Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage has been nurtured by successive monarchs and is evident from the moment you land at Paro, which must be one of the smallest towns in the World to have an international airport! High above the town is the famed Tiger’s Nest Monastery at Taktsang, where legend has it Guru Padma Sambhava, flying on a Tiger out of Tibet, landed on the cliff and meditated in a cave, the monastery was built some three hundred years ago to celebrate this.
On the first week we’ll explore beautiful valleys and flowery passes where both Hill Jezebels and Pale Jezebels fly above swathes of yellow Primula smithiana and pink Primula denticulata; with rhododendrons of all hues, we’ll see at least twelve species in bloom on the tour. We’ll visit monasteries with golden roofs surrounded by purple Jacarandas with snow-capped Himalayan peaks for a backdrop. We’ll see the improbably red Satyr Tragopan and the amazingly colourful Himalayan Monal and in the submontane forests an amazing show of butterflies. Puddling along the tracks and by the streams are groups of fabulous Great Nawabs and there’s no shortage of swallowtails with Spot Swordtails, Common Windmill, Great Windmill and Batwings – we can expect around twenty-five species of Swallowtail during the tour. Angled Sunbeams flash their colours as Green-tailed Sunbirds and lovely Yellow-billed Magpies survey us from white-flowered Schima trees. Autumn Leaf, Black Prince, Eastern Courtier, Freak, Circe and the Orange Punch are just some of the butterflies we’ll see as Great Mormons bat up and down tracks where we can admire several species of flowering Cobra Lily, including Arisaema griffithii, one of the strangest and most dramatic members of this genus as well as Arisaemagaleatum and Arisaema nepenthoides. There’s also the extraordinary yellow and pink Curcuma aromatica. Western Centaur Oakblue, Small Yellow, Spotted and Yellowjack Sailors, and the lovely Leopard Lacewing are all on the agenda. We’ll see Orchids such as Pleione humilis, Pleione hookeriana and the spectacular Dendrobium nobile while Ward’s Trogons and Red Panda inhabit the mossy woodlands by the Rhododendron-rich Lamperi Botanical Garden. The fabulous Rufous-necked Hornbill is sure to be a highlight along with always impressive Great Indian Hornbills (which are rather common) and we’ll see Hooded Pitta as well as ten species of intricately plumaged Laughingthrushes.
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. We are sure the latter will soon change! We’ll spend the second week exploring Bhutanese Manas, 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. There are so many stunning butterflies in this area as well as impressive Atlas Moths. We’ll find unusual and elegantly-shaped lycaenids such as the Fluffy Tit, Bright Sunbeam, Chocolate Royal, Khaki Silverline, Powdery Green Sapphire and the brilliant Purple Sapphire. Rare orchids abound, notably Cymbidium aloifolium and the ghost orchid Epipogium roseum, both newly discovered for Bhutan on our last tour. Tigers occur both here and in Kaziranga, and Manas also holds no less than seven other species of cat, however seeing any of these will a huge bonus – but we’ll try! We’ll see the fabulous Golden Langur, one of the world’s rarer and more beautiful primates, as well as Indian Elephant, Gaur, Hog Deer and Yellow-throated Martens. Five species of elegant Forktail frequent streams where butterflies such as the Green Commodore, Indian Purple Emperor, Fourbar, Spectacle and Sixbar Swallowtails, Common Rose and Bluebottle congregate. Red-headed Trogons sit quietly as noisy groups of Blue-winged and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes course though the vegetation. Yellow and black Sultan Tits form feeding parties with Long-tailed and Beautiful Sibias whilst Assamese Macaques and Capped Langurs enjoy a buffet of wild mangoes. Everywhere are gorgeous birds – Long-tailed Broadbill, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch – and spectacular ones too – Great Slaty Woodpecker, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Grey Peacock Pheasant. Butterflies on the wing will include Stately Nawab, Siren, Paris Peacock, Red-base Jezebel, Orange Oakleaf, the Yellow Flat, Common Tinsel, Popinjay and the Punchinello – beauties every one!
Dates and Prices
26th April - 12th May 2024 (17 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
Butterflies, Flowers and Birds. Also Mammals, Landscapes and Culture.
The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 9.
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.
Butterfly, bird, flower (selected) and mammal checklists are available.
We’ll start and finish at the excellent Atrio Hotel, close to the airport in Delhi. Arriving in Bhutan, we’ve two nights in the very comfortable Khangku Hotel at Paro. Here the spacious light rooms have balconies that look out over the Paro Valley. We’ve two nights at the Lobesa Hotel near Punakha. Overlooking rice paddies and little farms the Lobesa is a delight, the comfortable rooms have all the usual modern facilities and there’s plenty of birds right outside your window. Into Manas and the lowlands, the standard of the accommodation drops too! We’ll be staying in guesthouses and small hotels that are rather more basic, though still reasonably comfortable. In Gelephu we stay at the comfortable Kuku Hotel for a night and in Tingtibi we have two nights in a pleasant local guesthouse, and three nights in the Eco Lodge in Panbang, which is really more of a small hotel. The guesthouse in Gongphu (1 night) is the most basic, plain rooms with just a bed. This tour has en-suite facilities throughout except for the 1 night in Gongphu where there is one bathroom between every two rooms.
Very easy. No more than three or four miles in any one day, and always at a relaxed pace ideally suited to photographers.
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.
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.