Highlights of Northern India!
India! A mystical land of striking contrasts, rich cultural heritage and wide geographic diversity! Our tour embraces the best of Northeastern India - birds, mammals, flora, scenery, culture and cuisine. We visit a variety of habitats, ranging from lowland water bodies to mountainside forests, amassing about 450 bird species as well as several large mammals and other wildlife. We also marvel at historic sites, and enjoy friendly people and stunning colours. From Delhi, we travel to the Himalayan foothills and visit a series of outstanding national parks and wildlife reserves – Eaglenest, Kaziranga, Nameri, Dibru-Saikhowa, and the exciting Mishmi Hills – with chances for monals, tragopans, pheasants, raptors (including Lammergeyer), parakeets, babblers, laughingthrushes, water-redstarts, yuhinas, fulvettas, parrotbills, Green Magpie, minivets and many other exotic species and more. Elephants, Rhinoceros and Swamp Deer are expected. Scenery is spectacular, with Kanchenjunga and other tall peaks in the distance. A trip of a lifetime!
• Rich and varied birding with many endemics
• Opportunities for visiting the newly-accessible and bird-rich parks of Northeast India
• Diverse habitats from wetlands and grasslands to the foothills of the Himalayas
• Excellent reserves, lodges, scenic wonders and very different cultures
India is a country with so much to offer that it has become a must-visit destination. During our three-week trip we sample the best of Northeast India for birds, mammals, flora, scenery, culture and cuisine. From large cities we travel to tiny rural villages in areas where few Westerners ever enter; we will marvel at historic sites, and we enjoy friendly people and stunning colours.
Pre-tour: Tiger tour at Ranthambore
Day 1 – Arrival in Delhi and Transfer to Sawai Madhopur
We arrive in Delhi and transfer by AC train to Sawai Madhopur, where we spend the night.
Day 2 – Ranthambore National Park
We spend the day on safari in this huge national park, famous for its Tigers, and certainly one of the best locations in India to see and enjoy this majestic predator in natural surroundings, even during the day. We explore the park by canter (open-air truck). Along with Tigers, the park supports a large variety of mammals and around 300 species of birds; our list at the end of the day will be very impressive.
Night in Sawai Madhopur.
Day 3 - Morning safari and transfer to Delhi
We have a morning safari by canter, and then we transfer by AC Train back to Delhi where our pre-tour ends. Night in Delhi.
Northeast India: Kaziranga, Eaglenest & Mishmi Hills
Day 1 - Delhi and transfer to Kalimpong
We arrive in Delhi the day before, and take an early flight today to Bagdogra, and from there we transfer by vehicle to Siliguri and on to Kalimpong. During the flight there will be spectacular views of the Himalayas to the north. We bird on our drive to Kalimpong; the roadsides are often very productive, and we may find Bonelli’s Eagle, Streaked Spiderhunter, Spangled Drongo, Maroon Oriole, Hill Myna and Sultan Tit here. Time permitting we will make a brief visit to Sorea Park, where we hope to spot Black Ibis, Green Imperial Pigeon, Lesser Adjutant and Black-hooded Oriole. Night in Kalimpong.
Day 2 - Kalimpong - Lava
We travel from Kalimpong to Lava. Again there will be much opportunity for birding, botanizing and photography en route. We should have an opportunity to do some local sightseeing and perhaps visit the market or buy some tea - after all, we are near Darjeeling! Night in Lava.
Day 3 - Lava and Neora National Park
Today we have a full day of birding around Lava and the fringes of Neora N.P. Situated at 2000- 2400 m, we can expect some higher-altitude species including fulvettas, wren-babblers, laughingthrushes, Cutia, and with great good luck the very rare Blue-throated Robin. Night in Lava.
Day 4 – Lava - Samthar
We can expect more new species today as we drive from Lava to Samthar. Our daily list in this area may be quite low, but we should add 10 to 20 new ones each day. Samthar Farm is located at an altitude of 1400 m, in a tiny village. Our lodgings will be basic, but clean and comfortable, with a wonderful staff, and the food promises to be the best of our whole trip. Definitely one of the highlights of the tour. Night in Samthar Farm.
Day 5 - Mandir Khola Forest
We spend all day birding in the nearby Mandir Khola Forest, with lunch in the field. Possible birds include several species of eagle, Green Magpie, minivets, and numerous hard-to-identify Phylloscopus warblers. We also learn much about the local people; their livelihood, culture and customs. Westerners are few and far between here. Night at Samthar Farm.
Day 6 – Samthar Farm - Siliguri
This trip by road will take all day. The distance is not great, but roads are narrow, winding and bumpy, and we’ll make many stops en route. The scenery is spectacular, with Kanchenjunga and other tall peaks in the distance. Bhutan and Sikkim are just a stones-throw away and tea, ginger and cardamom plantations dot the hillsides. The birding will be challenging, but with the help of our guide we should be able to identify most birds. We look for Whiskered Yuhina, Rufous-winged and Nepal Fulvettas, Black-throated Parrotbill and many other exotic species. Night at Siliguri.
Day 7 – Transfer to Guwahati – Nameri National Park
We take a flight from Bagdogra to Guwahati, flying over the mighty Brahmaputra, and then board a bus to Nameri National Park in Assam. We take in several birding stops along the way. En route we may see our first elephants. Night at Nameri.
Day 8 –Nameri National Park
Nameri National Park covers an area of 200 km2 in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in Assam, north-east India. It is contiguous with Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh to the north, over 1,000 km2 and from 79m to over 1,500m altitude. The Jia Bhareli river flows along the park’s western and southern boundaries and the Bor Dikrai river along the eastern boundary. There are several threatened and near-threatened species in the park - White-winged Duck, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-rumped, Slender-billed and Red-headed Vultures, Indian Spotted, White-tailed and Pallas’s and Lesser Fish Eagles, Jerdon’s Babbler, White-cheeked Partridge and Black-bellied Tern, and we hope to find some of these. In the afternoon we will take a leisurely two-hour raft trip down the river, with Ibisbill as our main target. Night at Nameri.
Day 9. Nameri to Eaglenest National Park
We continue our drive to Lama Camp in Eaglenest National Park, birding en route. Night at Eaglenest N.P.
Days 10 - 12. Eaglenest National Park
Spectacular mountain scenery and superb old-growth montane forest characterize Eaglenest National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. The region lies at the intersection of the Palearctic, Indo-Malayan and Indian sub-regions of the Oriental Region, and ranges in altitude from 7000m peaks to 100m in the Brahmaputra Valley in neighbouring Assam. Although the park has only relatively recently been “discovered” by birders, it has quickly gained a reputation for incredible birding. Specialties of this amazing area include Bhutan Laughingthrush, Ludlow’s Fulvetta, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Blyth’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Long-billed and Rufous-throated Wren-Babblers, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler and Beautiful Nuthatch, and the newly-described Bugun Liocichla. Nights at Eaglenest.
Day 13. Eaglenest to Kaziranga National Park
Today we transfer to the superb Kaziranga National Park, making frequent stops along the way. Night at Kaziranga
Days 14 – 15. Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga is a remarkable success story of conservation of the One Horned Indian Rhinoceros and other wildlife in North East India. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and an IBA, Kaziranga National Park is 430 sq. km with an additional areas of 429 sq. km at Golaghat and Nagaon. Indian Rhinos are now found only in pockets in Assam and in Nepal. Expect to see Indian Elephant, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar, Swamp Deer and other mammals. Bengal Tiger occurs; with luck we may spot one. Almost 480 species of birds occur in the park, including 25 globally threatened and 21 near-threatened species. Waterfowl include Ferruginous Pochard and Baer's Pochard, rare riverine birds include Blyth's Kingfisher, White-bellied Heron, Dalmatian and Spot-billed Pelicans, and Spotted Greenshank. Wintering storks include Greater Adjutant, Black-necked Stork and Asian Openbill. A large number of raptors occur here: Eastern Imperial and Indian Spotted Eagles, Gray-headed Fish Eagle, vultures (Eurasian Black, Indian, Eurasian Griffon and Himalayan Griffon) and Pied Harrier. Other species we will attempt to find are Kalij Pheasant, Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Great Indian and Wreathed Hornbills, Spot-winged Starling and White-rumped Shama. Panbari Forest is currently out-of-bounds; we will visit the forest should it open up by the time we arrive; otherwise, we will visit a nearby tea plantation, where we look for Blue-naped Pitta, Broad-billed Warbler and White-eared Scimitar-Babbler.. Nights at Kaziranga.
Day 16. Kaziranga to Tinsukia
We leave this amazing park and head to the town of Tinsukia, again making frequent stops, where we spend the night.
Day 17. Tinsukia – Dibru Saikhowa - Tinsukia
Today we visit Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary. Here we look for Baer’s Pochard, Marsh and Jerdon’s Babblers, Rufous-vented (Swamp) Prinia, Pale-capped Pigeon, Jerdon’s Bush-chat, White-tailed Rubythroat and Black-breasted Thrush, and possibly Bushcat. Night in Tinsukia..
Day 18 – Tinsukia – Mishmi Hills
Today we travel over the river Brahmaputra and along an unimproved road to the small city of Roing, located in the foothills at an altitude of 200m to 550m, from where we climb into the Mishmi Hills. Night in the Mishmi Hills
Days 19 - 21 –Mishmi Hills
We visit many of the prime birding locations in these very birdy hills – the Dibang River Basin and Itapani River, Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mayodia pass at 2500 m, and Hunli. There are large tracts of undisturbed forests, which contain the enigmatic Mishmi Wren Babbler, rediscovered by Ben King and Julian Donahue in 2004 since the last record 57 years ago. Other specialties of the area are Temminck’s Tragopan, Rusty-throated Wren Babbler, Black Eagle, White-browed Piculet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, White-throated Bulbul, Daurian Redstart, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spot-throated Babbler, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Hill Blue Flycatcher and several exciting mammals including the scarce Mishmi Takin. Mayodia supports the high-altitude Sclater's Monal and Blyth's Tragopan, as well as rarely observed species like Darjeeling Woodpecker, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Grey-sided, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, and Gould's and Rusty-bellied Shortwings. In the Hunli area good birds include Rufous-bellied Eagle, Great and Golden-throated Barbets, Bay Woodpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-backed Forktail, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Striated Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared Mesia, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Streak-throated and Rusty-fronted Barwings, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, White-naped Yuhina, White-spectacled and Black-faced Warblers, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Gold-naped Finch and Long-billed Thrush. Nights in the Mishmi Hills.
Day 22 – Mishmi Hills - Tinsukia
We make our way back to Tinsukia. Night in Tinsukia
Day 23 – Tinsukia – Delhi
Today we take a flight from Tinsukia to Delhi where our tour ends.
Featured Birds and Mammals:
• Black-necked Stork
• Green-billed Malkoha
▪ Ward’s Trogon
• Golden-billed Magpie
• Blue-bearded Bee-Eater
▪ Beautiful Nuthatch
• Sultan Tit
▪ Bugun Liocichla
• Indian Elephant
• Indian Rhinoceros
Dates: February 13 - March 6, 2014
Duration: 23 Days
Tour Starts & Ends: Dehli
• Internal flights included
• Comfortable accommodation throughout, ranging from excellent to basic and clean
• Weather will vary from warm and humid to cool and even quite cold in the foothills of the Himalayas
• All meals included
India is a vast country with a wide array of peoples and cultures. Density of people can seem overwhelming, yet wildlife thrives among the throngs of people. Our tour concentrates in the fascinating northeast part of the country, along the Himalayan foothills in areas that are still relatively unknown. Typically it will be warm, dry and sunny, with cool and sometimes cold weather at higher altitudes. Accommodations range from comfortable and moderate to good, to fairly basic and clean. We take internal flights to reach the Himalayan foothills. We spend the morning and the late afternoon birding and exploring, sometimes having a siesta in the early afternoon. Driving distances will vary greatly, according to distance and road conditions. Most roads are quite adequate; some roads will be narrow, winding and bumpy but we take our time traveling such roads and stopping frequently. Birding at all locations will be outstanding, especially Eaglenest, the world-renowned Kaziranga, Nameri and the Mishmi Hills. Each evening, the list of birds and other wildlife will be reviewed, and plans for the next day will be discussed.