Lost Land of the Tiger (Bhutan Wildlife Trek)
November 3 - November 13£1035 – £4342
Lost Land of the Tiger (Bhutan Wildlife Trek)
Bhutan, a Himalayan kingdom, a real life ‘Shangri-La’ whose government is judged on its measurement of ‘Gross National Happiness’, is also one of the most secluded and untouched lands in the world. Starting in Paro, Bhutan’s only and world’s highest international airport, this unique journey will not only give you superb insight into the culture and history of the Bhutanese people, but also a chance to days trek in one of Bhutan’s most remote regions and the first ever opportunity to get involved in wildlife conservation in one of Bhutan’s Tiger parks, part of the World Heritage Park of Manas adjoining Assam in India.
Very few people have ever travelled to Royal Manas National Park through Central Bhutan, as the border has only recently been opened and the road is long and windy. However it gives us a privileged opportunity to see little visited parts of the country, experiencing it by vehicle but also for three days on easy hikes in the foothills prior to dropping down to the Royal Manas National park. Royal Manas National park is contiguous habitat with its more famous Indian park, Manas National Park, and is a recognised World Heritage Park for its wealth of biodiversity, including Tigers, elephants, wild buffalo, leopard and one horned rhinoceros, besides extraordinary birdlife. Here the trip spends 5 glorious days and also gets you involved in a camera trap census project. Join us and be a wildlife pioneer in the land of National Happiness.
Top Animals on Tour
Tour Dates: 3/11/2022 – 13/11/2022
Duration: 10 nights
Type / Focus: Hiking & Rare Mammals & Birds
On your arrival you will be met by your expert Bhutanese guides (specialized in Buddhism and Culture) at the airport and if your flight is a morning arrival you will be driven to your nearby Paro hotel and the rest of the day will be free for you to rest and relax.
Today is a day spent in the company of our expert local guide as he takes you around the sights of Paro including a walk through the fields and houses in an enchanting start to your journey. Depending on time we can visit the ruined Drukyel Dzong, under Mount Jomolhari a huge 7,500m (24,000ft) backdrop to this fortress (Mt Jhomolhari is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world and is believed by the Bhutanese as the abode of Goddess Jhomo), the Dungtse temple and Paro town itself, with its main streets of painted houses and shops.
Taksang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
After breakfast you will depart for the Tiger’s nest monastery, the famous temple Taktsang. Originally just a cave famous for its meditating Buddhist saint Guru Padma Sambabha who is believed to have flown in to this inaccessible cave on the back of a roaring tigress. The first temple was built on a cliff face 800 metres above the Paro Valley in the 14th century. Burnt down in 1998 it has been carefully restored and the two and a half hours walk to it is worth the effort. After a picnic lunch here descend to the valley and visit the historical museum and the Paro Dzong. From here you will have an evening stroll in the town and then drive to Thimphu for the night.
Thimphu – Phobjikha
After early breakfast (6am) drive and visit local sights in Thimphu including the Takin Preserve (the takin is the national animal of Bhutan and there is a small population that lived around here that was fenced in to protect the local farmers crops and now allows close views of this elusive species), local market, painting school, etc and start off your journey towards Punakha through a very windy but scenic drive east and after one and half hours reach the 3,000m (~9,300ft) high pass of Dochola, with breath taking views over the high peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, many over 7,000m (~21,500) peaks. Quantities of prayer flags and 108 chortens mark the pass. After a refreshing tea and snack at 3,000m (~9,300ft), descend down the other side into the Punakha Valley, a long windy journey dropping over 2,000m (6,200ft) through leafy forests to a botanical garden for a break. Drive onto Punakha (winter home of the central monastic body), the unlikely old capital of Bhutan and visits its Dzong built in 1637, that much resembles a ship on the confluence of two rivers.
After lunch we drive onto the Phobjikha Conseration Area at 3,000m (~9,300ft), the wintering grounds of the endangered black necked cranes. Here you will be able to spot a large number of black necked cranes, which migrate from Tibet to avoid the cold winters (the cranes are only here from late October – mid February). Enjoy a stroll through this wondrous valley and night halt at a hotel.
Phobjikha – Zhemgang-tingtibi
Early morning stroll to see if you can spot any wildlife in the nearby area including gorals and bird species. In season (November would be best), you will be able to sight the black-necked cranes. After breakfast start journey towards Trongsa through picturesque scenery, windy roads, cherry blossom trees and along steep gorges. Check in and stroll to the impressible Trongsa dzong and museum.
After lunch at a local restaurant, continue the scenic drive towards Zhemgang Dzongkhag slowly dropping cool broadleaved and chirpine forests into subtropical zone. You may be able to sight golden langurs, rufous necked horn bill and other wildlife. Tea in Zhemgang followed by a quick stroll and then drive onto Tingtibi (one of the lowest point in Bhutan (at 90 meters above mean sea level (~300ft) our chief local guide spent 3 years in this village at the start of his career as a park manager; so we have a lot of local knowledge of this specific park which will benefit us in our search of wildlife here and in the surroundings).
Tingtibi – Panbang
This morning you will have an early morning walk to sight wildlife in the nearby forests followed by a late breakfast. After breakfast you will drive to Panbang Eco Camp; this drive will take you through pristine subtropical forests.
Along the way we can stop to either take photographs or walk for short distances to see what we could see. Lunch will be served in a small town of Pantang and then after lunch you will have a combination of driving and walking for wildlife and photo opportunities for a further 2.5 hrs.
You will pass a beautiful twin waterfall with a view out across the Royal Manas National Park stretching out below. Tonight you will stop at Panbang eco-camp by the Mangde Chu Chu (river) before it joins another river (Drangme Chu) to become Manas river.
Panbang – Royal Manas NP
After an light early breakfast, you will have an morning boat ride (6am) for 45 minutes to get into the restricted Royal Manas National Park. On the ride you may be able to see various water birds, langurs, deer and if lucky guar as they come down to the river to drink in the early morning.
On arrival at the park we will be received by the park staff with tea and snacks, while the guide and other support staff settle the luggage into the guest house. After tea settle in and relax till lunch. After lunch, we will set out to set camera traps along trails and water holes, and return to guest house for dinner.
Royal Manas National Park is the Bhutanese part of the Natural World Heritage landscape of Greater Manas Tiger Reserve, a larger part being in Indian Assam, divided and bordered by the Manas river, a tributary of the holy Brahmaputra river. This Project Tiger park is in a region of astounding biodiversity at the foothills of the Himalayas including large grasslands and savannah and deciduous woodlands, but until a few years ago was beset by civil conflict and heavy poaching. The only park in India and this is also true to the Bhutanese side; that effectively contains all of India’s ‘Big Five’ including Asian Elephant, Bengal tigers, Asian water buffalo, One horned Indian rhinoceros and leopard. It however can add far more than this to it prestigious list of mammals including clouded leopard, golden cat, Sloth Bear and Himalayan Black Bear, Gaur, the wild cow of India and herds of Hog Deer. Three rare primates also live here including the Golden Langur, the Capped Langur and the Assamese Macaque, and if this is not all, Asia’s only Ape, the fascinating Hoorlock Gibbon. Birdlife is astounding with a recorded 380 bird species including the rare Bengal Florican, magnificent Giant Hornbills, colourful Kalij Pheasants and noisy Fishing and Serpent Eagles to name a few.
There will be opportunities to do some wild walking during the next few days looking for tracks and signs. River boating be enjoyed on the river in the late afternoons, once the traps have been set up. Wildlife in this park is generally elusive, and not habituated to visitors as in other Indian parks, but you can expect to see signs of many of its creatures and enjoy the cacophony of sounds from its extraordinary birdlife.
You can expect to capture many of them on your camera traps though, used as part of ongoing census data by staff.
Very few westerners have been allowed in this wilderness so you will be some of the very first to have explored it comprehensively. Alternatively, you can take out a likely location, by hiding in the vegetation and waiting to sight wildlife as it comes down to water to drink.
The next few days will be spent in various locations and around the park and surrounding forests in search of wildlife.
Royal Manas National Park
On both days 8 and 9 you will wake up around dawn (or just before) and after some tea or coffee go on an early morning walk around the guest house, returning for breakfast. After breakfast on one of the days you will walk to special thang (special plain) used by the Beloved Bhutanese Royal Families to watch wildlife. We will arrive at the watch tower at special thang for lunch. After lunch we will take a walk around to nearby salt lick and waterholes and take an alternate route back to camp.
On the other day you will cross the Manas river on boat and walk along the Bhutan / India boarder through forests to a dry river bed called Gaihati. Chances to sight elephants and other wildlife are good along this trail. We will eat a packed lunch at the river bed (where we might be able to sight signs of a resident tiger as well). After lunch walk through the forests and back to the camp.
Royal Manas National Park – Gelephu
Today we will have a last morning around the camp and then drive back to Tingtibi for lunch. After lunch we will continue driving to a place called Gelephu (a border town with India). We will still be able to sight wildlife along the way and during the afternoon. For tonight there are a couple of options; you have a choice of spending it at a tourist class hotel or at a more basic hot spring guest house.
Alternatively, we can spend some time at the natural hot spring and drive onto spend the night at the hotel if time permits. Otherwise, we will drive straight to the hotel for night halt (this can be decided and discussed on the day).
Gelephu – Guwahati – Home
Today we will clear immigration and transfer into an Indian vehicle and drive to the nearest Indian Immigration office, where we will clear immigration and head to Guwahati for exit. The drive will take about 6 hours depending on the traffic conditions in India. Your local guide will accompany you to the Gawahati Airport.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
The weather in November in the Himalayan mountains and foothills is wonderful, it is widely regarded as the best time to hike in the subhimlayan foothills. The weather in Bhutan is very reasonable, November is the beginning of the winter and middle of the dry season. Temperatures in this month are usually between 12-25 degrees C. The skies are usually clear but occasional showers are not unknown.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private air conditioned vehicle with an excellent local driver. We have brilliant local guides and specialist birding guides.
All our excursions including treks, guided walks, jeep safaris, elephant back rides, monastery entrance fees and park entrance fees are also included.
Your Bhutanese visa is included in the cost and all national taxes as well.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be light and airy clothes as well as comfortable walking shoes. Waterproofs are not necessary but could come in handy. Insect repellent is handy as there can be mosquitoes about during the evenings and nights. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera. Also do not forget sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses as the sun can be strong here during the day.
The only piece of camping equipment not included is a sleeping bag.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4-6 people these do not stretch too far. We also provide a spot light for nocturnal viewing (this is subject to local condition when we arrive). Camera Traps will also be used to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night.
All camping equipment needed (excluding a sleeping bag) are included.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any departure taxes applicable when leaving are not included (but may be included in the cost of your flights), Please check this before hand.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend Qatar Airways as a good airline for flights to Paro. One of the best websites to search for the best fares is www.travelup.co.uk. They are an ATOL bonded company and this provide all the securities related to ATOL protection. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for Bhutan. Your Bhutanese visa is included in the costs and you do not have to worry about this. We may ask for a photocopy of your passport but everything will be taken care of.
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit Bhutan, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting Bhutan as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Due to the high altitude in Bhutan a reasonable amount of fitness is needed but the altitude can affect anyone (regardless of fitness) so please read up or ask your GP about altitude sickness before leaving.
Reviews of this Holiday
Peter & Amanda Wallis, UK
Mr & Mrs Zardis, USA
The Packers, Tamworth
Sean & Suzie, Belfast
Garry Barlow, Tanzania
Joe Boyer, Michigan
Alan Beckett, Cardiff
Rhoda Perkins-Boyer, USA
Kris & Sophia, Cheshire
Ms. Beatrice Potter, UK
Cecilia Simon, Mexico
Geal & Michelle, Dubai - UEA
Mr. H. Kronsten, UK
The tour exceeded our expectations.
We really enjoyed the fact that we were able to experience the local food and requested it to our guide as much as possible, and he was wonderful in explaining what we were having.
Dan & Ann Milquet, USA
Sounam the driver was also superb-I felt very safe despite the roads and he was also very friendly and helpful, especially when I had a problem at the border
Lorraine Corfield, UK