15–27 March 2017
Extension to 31 March 2017
Nepal holds a total of over 850 species and the scenery is some of the most stunning on Earth. On this tour we will visit Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the world famous Chitwan National Park and Mount Pulchowski, from where we hope to see sunrise over the Himalayas. Birds on our wish list for the tour will include Swamp Francolin, Collared Falconet, Ibisbill and Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers. There is a post-tour extension trek to visit Ghandruk.
Day 1 Overnight flight from London to Kathmandu.
Day 2 We will arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel for the night. En route we will see our first common Nepalese birds, including Red-vented Bulbul, Jungle Myna, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Black Kite, Large-billed and House Crows, Oriental Magpie-robin and Common Tailorbird, and have an introduction to the fascinating culture and architecture of this country.
Day 3 In the morning we will fly to Birathnagar and, weather permitting, will enjoy stunning views over the Himalayas to Mount Everest. The drive to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, our base for the next four nights, takes under two hours. This beautiful reserve is situated on the Koshi River, one of the main tributaries of the Ganges. It was established to protect Nepal's only herd of wild Water Buffalo, one of the world's most endangered large mammals, and hosts a variety of habitats from sandbanks and small ponds to huge river islands. Riverine grassland is one of the endangered habitats, which, in the reserve, supports a small population of the rare Swamp Francolin. Our accommodation at Koshi is a tented camp with modern shared facilities, including hot water showers, set in an isolated compound by ponds and riverine forest. This will enable us to see species like Lesser Whistling-duck, Spotted Owlet, Brown Fish-owl, Brown Boobook, Fulvous-breasted and Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Blue-throated Barbet, Pied, White-throated and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Ashy Woodswallow, Black-hooded Oriole, White-throated Fantail, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-rumped Swallows, Dusky, Smoky and Thick-billed Warblers, Hume's and Tickell's Leaf Warblers, Brown and Grey-backed Shrikes and Taiga Flycatcher close to our base.
Day 4 Today we will visit the bird-rich Koshi Barrage, taking a packed lunch with us. En route we will stop at several sites looking for speciality birds including Yellow-wattled Lapwing, White-eyed Buzzard, Chestnut-tailed and Asian Pied Starlings, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Bengal Bushlark, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Richard's, Paddyfield, Olive-backed and Rosy Pipits and Crested, Little and Yellow-breasted Buntings. Eventually, we will arrive at the barrage and will start to scan through the waterfowl looking for Bar-headed Goose, Falcated Duck and Baer's Pochard amongst the commoner species. There will be plenty of waterbirds feeding around the edges and species we may see include Asian Openbill, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Red-naped and Black-headed Ibises and Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas. At the barrage we may have glimpses of the uncommon Gangetic Dolphin.
Day 5 We will explore the Koshi River by inflatable boats, taking packed lunches with us. Black-bellied and River Terns can be found but the former is now very rare. We will visit the river islands for such species as Great Thick-knee, White-tailed Stonechat, Rufous-vented Prinia, Golden-headed Cisticola and Sand Lark. Wildfowl can be numerous and we should also encounter Caspian and Pallas's Gulls, Oriental Darter, Little Cormorant, Purple Heron and Intermediate Egret. A wide variety of raptors hunts over the area including Greater Spotted, Steppe, Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, Pallas's Fish-eagle, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Eurasian Griffon, White-rumped and Cinereous Vultures and Pied Harrier. We will return to the camp via the many ponds where we will look for Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Grey-headed Swamphen and Striated Grassbird.
Day 6 Today we will visit a neighbouring tract of forest where Oriental Pied-hornbill, Orange-breasted and Yellow-footed Pigeons, Verditer Flycatcher and Abbott's Babbler occur. Mammals, including Asiatic Golden Jackal and Jungle Cat, are occasionally seen.
Day 7 It will take all day to drive west to the world famous Royal Chitwan National Park, situated in the central Terai on the southern border with India. We will stop for some birding on the way, possibly seeing Crested Kingfisher, Indian Roller, Black, Ashy, Bronzed and Hair-crested Drongos, Chestnut-bellied and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Little Forktail and the amazing Ibisbill on the shingle banks of the Rapti River. We will spend four nights at the comfortable Machan Paradise View Lodge. All cabins have en-suite facilities and hot water.
Days 8–10 Chitwan National Park preserves the most extensive lowland grassland and forest remaining in Nepal. It hosts a huge variety of birds as well as a population of over 500 Indian Rhinoceros and most of the country's remaining Tigers. Our stay will include birding in various parts of the park from dense forest to grasslands. The list of birds found here is superb, with highlights including Collared Falconet, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Brown Crake, Red Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Jungle Owlet, Emerald Dove, Black-rumped, Himalayan and Greater Flamebacks, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Red-headed Trogon, Small Minivet, White-browed Wagtail, Long-tailed Shrike, Spot-winged Starling, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Common Hill Myna and Chestnut-crowned, Pale-footed and Spotted Bush-warblers. A visit to some ponds rich in waterfowl may produce some exciting raptors including Crested Serpent-eagle and Grey-headed Fish-eagle. We will spend half a day in boats travelling down the river and walking back through some fine forest. Some of the many highlights of this part of the trip are looking for Gharial on the river and an optional elephant ride into the forest to look for Indian Rhinoceros. On the way we will see many birds, which should include Speckled Piculet, Grey-capped and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Great Hornbill, Green-billed Malkoha, Lesser Coucal, Plum-headed, Red-breasted and Blossom-headed Parakeets, Jungle and Puff-throated Babblers, White-bellied Erpornis, Eastern Crimson Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter and perhaps Black Baza. Close up views of Sambar, Chital, Barking and Hog Deer and even Sloth Bear are possible. Special efforts will also be made to see some of the park's rarer birds including Bengal Florican, Grey-crowned Prinia, Rufous-rumped Grassbird and Slender-billed Babbler.
Day 11 After some early morning birding, we will return to Kathmandu for two nights, birding en route.
Day 12 Today we wll have a very early departure to Mount Pulchowki, where we aim to arrive before sunrise. Weather permitting, we will drive to the very top and will be able to observe one of the most incredible sights in the world – sunrise over the Himalayas. The view here extends for nearly 200 kilometres, from Dhaulagiri Himal to the Everest area. We will descend on foot, birding on the way. Most of the slopes are covered by Himalayan sub-tropical forest, and we will look for a number of the local species including Darjeeling, Rufous-bellied and Crimson-breasted Woodpeckers, Green-tailed Sunbird, Himalayan Cutia, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, Rufous Sibia, Rufous-winged, Nepal and White-browed Fulvettas, Blue-winged Minla, Stripe-throated and Whiskered Yuhinas, Red-flanked Bluetail, White-browed Bush-robin, Black-throated Thrush, Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds, Buff-barred and Black-faced Warblers and a great many others. In the afternoon we will visit the botanical gardens of Godaveri where we will look particularly for Spotted Forktail and various flycatchers.
Day 13 Sadly, we will have to transfer back to the airport for the journey home.
Day 11 After some early morning birding those taking the extension will journey to Lumle via Pokhara, birding en route.
Day 12 We will spend the whole day walking about 11 kilometres up to Ghandruk at 2200 metres, with sherpas carrying our luggage. On the trek we will see a great many species including Lammergeier, Red-headed Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Asian Barred Owlet, Great Barbet, White-crested Laughingthrush, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Yellow-browed, Black-lored and Black-throated Tits, Nepal House-martin, White-cheeked Bulbul, Grey Bushchat and Pink-browed Rosefinch to name but a few, and the ever-changing light on the spectacular Annapurna Range is a simply stunning sight. Two nights in a basic lodge, some rooms having en-suite, others with shared facilities.
Day 13 Today we will explore various parts of this incredible area. Himalayan temperate rainforests are a fascinating sight, with huge lichens hanging from rhododendrons and oak trees. Colours and light change dramatically and the apparently pink peaks of the Himalayas can suddenly appear. Scenically this is one of the highlights of the trip. We will see a variety of Himalayan resident and wintering birds with possibilities including Kalij Pheasant, Bonelli's Eagle, Russet Sparrow, Snow Pigeon, Speckled and Ashy Wood Pigeons, Barred Cuckoo-dove, Chestnut Thrush, Slaty-backed, Rufous-gorgetted, Snowy-browed and Slaty-blue Flycatchers, Blue-fronted Redstart, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Common Green-magpie and Yellow-billed Blue-magpie, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rusty-flanked and Brown-throated Treecreepers, Mountain and Black Bulbuls, Striated Prinia, Golden-spectacled and Grey-hooded Warblers, Hill Partridge, Aberrant Bush-warbler, Spiny Babbler (Nepal's only endemic), Black-faced, White-throated, Streaked, Striated and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes, Hoary-throated Barwing, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Black-throated and Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Himalayan and Rufous-breasted Accentors, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Scarlet Finch, Brown and Red-headed Bullfinches, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Tibetan Serin and many others.
Day 14 The seven-mile return trek down to Lumle, looking for Ibisbill en route, will reunite us with our coach in the late afternoon. This will be followed by a two-hour journey to Pokhara, where we will spend the night.
Day 15 Morning birding around Pokhara may produce Egyptian and Slender-billed Vultures, Common Woodshrike, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Black-backed and Slaty-backed Forktails, Long-tailed Minivet, Yellow-bellied Fairy-fantail, Green-backed Tit, White-capped and Plumbeous Redstarts, Brown Dipper, Blue Rock-thrush, Blue Whistling-thrush, Little Pied Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Wallcreeper, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Black-chinned Babbler, Ashy-throated, Pale-rumped and Whistler's Warblers and Blyth's and Western Crowned Leaf Warblers. In the afternoon, we will take a flight back to Kathmandu for two nights.
Day 16 Today we will have an early morning departure to Mount Pulchowki, where we aim to arrive before sunrise. Please see day 12 of the main tour for full details.
Day 17 Sadly, we will have to transfer to the airport for the return journey home.
General Information The climate can be very cold in the mountains and warm in the lowlands with some rain and snow possible. Accommodation ranges from medium-standard hotels with en-suite facilities to basic camps. The camps all have shared hot water showers and WCs. Food is good and will include some picnic lunches. Transport is by minibus and four-wheel drive. There are some health requirements and you should contact your GP. A moderate degree of fitness is required for walks of up to seven miles, mainly on good paths with gentle inclines. The maximum altitude is about 2,200 metres. Photographic opportunities are excellent. Visas can be arranged on arrival.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 16 with 2 leaders.