Day 1: The tour starts this evening in New Delhi with arrivals into Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
Day 2: After catching a short flight to Guwahati we will head straight into the Himalaya, arriving this afternoon in Dirang, situated at 1,500m, for a three-night stay. Night in Dirang.
Day 3-4-5: During our three days birding around Dirang we visit two main sites, including the scenically spectacular Se la. At 4,200m above sea-level it is one of the few areas at this elevation accessible by road. We spend the day here searching for some classic Himalayan species; Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch and the stunning Grandala.
A day at Manda la, a long, winding road going through forest, bamboo and eventually reaching patches of rhododendron. A huge range of species are possible here, but our main targets include Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Black-throated and Brown Parrotbills, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, White-collared Blackbird, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blue-fronted Robin, a variety of Laughingthrushes, Crimson-browed and Gold-naped Finches, Hume’s Bush-warbler and Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler.
Day 6-7-8-9: Leaving Dirang early on Day 6 we will arrive at the fabulous Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary for sunrise, where we will begin our search for the Critically Endangered Bugun Liocichla, first described in 2006 and currently known only from this area. We will spend our time along several different sections of a jeep track which cuts through this rich forest from the pass at 2,900m descending to the scrappy though productive foothills at 800m. Our nights here will be spent at two comfortable permanent tented camps set at different altitudes in the middle of the forest. Pure bliss!
Starting from high altitudes and working our way down the track to the lowlands, we pass through a wide range of avifaunal zones and the bird life will vary noticeably during our descent. The bird list for the sanctuary is huge, and includes many species which were once thought to occur primarily in Bhutan to the west, but are in fact common here too. Among the list of potential species are such mouth-watering possibilities as Blyth’s and Temminck’s Tragopans, Chestnut-breasted and Common Hill Partridges, Kalij Pheasant, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Collared Grosbeak, Blue-fronted Robin, Golden, White-browed and Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, plus both Green and Purple Cochoas.
There are also a whole host of laughingthrushes with Grey-sided, Blue-winged, Chestnut-crowned, Scaly, Striated, Bhutan, Spotted all possible and, of course, the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla and its commoner cousin, the Crimson-faced Liocichla. Both Coral-billed and Sickle-billed Scimitar Babblers favour the tracts of bamboo, the mind-blowing Fire-tailed Myzornis, seven species of wren babbler, the amazing Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Beautiful Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, six species of parrotbill and a whole host of sibias, tits, flycatchers, warblers, yuhinas, niltavas, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, accentors and finches. There is also a small chance we will come across Red Panda, but we will count ourselves extremely lucky if this occurs.
Day 10: We will spend most of the day birding the lowest elevations inside Eaglenest before we head back down into Assam. If we receive word that the resident White-winged Ducks are currently visible at Nameri National Park, we will endeavor to make a quick stop there before crossing the mighty Brahmaputra and venturing east until we hit Kaziranga in the evening. Night outside Kaziranga National Park.
Day 11: We will spend the morning in forest near our hotel searching for Blue-naped Pitta, the localised Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, Great Hornill, and Blue-bearded Bee-eater. Eventually the national park gates will open (three full hours after sunrise!), and our safari will begin. The day will certainly include sightings of the fabulous Greater One-horned Rhino and Asian Elephant, but we will also search for Slender-billed Babbler, Spot-billed Pelican, both Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Swamp Francolin, Black-breasted Weaver, and we will probably chance across some delightful Smooth-coated Otters. Tigers are present here, but only very rarely seen.
Day 12: After more morning birding near Kaziranga we will commence the long drive east towards Roing and arrive at our safari camp up in the Mishmi Hills this evening, with much better facilities than those at Eaglenest.
Day 13-14-15: Birding along lovely forest-clad roadside, the birds will be of a subtly different flavour to those at Eaglenest! In particular, we will be searching for Mishmi Wren Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, the incredible star-spangled Gould’s Shortwing, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Blyth’s Tragopan, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Manipur Fulvetta, Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch and Blue-fronted Robin amongst many more widespread species of the Himalaya and anything we may have missed at Eaglenest. On one afternoon we will drive down the hills and take an excursion to some grasslands on the outskirts of Roing, which should produce Black-breasted Parrotbill, Marsh Babbler, and Jerdon’s Babbler, but we will need some good luck to chance across the rapidly declining Bengal Florican which has become much harder in recent years.
Day 16: This morning we will leave early and head back west to bird some preserved lowland forest in the Digboi Oilfields. The three special species best seen in this area are Collared Treepie, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and the rare Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, all of which we hope to find. Other possibilities include Blue-throated Flycatcher and Silver-breasted Broadbill, with an outside chance of White-cheeked Partridge. In the late morning we will continue on to Dibrugarh Airport for an afternoon flight to New Delhi, where the tour ends this evening back at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
MAIN TOUR 2024
Cost: $ 4,800
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 500
Accommodation: The permanent safari-style camps at Eaglenest feature large walk-in tents with beds, but with shared facilities and hot water provided in buckets for showers. We will stay in a similar permanent camp whilst at Mishmi, with better ammenities, hot showers, and electricity. The rest of the hotels will be comfortable.
Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside birding, with some slow uphill walking as we cover ground.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.