; White-tailed Nuthatch; Yellow-billed Blue Magpie; Spotted Nutcracker; Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned, White-throated and Spotted laughingthrushes. Up at the monastery by the rocky ledges we will scan for flocks of Snow Pigeon and Alpine Accentor while the waterfall next to the monastery often gives us the opportunity to see Little Forktail and White-capped and Plumbeous water redstarts.

The Paro valley lies beneath Jhomolhari one of the highest of Bhutan’s Himalayan peaks. Later you will visit the impressive ruins of Drugyel Dzong, named to commemorate a victory over the Tibetan invasion of 1644. This picturesque ruin stands on a hillside above the lovely village of Drugyel with imposing views of Jhomolhari from the approach roads; here we may encounter Brown Parrotbill; Common Kestrel; White-collared Blackbird; and the Grey-backed Shrike. There may also be time for further sightseeing to visit the ancient temple of Kychu Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built by Songtsen Gampo an important early Tibetan king, to pin down the Bon demon who was thought to hover over the whole of Tibet. You may also see the some of the treasures from Bhutan’s National Museum. The Museum itself is closed, apparently until 2017 following the earthquake in 2011, but many of its artifacts and displays may be temporarily housed in a nearby building. The nearby spectacular Paro dzong is also worth a visit.

NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro, (2,300m).

Day 3: Paro to Punakha over Dochu La at 3,116m.
Following breakfast we will take an hour drive to Thimphu. The route follows the Willow fringed Pa Chhu river and passes through forests of blue pine. Reaching Thimphu we will walk to the Takin zoo where species such as Red-billed Leothrix; Grey Bush Chat; Blyth’s Leaf Warbler; ∫ Green-tailed Sunbird can be found. Thimphu is a quiet city, set in beautiful scenery with a gentle pace of life and many culture sites.

We continue our drive to Dochu La, (3,116m). This is an awe-inspiring sight; the road is festooned with prayer flags and 108 chortens, celebrating the safe return of the fourth king from a threatened invasion. At the pass we will have breakfast and you can spend time looking at the Bhutanese Himalayas from this advantage point. 
In Bhutan’s high elevation and the mixed evergreen and broad-leafed forests, there is an incredible wide range of birds, mammals, and flowering plants. Here it is possible to see species such as: Fire-tailed Myzornis; Mrs Gould’s and Green-tailed sunbirds; Lemon-rumped Warbler; Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Green Shrike Babbler around the beautiful blossoms of the rhododendron bushes; Olive-backed Pipit; Gold-billed Magpie; Plain-backed Thrush; White-winged and Collard grosbeaks; and the Hill Partridge. As we come down from the pass we may encounter: Mountain Hawk Eagle; Eurasian Treecreeper; Golden Bush-Robin; and Ward’s Trogon (rare). Soon it will be time to continue down through the sub-tropical forests of cactus, poinsettia and banana plants, before reaching the green terraced fields of Punakha. The imposing Punakha Dzong sits on a promontory that juts between the crystal-clear waters of the Mo Chhu (female) and Pho Chhu (male), as they merge to form the Puna Tsang Chhu; it is quite spectacular. This relatively open habitat is home to the Crested Kingfisher and the rare White-bellied Heron (the world’s second largest and the least known); the threatened Pallas’s Fish Eagle and many migrant water birds.

NIGHT: Meri Puensum, Punakha, (1,300m).

Day 4: Punakha to Tashithang and back to Punakha, (approx 60kms).
Today we will drive up to the beautiful, pristine forested areas of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park, at an elevation of 1,400m. This area is much warmer than we have previously experienced, which means a very early rise in order to catch bird activities in the beauty of the warm broad-leaved forests. Here we may encounter: River Lapwing; Red-headed Trogon; Gray-headed Woodpecker; Greater Yellownape; Striated Bulbul; the glowing Little Niltava; the Chestnut-headed, Grey-bellied and Slaty-bellied tesias; Pygmy Blue-Flycatcher; Pygmy and Spotted Wren Babbler, (a constant singer with a beautiful voice!), and the dazzling Scarlet Finch; Nepal Fulvetta; Slaty-backed and Spotted Forktail. 
When the heat of the day increases, birding lessens so we will drop down to Punakha and spend time exploring the dzong where we will get a glimpse of Bhutanese religion and culture. In the late afternoon, as the heat lessens we will drive along the Pho Chhu, where it is hoped that as well as seeing a number of interesting waterfowl, we will also see: Ibisbill; Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler; Palla’s Fish Eagle and the globally threatened White-bellied Heron.

NIGHT: Meri Puensum, Punakha, (1,300m).

Day 5: Punakha to Trongsa over Pele La at 3,390m.
Another early morning start as we head for the western slopes of the Back Mountain National Park. We can begin birding around the forested valley below Pele La 3,390m, where we should find the Great Parrotbill, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush; Black-eared Shrike Babbler; Grey-headed Woodpecker; Greater Yellownape and the Speckled Piculet. After breakfast we will return to our vehicles and continue to climb through mixed forests ablaze with numerous species of flowering rhododendrons and magnolias before finally arriving Lawa La, 3,390m. From here our journey takes us to the picturesque Phobjikha Valley and the highlight of the day – the Black-necked Cranes who migrate from the Tibetan plateau to over-winter here from late October to March. Phobjikha is situated on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, bordering the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. It is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys and a very important wildlife preserve. After lunch, we make our way to Pele La Pass (3,390m), with prayer flags fluttering in the breeze and views across to snow topped Jhomolhari (7,314m), marking the border between central and western Bhutan. A short break and a hot drink whilst we soak up the view, then back into our vehicles and begin our descent through beautiful oak and rhododendron forests and thickets of dwarf bamboo where brilliant Spotted Laughingthrush; Common Rosefinch; Rufous-vented, Whiskered and Stripe-throated yuhinas can be seen while Hen Harriers soar high above. From Pele La we will descend into the heart of central Bhutan’s Black Mountain region travelling through more pristine, mixed broad-leafed and evergreen forests with dense bamboo undergrowth, stopping for birding along the way. At Chendibji we will stop near the Nepalese styled Chorten, picturesquely situated alongside the river where we may encounter: Brown Dipper; White-capped Water Redstart; Streaked Laughingthrush and Gold-billed Magpie. We will continue our journey stopping briefly at the stunning view point of Trongsa Dzong.

NIGHT: Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa, (2,200m).

Day 6: Trongsa to Shemgang, birding en route.
Shemgang Road is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Here we can be sure of finding an amazing variety of rare and special birds as well as Black (Malayan) Giant Squirrel; Golden Leaf Monkey (Langur); Yellow-throated Martin and Five Stripe Palm Squirrel. Bird species we may encounter include Collared Falconet; Crested Goshawk; Shikra; Barred Cuckoo-dove; Pin-tailed Pigeon; Asian Emerald Cuckoo; Great Hornbill; Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike; Black-crested and Ashy bulbuls; Grey-hooded Warbler; Pale Blue Flycatcher; Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush; Grey-throated and White-hooded babblers; Long-billed Wren-babbler; Black-chinned and White-bellied yuhinas; Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill; Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Large Woodshrike.

NIGHT: Camp at Wangduegang, Shemgang, (1,800m).

Day 7: Shemgang to Tingtibi, birding en route.
This morning we spend our time birding around the camp, through mixed broad-leaved forests at 1,800m. Our target today is to encounter with the rare Beautiful Nuthatch; Rufous-necked Hornbill and Blue-winged Laughingthrush to name a few. After breakfast we make our way down to Tingtibi, stopping along the way for some magnificent birding. Here species we may encounter include Grey-chinned Minivet; Striated Bulbul; Lesser Yellownape; Long-tailed Broadbill and Rufous-breasted Bush-robin. We stop briefly in the small town of Shemgang and perhaps have some refreshment before continuing our way down to Tingtibi. Here along the way we look for species such as Chestnut-breasted Partridge; Cutia; Silver-eared Mesia; Pygmy Blue and Blue-throated flycatchers; Red Junglefowl; Black Eagle; Oriental Honey-buzzard; White-crested Laughingthrush; Blue Rock-thrush; Striated Yuhina; Common Green Magpie; Blue-throated Barbet; Mountain Imperial-pigeon; Emerald Dove; Common and Mountain (rare) tailorbirds; Rufescent Prinia; White-throated Fantail; White-browed Scimitar-babbler; Black-throated Sunbird; Streaked Spiderhunter; Black and Bronzed drongos.

NIGHT: Camp at Tingtibi, (700m).

Day 8: Birding along Gomphu road, (approx 46kms).
Tingtibi is the junction of Royal Manas Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Situated at the northern most tip of the Royal Manas Park it receives the heaviest rainfall in the country, resulting in the area being a thriving sub-tropical ecosystem which provides a haven for wildlife.

Birding in these subtropical forests with their thick undergrowth of bamboo we should also find: Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbets; Rufous-necked and Great hornbills; Himalayan, Ashy, White-throated and Black-crested bulbuls; Emerald Dove; Grey-capped Pygmy, Pale-headed (rare) and Fulvous-breasted woodpeckers; Red Junglefowl; Spotted and Eye-browed (rare) wren babblers; Red-faced Liocichla; Yellow-vented and Rufous-faced warblers.

NIGHT: Camp at Tingtibi, (700m).

Day 9: Tingtibi to Tama La at 1,661m, Approx. 35kms, birding en-route.
This morning we will rise early and bird around our camp before making our way up to Tama La at 1661m.

Along this drive we will look for: Beautiful Nuthatch (rare); Rufous-necked Hornbill (rare); White-browed Piculet; Spotted Wren Babbler; Eurasian Wryneck; Cutia; Blue-winged Laughingthrush (rare); and Scarlet Finch.

NIGHT: Camping at Tama La, (1,661m).

Day 10: Tama La to Gelephu, Approx. 80kms, birding en-route.
After having some tea and snacks we will start our birding around our beautiful campsite. Along our today’s drive we will look for species such as Yellow-rumped Honeyguide; Golden-fronted Leafbird; Scarlet Minivet; Sultan Tit; Greater and Lesser yellownapes; Bay Woodpecker; Rufous-backed Sibia (very rare for Bhutan); Crimson Sunbird; Grey-throated Babbler; Black Stork; Cattle Egret; Little Heron; Collard Falconet; Peregrine Falcon; Bay, Jungle, White-rumped (rare) mynas; and Blue-bearded Bee-eater.

NIGHT: Hotel Kuku, Gelephu, (250m).

Day 11: Gelephu exit Bhutan and drive to Guwahati Airport for onward connection, approx 235kms.
Today after breakfast we meet up with your Indian agent for your India tour connection OR drive to Guwahati Airport for connection to Delhi/Calcutta

Included in Bhutan Land Cost:

  • Visa and Tax
  • Tour Guide who is expert in the field
  • All activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All accommodation based on sharing twin room
  • All meals
  • Tea/coffee and snacks
  • Bottled water throughout the trip
  • Ground transportation
  • All necessary camping equipment
  • All entrance fees for museums

Not Included in Bhutan Land Cost:

  • Travel insurance (essential)
  • Laundry, phone calls and alcoholic drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Charges incurred as a result of circumstances beyond the control of Langur Eco Travels
  • International flights

Note Regarding Single Supplements:
Single occupancy US $25 per night.


Trip Grade: Gentle to Moderate Hikes:
You should prepare for certain factors of travel in Bhutan. A few of the most important are: elevation, windy mountain roads. Average elevation on this trip is 2,400m. Pass crossings may be up to 4,000m (by vehicle).

Insurance:
We strongly advise that your travel insurance policies include medical assistance and (helicopter) evacuation – we believe that it is ‘better to be safe than sorry!’ Should you decline to do so, we must state that we will in no way, accept responsibility for expenses incurred, should you require medical attention/evacuation whilst on holiday with us.

Accommodation:
It is our policy to use the best available accommodation in each location. All hotels and lodges we use are government approved and registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan. We have our own camping crew who will set up camps, prepare hot meals and provide hot showers.

Clothing:
It is advised that you have layers of light clothing, perhaps some thermal underwear, a warm jumper, fleece or jacket for the evenings when the temperature can suddenly drop. Generally speaking, casual clothing is suitable throughout your stay and that the main requirement is that you are comfortable.

Laundry facilities are available at all hotels. Waterproofs and/or umbrellas – just in case! Sunglasses and sun-cream or blocks are essential. Hand wipes (wet wipes/ anti-bacterial) and tissues are useful.

Habitats Covered: High altitude up to 3,822m to low at 150m (India). Coniferous, mix broad-leafed and sub-tropical forests including bamboo and banana undergrowth, wetlands, rocky slopes and rivers beds.


Top Birds: Alpine accentor; Black necked Crane; Great Parrotbill; Ibisbill; Himalayan Monal; Blood Pheasant; Collard Grosbeak; White-browed Rosefinch; Palla’s Fish Eagle; Wallcreeper; White-bellied Heron; White-hooded Babbler; White-browed Scimitar Babbler; Yellow-rumped Honeyguide; Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill; Spotted, Blue-winged and Lesser Necklaced laughingthrushes; Beautiful Nuthatch; Rufous-necked Hornbill; Red-headed Trogon; Green Magpie; Cutia; Sultan Tit; Red faced Liocichla; Yellow-bellied, Yellow-vented and Rufous-faced warblers; and Pale-headed Woodpecker.


Top Mammals: Large Eared Pika, Assamese Macaque, Muntjac, Malayan Giant Squirrel, Golden, Capped and Common Grey langurs, Yellow Throated Marten, Five striped Palm Squirrel and Wild Boar.


Other attractions: Strong Buddhist culture, temples and fortresses, spectacular mountain scenery and magnificent pristine forests.

Number of Pax Price Per Pax
1 US $
2 US $
3-12 US $