14-Day North-East India Birding Tour
India. The world in one country. It is home to over 1.3 billion people, but also hosts 9% of all mammalian, 14% of all avian, 8% of all reptilian, 6% of all amphibian, and 6% of all flowering plant species of the world. A country that conjures up images of colour, diversity, culture, mountains, food, texture, tigers and excitement. We will experience all this and much more on our North-East India Birding Tour.
Full Itinerary – North-East India Birding Tour
Start of tour in Guwahati, transfer to Nameri National Park
Namasté! Welcome to incredible India! Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most remote parts of one of the most wonderful countries in the world will start at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) west from the heart of the city of Guwahati. Most domestic flights arrive by mid-morning, but if you arrived earlier or spent some extra time pre-tour in the city, we can pick you up at your city hotel.
The riverine port city of Guwahati is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Indian state of Assam and also the largest urban area in northeast India. It is also called The Gateway to Northeast India, The City of Temples, or The Light of the East. Ringed by the Nilachal hills, the city stretches along both banks of the broad and famous Brahmaputra river. Although not boasting many architectural or cultural highlights, it is an important starting point for tours to the remote northeastern states, and if you take time to explore the city’s older areas near the river, it’s not all boring glass and concrete.
We will meet our driver at the airport and start our drive to Nameri National Park to the northeast, which will take around five hours. You will soon learn that the traffic in India follows a sort of “organised chaos” system, but luckily everyone gets to their destinations safely despite the hooting and close proximity of cars, trucks and motorbikes!
We are in the state of Assam, the biggest and most accessible of the northeast states of India. A hospitable population, a cuisine with its own distinctive aromas and flavours, the incredibly wide Brahmaputra river, a vibrant artistic heritage and string of elegant Hindu temples top its long list of attractions. Assam (literally meaning “undulating”) is also known for Assam tea (Assam contributes 16% of the world’s tea production), Assam silk (Assam is the largest producer in the world of the golden coloured ‘muga’ silk) and its protected national parks and reserves. Assam is extremely rich in bird life, with a list of over 800 species. All five national parks and all the 18 wildlife sanctuaries in Assam are identified Important Bird Areas, and in total the state has 46 IBAs.
On the way to Nameri, it might also be a good idea to learn a bit more about India. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. India is a megadiverse country (one of only 17 in the world) with its various ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the evergreen rain-forests in the south, the desert sands of the west to the marshy mangroves of the east. It also enjoys extreme climatic swings, from snowfall in the north to boiling tropical heat in the south, and of course annual monsoons.
As a result it contains many endemic fauna and flora species. India is a habitat for about 9% of all mammal species, 14% of bird species, 8% of reptile species, 6% of amphibian species, 12% of fish species, and 6% of all flowering plant species on the planet! The country has 7 Natural World Heritage sites, 11 Biosphere Reserves in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and 37 Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. The country boasts iconic species that include (Bengal) Tiger, (Indian) Leopard, Snow Leopard, (Asiatic) Lion, Asian (Indian) Elephant, Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros and many more. Luckily the Indian Government realises the importance of conserving their fauna, flora and unique and huge biodiversity. As of 2019, there are 870 protected areas including 104 National Parks, 551 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 88 Conservation Reserves and 127 Community Reserves covering a total of approximately 5% of the country surface.
In birding terms, India is a dream destination. The country’s current total number of birds (according to BirdLife International) is an astounding 1,210 species, including 75 endemics and 93 globally threatened species. Some authorities put the total number of birds at an even higher number, exceeding 1,300 species! The main birding habitats in India are forests, scrub, grassland & farmland, deserts and wetlands. Each of these varied systems is home to a characteristic population of bird species.
On our drive we will spot our first birds of the tour. These could include included the endangered Greater Adjutant, vulnerable Lesser Adjutant, White-throated Kingfisher, Asian Openbill, Indian Roller, and Great and Little Egret to name but a few. We will also stop for lunch at a nice restaurant, enjoying our first taste of the cuisine of the northeastern states.
We will arrive at the Nameri National Park in the late afternoon. The park is located at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas along the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, next to the Jia Bhoreli river, at an average elevation of 100 metres (330 feet) above sea level. It was established in 1978 and is possibly the most scenic wildlife area of the region. The mixture of tropical and semi-evergreen forest, cane and bamboo brakes and narrow strips of open grassland along rivers supports a large number of bird species; around 370 species have been recorded in the park.
Our accommodation at Nameri is in “tents”, but built-up private bathrooms and thatched-roof shelters make the experience feel quite luxurious. The camp is set within beautiful, colourful gardens full of birds and butterflies.
If there is time we might do a short walk on the outskirts of the park before dinner. In the past we have seen some cracking birds during this short walk, including Orange-bellied Leafbird, Greater Flameback, vulnerable Wreathed Hornbill and even Brown Hawk-Owl.
We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in the camp restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time.
We will get our first proper taste of the delicious food of Assam tonight. The cooking, recipes, spices and techniques can vary widely in this region, but some staples remain constant, and range from vegetables to meat, duck, fish and the ever famous bamboo shoots and even pork. Enjoy! After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Nameri National Park
We will enjoy a hearty breakfast and some good coffee or strong tea (masala chai) at the camp and then head into the park. While waiting for all the participants to join up, remember to look around the camp grounds for birds. We normally pick up some good species here, including beauties like Black-rumped Flameback, Coppersmith Barbet, Green Bee-eater, Long-tailed Minivet, Small Niltava and many more.
We will enjoy a full day in Nameri National Park and we will have the opportunity to go on a jungle walk in the morning and go on a gentle raft ride on the Jia Bhoroli river in the afternoon. *Please note that these activities are subject to local guide availability and weather conditions. To maximise our birding time, we will enjoy a packed lunch inside the park in a scenic spot.
Nameri shares its northern boundary with the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary of the Arunachal Pradesh state. Together they constitute an area of over 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi) of which Nameri has a total area of about 200 km2 (77 sq mi). The park boasts some top birds, most notably the endangered White-winged Duck (the state bird of Assam), of which there are less than 1,000 birds left in the wild.
The park is also excellent elephant country and was once considered to be an Elephant Reserve. It is an ideal habitat for a host of other animals including Tiger (it was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1999), Leopard, Sambar Deer, Dhole, the critically endangered Pygmy Hog, Gaur, Wild Boar, Sloth Bear and Asiatic Black Bear. It must be noted that seeing most of these mammals is a hit-or-miss affair, and a lot of luck is needed to see them!
On our morning walk we will be searching for the aforementioned White-winged Duck, Crested Serpent Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, the impressive Great Hornbill, Wreathed and Oriental Pied Hornbill, Maroon Oriole, Chestnut-headed and Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Pale-capped Pigeon, Wedge-tailed, Yellow-footed and Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Red-breasted Parakeet, the eye-searingly red Scarlet Minivet, Lineated and Blue-throated Barbet, Lesser Racket-tailed and Bronzed Drongo, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, White-rumped Shama, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Abbott’s Babbler, Black-crested, Red-whiskered, White-throated, Black and Red-vented Bulbul, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Chestnut-bellied and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Common Iora, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Greenish Warbler and Indian White-eye to name just a few.
On our raft ride (a fantastic experience you will remember for a long time) on the lazy river our targets will include monotypic Ibisbill, Western Osprey, Crested Honey Buzzard, Great and Little Cormorant, Bar-headed Goose, Common Merganser, Ruddy Shelduck, Striated and Indian Pond Heron, River Tern, Oriental Darter, White Wagtail, Common and Pied Kingfisher, River and Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Sand Lark, Rosy Pipit, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Striated Grassbird, Great Stone-curlew, Small Pratincole and many others.
We will return to camp in the late afternoon to freshen up. We will get together in the jovial communal restaurant to enjoy dinner and to update our trip lists. The we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow we head skywards!
Nameri to Dirang
This morning we will be up early for coffee and breakfast, after which we check out and jump into our vehicle.
We are heading northwest, for an almost full day of travelling. But don’t worry, it will be worth it! The scenery today is dramatic, with the farms and flatlands of Assam changing quickly into the lower foothills of the eastern Himalayas as we progress. We will travel on some amazing roads, built by incredibly skilled workers that have been doing it for generations. Look out for Wallcreeper along the steep roadsides today; we have seen this monotypic special on most of our previous tours here.
We will stop at the town of Bhalukpong, the “entrance” to the state of Arunachal Pradesh, where we will go through a checkpost. Arunachal Pradesh is the northeastern-most state of the country, and also called Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains, the Orchid State of India or the Paradise of the Botanists. It is India’s wildest and least explored state, and was kept isolated for years by its strategic location on the frontier between India and China. Home to 26 indigenous tribes, the state is the last sanctuary for India’s natural and anthropological heritage. The bulk of the land area of Arunachal Pradesh is still covered by forests and grassland (high altitude) or is still in its beautiful and natural state. More than 700 species of birds have been seen in the state, and it is one of the few areas in India where there are still chances of discovering new species.
Soon after entering Arunachal Pradesh we will make a birding stop close to the town of Thipey. Here we could see White-naped Yuhina, Nepal Fulvetta, Golden and Grey-throated Babbler, Black-throated Sunbird, Grey-cheeked and Grey-hooded Warbler and even the gorgeous Chestnut-headed Tesia.
The road will then turn skywards, zig-zagging over the Nechi Phu Pass (top at 1,700 metres/5,600 feet above sea level) and down into the Tenga valley where we will have lunch at a nice restaurant serving local cuisine.
We then proceed through the town of Bomdila (2,415 metres/7,923 ft) above sea level) with its colourful Buddhist monastery, before reaching Dirang in the late afternoon. This beautiful hill station town is the gateway to the Tawang valley, and is situated on the icy-blue Kameng river. Since it is on the river valley, the altitude of the town is a relatively low 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above sea level. Some of the attractions in the area include the 150 year-old Dirang dzong (fort), a hot water spring and the National Yak Research Centre.
We will get together for dinner at our comfortable accommodation (our home for 3 nights) and update our trip lists. Afterwards we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Dirang – Sela Pass and Sangti Valley
We will get up very early this morning and then head out for an exciting day! Breakfast and lunch will be of the packed, picnic-type variety.
We will head further northwest up to around 4,200 meters (14,108 feet) above sea level on the famous, crazily zig-zagging Sela Pass, more appropriately called Se La, as La means pass. It is one of the highest drivable mountain passes in all of the Himalayas. Sela Pass is a sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhists believe that there are more than 100 sacred lakes in and around the pass. While the pass does sometimes get heavy snowfall in winters, it is usually open throughout the year unless landslides or snow require the pass to be shut down temporarily.
The surrounding scenery here (at 14,000 feet) is totally stunning and will literally take your breath away, so we will bird slowly and allow everyone to enjoy the high altitude birding experience! We will look out for some very special species here, including Himalayan Monal, Blood and Kalij Pheasant, Snow and Hill Partridge, Himalayan and Bearded Vulture, Himalayan Buzzard, Snow Pigeon, Grandala, Wallcreeper, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Red-billed Chough, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Alpine and Kessler’s Thrush, Hodgson’s Redstart, Collared Grosbeak, Alpine and Rufous-breasted Accentor, Tibetan Serin, Plain and Brandt’s Mountain Finch, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, and White-browed Tit-warbler.
The afternoon is going to be equally fantastic as we will visit the picturesque, agricultural Sangti Valley at an altitude of around 1,500-1,600 metres (4,920-5,413 feet) above sea level. The valley is filled with fruit orchards (kiwi fruit, apple, apricot, orange), dotted with pristine forests and has meandering, fast hill rivers and very interesting culture and tradition. Here we will look for some more top species. Our target lists here include Ibisbill, Black-tailed Crake, Long-billed Plover, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Rosy and Olive-backed Pipit, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Crested Bunting, Brown Dipper, White-capped Redstart, Little Forktail and more. Black-necked Cranes migrate to this valley from China during the months of November and December, so we might just get lucky! From a mammal point of view, we could see Capped Langur today.
After our incredibly exciting day we will head back to Dirang, where we will have dinner and update our trip lists (and boast about all our lifers!) before getting a good night’s sleep.
Dirang – Mandala-Phudung
We will have another early wake-up call, jump into the vehicle and head off.
We will spend the full day birding in the Mandala-Phudung forest region, a relatively unknown birding paradise. This area forms a contiguous unit with the Shergaon and Kalaktang tracts of the high altitude mountainous region of Arunachal Pradesh. Together these three tracts form an Important Bird Area (IBA) which is then contiguous with two other IBAs; Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Sangti Valley in the north. It is also part of the greater Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area, a global biodiversity hotspot.
The Mandala-Phudung region is located in the higher parts of the IBA, above 3,000 metres (9,842 ft) above sea level, and more than 300 avian species have been recorded here. The vegetation includes tropical evergreen forest in the lower areas and coniferous forest in the higher reaches.
Our target species for today include Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopan, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Ward’s Trogon, Bhutan, Black-faced, and Spotted Laughingthrush, Spotted Nutcracker, Plaintive Cuckoo, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, White-collared and Grey-winged Blackbird, Hoary-throated and Streak-throated Barwing, Beautiful Sibia, Blanford’s Rosefinch, Gould’s Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhina, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Rufous-breasted and Maroon-backed Accentor, Hodgson’s and White-throated Redstart, Golden-naped Finch, Blanford’s Rosefinch, Scaly-breasted and Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Brown-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-fronted Bushtit, Grey Crested Tit, Crested Bunting, Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher and many others.
Remember to look out for the cute but endangered Red Panda today, as the Mandala-Phudung area is quite a good spot for them.
We will return to Dirang in the late afternoon where we will once again enjoy the warm hospitality and excellent cuisine at our accommodation. We will get together to update our lists around the dinner table and then get a good night’s rest after another exciting, high-altitude day of birding.
Dirang to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary (Lama Camp)
We will start our day with a slightly later breakfast and coffee at the hotel, then check out and thank the always-friendly staff as we leave.
We are heading back the way we came, making stops for interesting birds and great scenery as we slowly drive south towards the Tenga valley.
From the military township of Tenga the road will start climbing rapidly to the world famous Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Rising from 500 to 3,250 metres (1,640 to 10,663 feet) in altitude with an area of 218 km2 (84 sq mi), the sanctuary hosts one of the finest birdlife collections that Asia has to offer. Named after the Indian army post ‘Eaglenest’ bordering Bhutan, it is rated as one of the best birding site in the world, with over 650 bird species recorded in the sanctuary and its surrounding forests!
Just before reaching our camp for the next two nights, we will do a short birding walk in a very, very special spot. We are going to look for the critically endangered and endemic Bugun Liocichla. To see this species is a massive highlight, and the sole reason some world listers come to Eaglenest. First spotted here in 1995, it was described as a new species in 2006 and named after the local tribe of the area. Due to the rarity of the bird no type specimen was collected; instead feathers from the mist net, photographs, recordings and notes were used to classify the bird as a new species. In this same area we could also see the aptly named Beautiful Sibia, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler and Green-tailed Sunbird.
We will reach our destination in the mid-afternoon. Lama Camp (2,350 metres/7,710 ft above sea level) is situated on the edge of the Eaglenest Sanctuary. It offers simple tented accommodation that is set up on wooden stilts. The facilities here are pretty basic with no electricity in the tents, a common dining hall and common washrooms. It is, however, a phenomenally beautiful setting, located amidst temperate broad-leaved primary and degraded forest, with incredible views of the distant Himalayan foothills.
There will be time for a short walk around the camp, and if we are lucky we could start our Eaglenest list with species like Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, White-tailed Nuthatch, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Black Bulbul, Black-faced Warbler, Rufous-vented, Stripe-throated and Whiskered Yuhina, Sikkim Treecreeper, Grey Nightjar, Himalayan Bluetail and even the scarce Besra or beautiful Blyth’s Tragopan.
We will get together in the dining room to have dinner, update our lists and socialise into the evening.
Eaglenest (Lama Camp)
Today we start with some coffee or strong tea and breakfast, and then we explore the surrounds of Lama by foot or by making short drives and then birding in the vicinity of the vehicle. We will return to camp for lunch and then head out into the sanctuary in the afternoon again.
An unpaved road connects the whole Eaglenest sanctuary which makes it easy to access to the entire altitudinal range, much like the equally famous Manu Road in Peru. The habitat is that of contiguous forest in different elevations. Other than great birding, the sanctuary is extremely rich for other fauna, boasting 34 species of amphibians, 24 species of snakes, 7 species of lizards, 165 butterfly species and mammals like Red Panda, Clouded Leopard, Asian Elephant, Tiger, Leopard, Asian Buffalo, Dhole, Arunachal Macaque, Capped Langur and different species of wild cats including Temminck’s Golden Cat, Marbled Cat and Leopard Cat. It has to be said that we would have to extremely lucky to tick some of these mammals, but you never know…
During our time around Lama today we will look for some fantastic species. We will hope to see Rufous-bellied Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Chestnut-breasted, Rufous-throated and Hill Partridge, Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopan, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Golden-throated Barbet, Crimson-breasted and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Ward’s Trogon, Purple and Green Cochoa, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Little Forktail, Ashy and Speckled Wood Pigeon, Brown, White-breasted and Black-throated Parrotbill, Green, Black-eared and Black-headed Shrike-Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, White-throated, Blue-winged, Chestnut-crowned and Striated Laughingthrush, Striated Bulbul, Slaty-backed and Sapphire Flycatcher, Fire-capped Tit, White-browed and Gould’s Shortwing, Pygmy, Scaly-breasted, Spotted, Rufous-throated and Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Bar-throated Minla, White-tailed Robin, Chestnut-headed, Grey-bellied and Slaty-bellied Tesia, Black-throated Prinia, Brown Bullfinch, White-throated Needletail, Blue-fronted Robin, Long-tailed, Brown-throated and Golden-breasted Fulvetta, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Mrs. Gould’s, Green-tailed and Black-throated Sunbird, Maroon-backed and Rufous-breasted Accentor, Gold-naped Finch and many others.
We will return to camp after an exciting day and no doubt, many trip ticks and lifers! We will get together for dinner and to chat about our trip so far. We have been together for about a week now, so it might be time to start thinking about future trips to other exotic and bird-rich places on the planet. There is so much to see out there!
Eaglenest (Lama to Bompu Camp)
We will have breakfast at camp this morning, marvelling at the views as we stand on the deck with a cup of coffee in hand. We then pack the vehicle and head off deeper into Eaglenest.
This morning we will drive to Bompu Camp, birding along the way. At one of our first stops we will look for the wonderful Yellow-rumped Honeyguide in a secret spot. It is one of only two honeyguide species in all of Asia, and interestingly, unlike other honeyguides, this species has not been observed to lead humans and bears to bee hives.
The road then goes up to the top of Eaglenest Pass (2,790 metres/9,200 ft above sea level) where we will do a another short birding walk and look for Himalayan Owl, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Brown Parrotbill, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Spotted Nutcracker, Fire-capped Tit and more.
The two-track road then goes down towards Bompu through Sunderview (2,465 m/8,087 ft above sea level). As we go down through Sunderview our chance of finding Ward’s Trogon and Fire-tailed Myzornis is high. We should also encounter flocks with good birds such as Golden-breasted, Yellow-throated and Brown-throated Fulvetta, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Black-faced Warbler and many more. Also look out for the near-threatened Temminck’s Golden Cat and Leopard Cat in this area, as we have seen some on this stretch of the road before.
We will stop for lunch at a nice, scenic spot and in the past we have seen some good species here, including Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-browed Bush Robin, Ward’s Trogon, Spotted, White-throated and Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird and many others.
Closer to Bompu Camp we hope to add many more species to our list. The habitat here is temperate broad-leaved forest, meadows, road side scrub and ancient clear-felled patches. We hope to add Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Kalij Pheasant, Bar-throated, Red-tailed and Chestnut-tailed Minla, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Red-faced Liocichla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Mountain, Striated and Black Bulbul, Whiskered, Rufous-vented and White-naped Yuhina, Crimson-breasted and Pale-headed Woodpecker, Great and Blue-throated Barbet, Blue-fronted Redstart, Ashy-throated and Grey-cheeked Warbler, Green-backed and Black-browed Tit, Scarlet Finch, Silver-eared Mesia, Long-tailed Sibia, White-throated Fantail, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivet, Streaked Spiderhunter, Small Niltava, Verditer Flycatcher, White-tailed Nuthatch and Grey-headed Bullfinch amongst many others.
We will spend the night at Bompu Camp (1,950 metres/6,400 feet above sea level), our first of three nights here. The camp offers tented accommodation in 15 basic but comfortable tents with cots and thick blankets to protect against the cold. There is a common dining area with a generator providing a few hours of electricity in the evening, and a common ablution area with hot water on request. Once again, the relatively sparse accommodation is balanced out by the amazing setting and the richly diverse fauna and flora of the area.
We will update our lists and have dinner in the dining room, afterwards chatting the evening away before we head to bed after another exciting day.
Eaglenest (Bompu and Sessni)
The morning will start early with a quick cup of coffee and breakfast.
We will enjoy a full day of birding below Bompu Camp, going down the pass towards Sessni (1,250 m/4,100 ft above sea level). The habitat here is subtropical broad-leaved forest and bamboo, with large patches of open scrub. Our day will consist of driving until we see or hear something interesting and then getting out and walking for a while, slowly making our way down the pass.
We will have lunch at the abandoned Sessni Camp, being especially careful not to sit on or step in the many nettles that grow in the area. In the past we have seen a family of Asian (Indian) Elephants while having our lunch break here! Other mammals we have picked up in this area on previous tours include Yellow-throated Marten, Masked Palm Civet and Orange-bellied Himalayan Squirrel.
We will focus much of our attention today on finding Beautiful Nuthatch, for which Sessni is arguably the best place in the world. Seeing multiple birds in one morning is quite possible and they are quite cooperative for viewing and photography. Another huge target is the monotypic, skulking Spotted Elachura; it may be a lot more difficult finding this species, never mind getting a photo!
Other birds we will look for today are Rufous-bellied and Black Eagle, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Collared Owlet, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Blyth’s and Temminck’s Tragopan, Rufous-throated Partridge, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Bay Woodpecker, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-capped, Grey-throated and Golden Babbler, Grey Treepie, Long-tailed Sibia, Rufous-throated, Scaly-breasted and Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Black-throated and Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Slaty-blue and Sapphire Flycatcher, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Yellow-bellied and White-throated Fantail, Yellow-throated, Rufous-winged and Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Green-tailed Sunbird, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Grey-chinned Minivet, and Lesser and White-browed Shortwing among many others. We will come back up to Bompu Camp for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Eaglenest (Bompu and Khellong)
We will rise very early, have a quick cup of coffee and set off.
Today we will spend the full day birding below Bompu again, passing Sessni and going further down the pass towards the abandoned camp at Khellong (800 metres/2,600 feet above sea level). Breakfast and lunch will be in the packed, picnic-style format, both of which we will enjoy in a scenic spot in this incredible part of the world.
Today we target the birds resident at slightly lower altitudes. Just below Sessni, we will look for Pale-billed Parrotbill, Red-billed and Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Long-tailed and Rufous-backed Sibia, Short-billed and Grey-chinned Minivet, Nepal Fulvetta, Small Niltava, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Straited Laughingthrush and others. We have another chance of seeing Rufous-necked Hornbill in this area as well. In a bamboo patch we will look for special species such as Yellow-bellied and Rufous-faced Warbler, White-hooded Babbler, Pale-headed Woodpecker, White-browed Scimitar Babbler and the tiny White-browed Piculet.
As we go down further towards Khellong we should encounter different species. Spot-throated Babbler, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Speckled Piculet, Pale Blue and Verditer Flycatcher, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Whistler’s Warbler, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Maroon Oriole, Green-billed Malkoha, White-bellied Erpornis, Red-faced Liocichla and Red-headed Trogon should become more possible at this altitude, along with a host of others.
We have a packed lunch at Khellong, and slowly bird our way back up the road in the afternoon, making sure to get all our target species at the different altitudes, or getting better photographs of ones we may already have seen.
We will again come back up to Bompu Camp for dinner, updating our growing trip lists and a good night’s rest.
Eaglenest to Kaziranga National Park
We will enjoy breakfast at camp and then pack up and check out, thanking the wonderful staff as we leave.
Today is another long travelling day, as we make our way out of Eaglenest, stopping at Tenga to stretch our legs and then traversing the Nechi Phu Pass again to reach the state of Assam at about midday.
We continue south into the farmlands and cross the mighty Brahmaputra river again, before turning east, with the road running parallel to the Kaziranga National Park for many kilometres. It is a mostly unfenced park, but luckily relatively few human-animal interactions occur here. The locals are very proud of their park and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, as you will see from the hundreds of signboards, posters and murals all over the place!
We will stop by the roadside at a lookout point into the park and put our first “Kaziranga” birds and mammals on our lists. From this lookout point we can see Black-headed Ibis, Bronze-winged Jacana, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted and Woolly-necked Stork, Indian Roller, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Pond Heron and Bar-headed Goose among many others.
Mammals could include Asian Elephant, Sambar Deer, Asian Buffalo, Wild Boar and maybe even our first look at the legendary “Indian Rhinoceros”. Officially called the Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, it is one of India’s best-known tourism mascots and an iconic symbol of India’s conservation efforts. The park holds two thirds of the world population of these incredible animals. It is estimated that there are only about 3,500 of them alive in the wild, and as such they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Seeing one of these ancient-looking giants is many a wildlife enthusiast’s dream!
We will reach our resort-like accommodation located just outside the park (there is no tourist accommodation inside the park) in the early evening, check in and freshen up. Our accommodation is set in large, beautiful, well-manicured gardens and the rooms with their airconditioning and hot showers will be very welcome! It will be our home for the last three nights of the tour. Remember to walk around with your binoculars at all times, because even in the gardens we have seen some nice species in the past, including Little Spiderhunter, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Crimson Sunbird and more.
We will get together for dinner (the food here is also very good and authentically from Assam) after a long day on the road and get to bed early; tomorrow we go looking for big game and loads of birds!
Kaziranga National Park
We start our day with an early cup of coffee and then head out on small jeep-like safari vehicles.
Today will be the first of two full days in the park, and we will undertake morning and afternoon drives in the park itself, and exit the park for lunch back at our accommodation. We will also visit some other secret, key spots on the outskirts of the park for important species that we may still need for our trip lists.
One of our secret spots is at a nearby tea plantation, where we will walk around and also have a packed breakfast. As the national park only opens for visitors at 7:30 am, it gives us some time to bird beforehand. Walking around in the bright green tea plantation could yield species like Ashy Woodswallow, Large Cuckooshrike, Asian Barred Owlet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Black-hooded Oriole, Crimson Sunbird, Red-breasted and Alexandrine Parakeet, Blue-throated, Lineated and Blue-eared Barbet, Olive-backed Pipit, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Blue-winged Leafbird and Taiga Flycatcher to name a few.
After this exciting start to the day we head to the park proper. Kaziranga lies partly in the Golaghat district and partly in the Nagaon district of Assam. It covers an area of over 430 km2 (166 sq mi) along the Brahmaputra in the north and the Karbi Ang long hills in the south, making it one of the largest tracts of protected land in the sub-Himalayan belt. Elevation ranges from 40 metres (131 ft) to 80 metres (262 ft) above sea level. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed in 1985), was declared a forest reserve in 1905, a national Park in 1974 and a Tiger Reserve in 2006.
The beautifully scenic park is divided into Western, Central, and Eastern ranges or zones. The former two are dominated by grassland with various wetlands in between, while the track in the Eastern range is just inside the forest adjacent to a broad floodplain with short, marshy vegetation.
The park is also recognised as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, and over 500 species have been recorded here. We will explore the Western range this morning. This range or zone is probably the one with the most water, and we can look forward to seeing some waders and other water-loving species. We will look for many species to add to our lists, including Indian Spot-billed and Knob-billed Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Greater and Lesser Adjutant, Grey Heron, Great, Intermediate and Little Egret, Painted, Woolly-necked and Black-necked Stork, Oriental Darter, Grey-headed, River and Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, White-browed, Citrine and White Wagtail, Common Snipe, Temminck’s Stint, Stork-billed and Pied Kingfisher, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-headed and Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Baya Weaver and Chestnut-capped Babbler to name a few.
In the afternoon it is the turn of the Central zone or range. This zone has more forest areas and grasslands, and we will look for species like Oriental Dollarbird, White-rumped Shama, Greater and Lesser Flameback, Streak-throated and Grey-headed Woodpecker, Striated Babbler, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Common Emerald Dove, Cinnamon Bittern, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Paddyfield, Thick-billed and Dusky Warbler, Rosy Pipit, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Finn’s Weaver, Plain Prinia, Chinese Rubythroat and the gorgeous Swamp Francolin.
Mammals that we could see today include the legendary rhino (you won’t believe how many we will see!), Asian Elephant, Asian Buffalo, Hog, Swamp and Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Rhesus Macaque, Himalayan Striped Squirrel, Smooth-coated Otter and if we are very lucky even the iconic and regal Tiger!
We will finish our day in the park in a viewing tower with incredible views of the surrounding habitat. It also made for some fantastic sunset scenes… And we have seen a Tiger from the tower before!
We will exit the park and finish our full day with another exciting excursion. We will look for some nocturnal fauna in a spot near the park boundary. We could see anything from Fishing Cat to Spotted Owlet, Large-tailed Nightjar and some snakes like the beautiful Checkered Keelback or even Monocled Cobra.
Tonight we will have dinner, update our lists, socialise and sleep at the resort again after a superb day in and around Kaziranga.
Kaziranga National Park
We will enjoy another early cup of coffee and head out into the park in the morning and afternoon again.
Like yesterday we will start with a walk and a packed breakfast in a secret spot to look for some more avian species. In today’s spot we could see species like Great Hornbill, Asian Barred Owlet, Grey-bellied Tesia, Rufous Treepie, Eurasian Hoopoe, Great Barbet and Dark-necked Tailorbird among others.
Today, unfortunately our last full day of the tour, is another full day in and around the park, and depending on which birds and animals we still need to see, we can discuss the various options with our local guide.
As you will have seen by now, Kaziranga is truly stunning and boasts some amazing wildlife. In fact, some experts believe it is the best place for big game viewing outside of Africa! Kaziranga is popularly known as a home of the “Indian Big Five” – the Asian Elephant, Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Asian Buffalo, Tiger and Swamp Deer. A total of 52 mammal species have been recorded in the park itself and include such rarities like Ganges River Dolphin, Chinese Pangolin, Western Hoolock Gibbon, Hog Badger and Particoloured Flying Squirrel. There are 39 reptiles on the park list, including the critically endangered Indian Gharial and the rare Red-crowned Roofed Turtle, as well as several snake species.
In the morning we might head for the far Western zone of the park. This area is known for its grasslands and a relative lack of ponds and lakes. We will look to catch up with some raptors, including Himalayan Vulture, Pied and Hen Harrier, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Oriental Hobby and Changeable Hawk-Eagle. Other species we will look for include the secretive Blue-naped Pitta, Red Turtle Dove, Great Hornbill, Bengal Bush Lark, Silver-backed Needletail, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Bank Myna, Richard’s Pipit, Striated Swallow and Indian Grassbird. This zone is also good for Golden Jackal, and we will look for them among other mammals we may have seen before. This zone used to be a good spot for the critically endangered Bengal Florican in the past, but we would have to be extremely lucky to see one of these magnificent birds here.
This afternoon, after lunch back at the resort, we could explore the Eastern zone or range, where we will look for species like Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Black-necked Stork, Purple Heron, the dainty Cotton Pygmy Goose, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Garganey and Glossy Ibis. In the forest patches we will look for the beautiful Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Rosy Minivet, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Blue-throated, Blue-eared, Lineated and Coppersmith Barbet, Green Imperial Pigeon, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Brown Fish Owl and Greater Spotted Eagle.
In the evening we will all get together in the resort’s restaurant and have our Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner, after which we will finalise our trip lists and socialise into the evening, having made friends for life.
Kaziranga to Guwahati and Departure
After a final breakfast at the resort we will pack our bags, check out and say our farewells to the friendly staff.
Then we will drive westwards, crossing the Kolia Bhomora bridge after an hour or so. It is a 3.2 km (2 mile) long road bridge over the mighty Brahmaputra river near the town of Tezpur, connecting the district of Sonitpur with Nagaon. The bridge is one of the most important links between the northeastern states and the rest of India. The mythical, sacred Brahmaputra river has its origins in Tibet, from where it flows through India, then Bangladesh, finally merging with the Ganges and emptying into the Bay of Bengal, some 4,696 km (2,918 mi) later.
We have time for one last, super exciting excursion after crossing the river. We will hop onto a powered boat on the famous Brahmaputra and looked for a very special mammal; the endangered Ganges River Dolphin. This river dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges (as its name suggests) and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. The Ganges River Dolphin has been recognised by the government of India as its National Aquatic Animal and it is the official animal of the city of Guwahati. We will go out on the river and hopefully see this special mammal relatively quickly. It promises to be a memorable event for all of us…
We will then re-cross the river and continue to the city of Guwahati (about 4 hours to the southeast) where we started this wonderful tour two weeks ago.
Depending on the time of your onward or homeward flight, we will either transfer to a comfortable hotel (for your own cost) close to the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport or take you straight to the departure terminal at the airport. Here we will say our sad goodbyes after a wonderful birding tour in Incredible India!
Please note: there is an option to add a 4 day extension to Manas National Park to this tour, either before the main tour commences or after it finishes.
Manas is a large national park (950 km2/367 sq mi) in western Assam, situated on the border with Bhutan (where it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park), composed of about half grassland and half forest, with the Manas river being another dominant feature. It is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve and considered one of the Outstanding IBAs of India according to BirdLife International.
It is a very scenic location, and affords easy access to grasslands which are home to many species of range-restricted birds. The semi-evergreen and mist deciduous forest in the area is also beautiful and contains a wealth of mammals and other interesting birds. The park has recorded 55 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, 50 of reptiles and 7 species of amphibians.
Top birds to expect on the extension include Bengal Florican, Greater and Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican, Black-tailed Crake, Ibisbill, Pied Harrier, Great and Rufous-necked Hornbill, Swamp Francolin, Bristled and Indian Grassbird, Jerdon’s, Marsh and Slender-billed Babbler, Black-breasted Parrotbill, White-throated Bush Chat, Finn’s Weaver, Grey-crowned Prinia and many others.
Top mammals in the park include Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Dhole, Asian Elephant, Asian Buffalo, Gaur, Hog Deer, Capped and Gee’s Golden Langur, and even the critically endangered Pygmy Hog and endangered Hispid Hare. Top reptile targets are Red-crowned Roofed Turtle, Yellow Monitor, Tricarinate Hill Turtle and King Cobra.
Please let us know if you are interested in this exciting extension.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at