Red Panda at Dobate, Nepal

Tour Dates: Sunday 7th – Friday 18th April 2024 (Kathmandu to Kathmandu) 
Tour Price: £2,750pp plus international and internal flights
Estimated Flight Price: London to Kathmandu approx. £700 return
Estimated Internal Flights: (Kathmandu – Bhadrapur) & (Biratnagar – Kathmandu) £200 combined
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £200 – £275
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
Birds: Bengal Florican, Black Francolin, Black Bittern, Little Pratincole, Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Black Eagle, Bay-backed Shrike, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Large Niltava, Red-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Minla, Gould’s Sunbird, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, White-collared Blackbird, White-throated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Scaly Laughingthrush, Chestnut-headed Tesia and many more!
Mammals: Asian Elephant, Rhesus Macaque, Red Panda, Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Golden Jackal, Smooth-coated Otter, Bengal Fox, Ganges River Dolphin and more!

Tour Summary
This new tour is focused on trying to see and obtain good views of the magical Red Panda in the mountains of Eastern Nepal as well as a great selection of high altitude birds. We spend four nights with the local community that are involved in the monitoring and future conservation of this fabulous mammal. We will be staying at an altitudes of around 2,300 metres amongst Red Panda forest habitat where there will of course be some fantastic birding too! At this altitude we will see some quality speciality species such as Chestnut-headed Tesia, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie Gould’s and Fire-tailed Sunbird as well as many Laughinthrushes.
We then travel to the lowlands and the bird rich Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve where we spend another four nights staying in the wonderfully comfortable Koshi Camp where the birding starts right outside your luxury tent with en-suite facilities. Highlight birds here are many and we will certainly spend time looking for specialities like the Bengal Florican, Swamp Francolin and overwintering Siberian Rubythroat. Aside from bird, we also have a very good chance of finding Fishing Cat that often visit the grounds of the camp and the surrounding fishing ponds!
We also have time either side of the main stays to enjoy the birding and culture close to Kathmandu with a full day’s birding at the well known birding hotspot of Phulchowki. This is a perfect introduction to birding in Nepal with some iconic birds and mammals, so come and join us!

ACCOMMODATION: 11 nights in Nepal
A mix of hotels and simple homestay with private rooms and showering facilities.
2 nights Kathmandu, 4 nights Dobate, 4 nights Koshi Camp, 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: Phulchowki
This morning we will head out early for a full day’s birding at Phulchowki, the highest of the mountains surrounding the Kathmandu valley and the best place for birding near to the city. We will drive up to around 2,000M and then slowly walk down the trail, birding the different altitudes on foot.
We should see a fabulous selection of birds throughout the day and it is sure to get our birding tour off to a great start. Aside from the more expected species, we hope to also find specialities such as Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Blue-winged Minla, Sikkim Treecreeper, Small Niltava, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Plain-crowned Jay, Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Asian Barred Owlet and Black Eagle. Overnight Kathmandu Hotel

Scaly Laughingthrush by Chris Townend

DAY 3: Kathmandu – Bhadrapur – Dobate
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 our mountain base at Dobate which is approximately six hours away. We will make a number of stops on the way for birding and enjoy lunch en route at the small town of Ilam. As we near the mountains, we will travel by jeeps through some fabulous habitat and mountain villages before finally reaching Dobate where we will stay for the next four nights. Situated at around 2,300 Metres. We will be staying in one large homestay with many rooms and we will enjoy wonderful home-cooked meals every night after a long days birding and searching for Red Pandas on the trails. Once checked into our rooms we will enjoy some tea and birding around the gardens. We will then explore the adjacent forest edge for species like Grey Bushchat, Blue-Whistling Thrush, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Rufous Sibia, Oriental Turtle Dove and the stunning Blue-fronted Redstart and much more. Overnight Dobate Homestay

Typical Nepalese mountain village scenery 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. Dobate village is very close to Red Panda habitat, so 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 higher altitude birds. Species we likely to see over the coming days include Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Broad-billed Warbler, Red-tailed Minla, and Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, as well as less common species such as Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Maroon Oriole, Long-tailed Minivet, White-collared Blackbird, Black-faced Warbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Himalayan Bush-Robin. Plus exciting rare skulkers such as Black-headed Srike babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing and Scaly Laughing Thrush!  Overnight Dobate Homestay

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher by Chris Townend

DAY 7: Transfer to Koshi Camp
Today we wave goodbye to our village as we slowly descend the tracks by Jeep back down through the various villages and tea gardens. 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.
Once back at the small town of Ilam, we will then make good time to Koshi Camp with a travel time of around four hours from this point. We will have lunch en route and we will make a couple of birding stops before arriving at the wonderfully comfortable Koshi Camp in time for some late afternoon birding around the camp. Here we may get lucky with our first views of one of the camp’s resident day roosting Brown Hawk Owls or Indian Scops Owls. Overnight Koshi Camp

Golden Jackal, Koshi Tappu Reserve by Chris Townend

DAYS 8 – 10: Koshi Camp
Koshi Camp is quite simply a wonderful place to stay and we will have three full days to enjoy birding this fabulous area. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was established in 1976 to conserve the last remaining population of Wild Water Buffalo. It lies on the floodplain of Sapta Koshi river and offers an exciting birding opportunity with over 400 species of bird recorded. We will explore the marshes, sandbanks and islands of the Koshi River. Some of the key species we will be looking for include the superb Bengal Florican, Black Bittern, Black Francolin, Swamp Francolin, Sirkeer Makoha, Little Pratincole, White-eyed Buzzard, Brown Fish Owl, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and the gorgeous Blue-throated Blue-flycatcher and Siberian Rubythroat to name just a few!
There will also be plenty of mammal highlights during our stay where Golden Jackal and Indian Grey Mongoose should be a regular sight and with a little luck we may find Asian Elephant, Nilgai or Bengal Fox. We will also take a visit to the Koshi Barrage where we have an excellent chance of finding the Ganges River Dolphins.

Brown Hawk-owl, Koshi Camp by Chris Townend

Koshi Camp also has its own wetland and viewing hide which is a great place to spend the warmer afternoons when bird activity is less but wetland species such as Indian Pond Heron, Greater Painted Snipe and the impressive Bronze-winged Jacana can be enjoyed. The grounds of the camp can also be good for Fishing Cats that often visit the wetland area at night. We will make a special effort to look for these amazing cats during the night.

During our time at Koshi, we will visit different parts of the Koshi Tappu Reserve where we should find more bird species such as Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Sand Lark and Bay-backed Shrikes.
Overnight Koshi Camp

Little Pratincole, Koshi Tappu Reserve by Chris Townend

DAY 11: Koshi Camp – Biratnagar – Kathmandu
We will have a final morning to explore Koshi Tappu and to try for any species that we may be missing or simply relax around the camp enjoying the wetland and bird hide. We will have lunch at Koshi Camp before taking the short transfer by road to Biratnagar airport where we take the short flight of just 40 minutes back to Kathmandu. Once checked into our hotel, we will then have plenty of time to enjoy the lively tourist areas of Kathmandu and a final evening of traditional dancing and an evening meal. Overnight Kathmandu Hotel

DAY 12: Phulchowki / Culture Tour – Transfer to Airport
Most flights back to the UK tend to depart in the early evening so we have time for a final morning’s birding back at Phulchowki or for those that would prefer to take a cultural tour of Kathmandu, this can also be arranged. We will then all meet for lunch at the hotel before having time to pack ready for the airport where the tour concludes.

Slaty-backed Forktail 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 guides
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: £395
Transport: Minibus, plus jeeps for transfer to homestay
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult: The walking on this tour involves trails that are quite steep slopes and we will cover 3 – 5 miles a day.
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: Qatar Airlines

Red Panda Forest by Chris Townend