A quick glance at a map of Bhutan illustrates just how little of the country can be reached by road, a consequence of the magnificent mountain landscapes of the southern Himalaya and an enlightened conservation programme that has been in place for many years.
The lack of population pressure certainly helps the natural environment too – only three quarters of a million people live in an area just less than that covered by the Netherlands. The result is that just about everywhere you go you are surrounded by beautifully pristine natural forest or alpine slopes reaching up to Bhutan’s magnificent peaks. Around a third of the country is within designated protected areas and there are considerable areas also given special status as biological corridors. It is one of these that we’ll spend a few days exploring. A few years back an American birding group was camping here and noticing a dead Yak near their camp they set out a trap camera and checked in the morning only to find that Tiger and Leopard had both visited the carcass in the night! It is not those big cats though that attract us to this area as more recently trap camera evidence has shown that the Pele La biological corridor which links Jigme Dorji National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park is home to the Golden Cat. This cat has perhaps the most variable coat colour of all the felids with golden, melanistic, grey and even ‘ocelot’ forms all registering on trap cameras around the country. This area is also good for Asiatic Black Bear and Red Panda inhabits the mossy woodlands laden with Rhododendrons. There’s a chance of Musk Deer too though these animals are generally stay far from any roads.
On the edge of the Brahmaputra’s floodplain and extending from India high into the Bhutanese mountains is Manas one of Asia’s most important and perversely little-visited national parks. Over a thousand square kilometres of superb habitat from the mossy montane forests near the stunning Zhemgang Monastery to the lowland monsoon and dry deciduous forests of Panbang. Manas also holds no less than eight species of cat! We’ll be concentrating our efforts again on Golden Cat which is known at all altitudes within the park and like their larger stripey cousins are known to walk the ridge tops. Of the other cats the most likely are Leopard Cat and Fishing Cat. The latter often fishes the might ???? River and we’ll search carefully. The same river is home to European Otters. We’ll see plenty of Gee’s Golden Langurs, one of the world’s rarer and more beautiful primates, as well as Indian Elephant, Gaur, Hog Deer, Yellow-throated Martens and both Large Indian Civet and Small Indian Civet. In the upper levels of the park at Gongphu there’s a healthy population of Bhutan Flying Squirrels, a truly noble rodent!
Above the golden domes of Punakha lies Trashitang on the edge of the vast alpine wilderness of Jigme Dorji National Park. Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel can be found in the trees around our camp and we’ll search in particular here for Dhole, a species in severe decline.
Ian Green, and local guide.
Easy for the most part, though occasionally some slippery trails with some uphill sections. We don’t expect to cover many miles in a day, however it is the timing of the excursions that you need to be aware of – we’ll be spending quite a part of the hours of darkness in the field and so sleep may be at less than usual times!
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation and meals in India and Bhutan. Bhutanese visas. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, tips, Indian visas and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included.
The minimum is 4 and the maximum is 7.
We'll start and finish at the excellent Atrio Hotel close to the airport in Delhi. Arriving in Bhutan we’ve a night at the Dochu La resort right on the pass of the same name. Magnificent vistas from the balconies and pretty comfortable too. For much of this tour we’ll be camping. This will though be reasonably comfortable camping with good quality camp beds and tents that we can stand up in. Our team in Bhutan will have the camp sites ready for us on arrival and each day they’ll be providing proper sit down meals wherever we need them whether at the camp or in the field. We’ll have two nights camping in a lovely clearing in the forest at Tashithang (altitude 1600m), then three nights camping close to the pass at Pele La at an altitude of 3100m, a night camping in the beautiful forests an hour north of Tingtibi, and later when we descend to Manas we’ll have three nights at a camp in the forests near Panbang (altitude – not much!). Prior to the latter we’ll be visiting Gongphu. There are some small cabins in Gongphu (2 nights) which are basic plain rooms with just a bed. However there’s only three of them so some of us may be camping there too! At Gelephu we stay at the comfortable Kuku Hotel. This tour has en suite facilities when we are staying at Guesthouses and Hotels.
UK direct return flights are from London Heathrow to Delhi. Indirect routes from regional UK Airports* and direct flights from various European Airports* may be available. On Day 2 there is a flight from Delhi to Paro and on Day 15 there is a flight from Guwahati back to Delhi.
*These routes may incur a supplement
Very pleasant. Mornings are cool and days pleasantly warm during our first week in the higher parts of Bhutan. The second week is in the lower regions and it can get quite hot at Manas. We can expect occasional rain in all areas.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Butterfly, bird and mammal checklists are available.