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. We’ll see Alpine Musk Deer too – this is a great spot to see these normally hard to see deer – and we’ll search in particular here for Dhole, a species in severe decline.
This tour features a wonderful variety of Flying Squirrels – we can expect to see Himalayan Giant Flying Squirrel, Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel, Parti-coloured Flying Squirrel, Hodgson’s Giant Flying Squirrel, Grey-headed Giant Flying Squirrel and there’s a healthy population of Bhutan Flying Squirrels, a truly noble rodent!
On the eastern fringes of Bhutan, adjacent to Arunachal Pradesh, lies the remote and little-known Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserve that in years to come will likely become known as one of Asia’s finest. For now though Sakteng’s 750 square kilometres are home to a couple of thousand semi-nomadic Brokpas or “men of the pastures” – a cultural group who have a very different life style, traditions and dress to the rest of Bhutan – and probably the closest thing to a pure faunal assemblage in the whole of the Himalayan region. A sublime mix of coniferous forests, alpine pastures and broadleaved woodland in the valleys is home to very good numbers of Asiatic Black Bear, Leopard, Red Panda and Dhole. We’ll camp amid this fabulous habitat and spend our time searching for these species and others. Of course, our search for Golden Cat will continue… Yellow-throated Martens are always a treat and tolerably common. At lower altitudes we’ll find plentiful Gee’s Golden Langurs, one of the world’s rarer and more beautiful primates and it is Sakteng that is home to a population of the recently described Arunachal Macaque. Serow and Goral are common here. There’s quite a list of what we might see here.
Dates and Prices
24th September - 9th October 2024 (16 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
The minimum is 4 and the maximum is 7.
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.
Mammal and bird checklists are available.
We’ll start and finish at the excellent Atrio Hotel close to the airport in Delhi. For almost all of the tour inside Bhutan 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 – the cook does a very fine job. We’ll have a night camping inside the botanical garden at Lamperi, 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. After a night camping near Urala we’ll have a treat, a night at the very pleasant Trogon Resort in Yonghkala where the resorts luxuries will seem far more than perhaps they really are!!! A centre-piece of the tour is camping for four nights in the remote Sakteng Protected area amid a fabulous mosaic of forest and open habitats. Our last night in Bhutan will be at a camp in the forests about twenty kilometres north of Samdrup Jongkhar. This tour has en-suite facilities when we are staying at Hotels only. Note that if you prefer a single tent this is freely available.
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!
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 the majority of the trip where we are visiting areas at mid-elevations. Pele La and Yongkhola are at higher altitudes and it can get decidedly chilly at night with temperatures dropping to low single figures °C. Right at the end of the tour at Samdrup Jongkhar it can be quite hot. We can expect occasional rain in all areas.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back 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.