Red Panda at Dobate, Nepal

Tour Dates: Tuesday 24th March – Friday 3rd April 2020 (Kathmandu to Kathmandu) 
Tour Price: £2,199pp plus international and internal flights
Estimated Flight Price: London to Kathmandu approx. £650 return
Internal Flight: Kathmandu to Bhadrapur approx £200 return
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £200 – £275
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
Mammals: Red Panda and chance of Yellow-throated Marten
Birds: Satyr Tragopan, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Large Niltava, Red-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Minla, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, White-collared Blackbird, White-throated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Striated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Black Eagle and many more!

Tour Summary
This new tour is focused on trying to obtain good views of Red Panda as we spend a number of nights with two different local communities that are involved in the monitoring and future conservation of this fabulous mammal. We will be staying at altitudes of between 1,900 and 2,600 metres amongst Red Panda forest habitat.

ACCOMMODATION: 10 nights in Nepal
A mix of hotels and simple homestay with private rooms and showering facilities and long-drop tent toilets.
1 night Kathmandu, 1 night Ilam, 4 nights Dobate, 3 nights Thumke, 1 night Kathmandu
Inclusive Meals: Full board

DAY 1: Arrival Kathmandu
We will be met by our local guide and then transfer to a hotel in the tourist part of Kathmandu. Dependent on our arrival time, we will either visit a nearby park just a short walk from our hotel or drive to the Botanical Gardens. This will give us a nice relaxed introduction to some of the commoner bird species such as Blue-throated Barbet, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Myna and Jungle Myna, Oriental Magpie Robin and Rose-ringed Parakeet. Overnight Kathmandu Hotel

Red-tailed Minla, Dobate, Nepal

DAY 2: Kathmandu – Bhadrapur – Ilam
We will take the first flight out to Bhadrapur in the morning. This 55 minute flight can be wonderful on a clear day with views across the Himalayan range, including Mount Everest. Once at Bhadrapur, vehicles will be waiting to drive us to Ilam which is approximately four hours away. We will make a number of stops on the way for birding and a picnic lunch en route. On reaching Ilam we will check into a comfortable hotel and then explore the nearby tea gardens and adjacent forest for species like Hill Prinia, Grey Treepie, Striated Laughingthrush, Great Barbet and more. Overnight Ilam Hotel

DAY 3: Ilam – Dobate
After some pre-breakfast birding, we will continue our journey of about three hours through villages, tea gardens and light forest to our base at Dobate where we will be for the next four nights. Situated at around 2,500 Metres, Dobate village is very close to Red Panda habitat, so once we have checked into our simple homestay accommodation, we will venture out for our first visit into Red Panda habitat. Aside from Red Pandas, we will also be seeing a good selection of birds that may include Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Broad-billed Warbler, Red-tailed Minla, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker and many more. Overnight Dobate Homestay

Part of Thumke Village by Chris Townend

DAYS 4-6: Dobate
During the next three days our daily routine will be the same as we head out each day walking in the wonderful forest looking for Red Pandas. We will be out all day having our lunch brought to us in the field by the incredibly hospitable local community who will all be very much involved in helping us with our quest to see Red Pandas. It is essential that we have help from the local village who are supported by the Red Panda Network, a non profit organisation dedicated to protecting Red Pandas. The network works closely with local communities to develop conservation programs that help support the local community economy as well as preserving the surrounding forest habitat.

The “forest guardian” trackers that help us from the local village know the forest incredibly well and therefore hugely increase our chances of success. We will be in regular contact with them and if Red Pandas are found we will be informed and quietly head to the area. Red Pandas diet is primarily bamboo and during the day, they tend to sleep in trees and often remain in one spot for much of the day. Therefore, we have an excellent chance of getting some great views as the animals look down at their admiring visitors, quite unperturbed by our presence.

Red Panda, Dobate

Of course, whilst walking the trails for Red Pandas we will be seeing a really good selection of birds. Species we may see over the coming days are many, but some of the key species we hope to see include, Maroon Oriole, Long-tailed Minivet, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, White-collared Blackbird, Black-faced Warbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Himalayan Bush-Robin. Overnight Dobate Homestay

DAY 7: Transfer to Thumke
Today we will leave our homestay in Dobate and will hopefully have enjoyed some great encounters with Red Pandas. However, if we have been unsuccessful, we still have another opportunity as we head east to another Red Panda area where, once again, we will stay with the local community.
We will be staying in a number of different homestays scattered around the village but only 5 minutes walk from the main base where we will all gather to eat some wonderful home-cooked meals.
We should arrive in time to explore the nearby village. Though located at a lower altitude (1,900M) than Dobate, the forest habitat here is larger and more extensive with some fabulous forest birds and great views. The birding around our homestay is excellent with many species just a short stroll from our village. A leisurely walk around the village during the afternoon should reveal species like Grey Bushchat, Blue-Whistling Thrush, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Rufous Sibia, Oriental Turtle Dove and the stunning Blue-fronted Redstart. Overnight Thumke Homestay

Slaty-backed Forktail, near Thumke by Chris Townend

DAYS 8 – 9: Thumke Mountains
Similar to Dobate, the local community will be assisting us in our quest to see Red Pandas as trackers head out each day looking for the tell tale signs of Red Pandas. Our stay with the village benefits the local community and helps protect the forest for the Red Pandas at the same time. We have two full days to hopefully enjoy some more Red Panda encounters as well as a number of great birds.

Just above the village is an excellent area for a very special bird indeed, the mystical Satyr Tragopan. This fantastically coloured member of the pheasant family is only found in the Himalayas of India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. They can be incredibly secretive, but if we head out very early we have an excellent chance of hearing a calling male which will hopefully lead us to some great views of this crimson horned pheasant! Overnight Thumke Homestay

DAY 10: Thumke – Bhadrapur – Kathmandu
Today we have to wave goodbye to our village as we slowly descend the trails back down through the various villages and tea gardens until we transfer to jeeps for the rest of the journey. En route, we will stop at a stream where we should find the beautiful White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart and the truly elegant Slaty-backed Forktail.

We will have lunch a Ilam before returning to Bhadrapur airport where we take the flight back to Kathmandu. Overnight Kathmandu Hotel

Scaly Laughingthrush, Thumke by Chris Townend

DAY 11: Phulchowki – Kathmandu
This morning we will head out for some early morning birding. We will visit Phulchowki, the highest of the mountains surrounding the Kathmandu valley and the best place for birding neat the city. We will drive up to around 2,000M and then slowly walk down the trail, birding en route.
We should see a good selection of birds throughout the morning, many of which will be new for the trip and may include some special species such as Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Blue-winged Minla, Sikkim Treecreeper, Small Niltava, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Plain-crowned Jay, Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo, Asian Barred Owlet and Black Eagle.

For those that would prefer to take a cultural tour of Kathmandu, this can also be arranged and then we will all meet for a late lunch at the hotel.
After lunch we will take the short transfer to the airport where the tour concludes.

Female Satyr Tragopan, Thumke by Chris Townend

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local guide Suchit Basnet
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, bottled water, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International and internal airfares, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £250
Transport: Minibus, plus jeeps for transfer to homestay
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult: The walking on this tour will involve trails that are quite steep slopes and we will cover 4 – 6 miles a day. There is also a walk to and from the homestay, though our luggage will be transported by Mules. Therefore a good level of fitness is required.
Climate: Pleasantly warm in the day, but changeable in the mountains with rain likely. Temperatures can be quite cold early and late in the day.
Tour Start Point: Kathmandu airport, Nepal
Tour End Point: Kathmandu airport, Nepal
Suggested Airlines: Quatar Airlines

Red Panda Forest, Thumke by Chris Townend