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A Plunge into Nature

This exotic birding adventure takes us to the heart of north-eastern India. We will explore a wealth of varied habitats and altitudes within a compact area of just 200 sq kms, which include Subtropical Broad-Leaved Forest, Lowland Evergreen Forest, Open grassland and Marshland. Grasp the opportunity to visit Nameri National Park, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park to see the most sought-after species such as the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla, Blyth’s Tragopan, Bengal Florican, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Monal, and the rare and endangered White-Winged Duck.

19 Days

Route

Start From

Kolkata

Ends Here

Kolkata

Highlights

  • Heritage walk in the erstwhile capital of British India
  • Hardcore birding sessions at Nameri National Park
  • Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park
  • You might see the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla or the beautiful Bengal Florican or the rare and endangered White-Winged Duck.
  • Search for the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger in Kaziranga National Park

Best time to Visit

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Days

Day 1 Arrival Kolkata

West_Bengal_Kolkata_Durga_Puja_113

Upon arrival at Kolkata airport, you are received by a Vasco representative and escorted to the hotel. You are welcomed inside the hotel in Traditional Indian style. Check-in at the hotel for overnight stay.

Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is also the commercial capital of East India, located on the east bank of the Hooghly River. The city of Kolkata has 4.5 million residents, and the metropolitan area, including suburbs, has a population of approximately 15.7 million, making it the third most populous metropolitan area in India and the 13th most populous urban area in the world. The city is also classified as the eighth largest urban agglomeration in the world.

Kolkata was the capital of India during British emperor. The city's documented history, however, begins with the arrival of the English East India Company in 1690, when the Company was consolidating its trade business in Bengal. Job Charnock, an administrator with the company was traditionally credited as the founder of the city.

Day 2 Kolkata

Victoria_Memorial_Kolkata_panorama1

We will go for a heritage walk and city sightseeing. So for the heritage walk will begin from Governor’s House (Raj Bhavan) goes past the Treasury Building to St. John’s Church, up to the Kolkata General Post Office (GPO), and around past the Collectorate Office and the Writer’s Building – the seat of the state government. Then you can take a quick round of St. Andrew’s Kirk, take a straight walk down the Old Court House Street and go past the Old Currency Building. Cross over to see the Postal Sorting Office, the Central Telegraph Office. Then turn left into Wellesley Place (now Red Cross Place), past the Raj Bhavan outhouses and left again to the Great Eastern Hotel. This would bring you out very near to Curzon Park from where you started.

After the heritage walk, return to the hotel to have breakfast, after which you proceed for sightseeing in Kolkata. First you, visit South Park Street Cemetery.

Then you visit Victoria Memorial. It is one of the most famous monuments of British era which shows a lot about pre-independence period of India. Set in an attractive, well-tended park, the incredible Victoria Memorial is a vast, beautifully proportioned confection of white marble domes: think US Capitol meets Taj Mahal. Built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1901 diamond jubilee, the structure was finally finished nearly 20 years after her death. Next on the list is St.Paul's Cathedral. It measures 71mts in length 24mts in width and the spire rising 60mts high is a creative masterpiece.

After lunch, carry on with the city tour by visiting the Indian Museum. It is a huge piece of Italian architecture on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, which was built in 1875. From the calmness of the museum you proceed towards the hustle-bustle of Kumartuli. The settlement of Kumartuli, meaning "potter locality" (Kumar means potter & Tuli means locality), is over 300 years old. It’s a place that offers a unique dose of culture. The narrow maze of lanes and alleys team with humanity, gods and goddesses in various states of creation. Wandering through them and seeing the artists at work, reveals a fascinating world within a world right in front of you.

You have an option to enjoy a cup of coffee at Indian Coffee House. Notable citizens, including Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose, were frequent visitors to the place. After having coffee, you have time free for shopping at New Market Area. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 3 Kolkata – Guwahati

  • 210 km

  • 05 hr

WestBengal_Sundarbans_33

Your birding tour starts from today. So after an early breakfast, you will board your flight to Guwahati.  

Upon arrival at Guwahati airport you will be received by a Vasco representative and driven straight to Nameri National Park. You will check-in at Nameri Eco Camp.

Nestled at the foothills of Eastern Himalayas, Nameri National Park covers an area of 200 Sq. kms. With river Jia Bharali bisecting the park, this is the most scenic of all the national parks of Assam. The Pakhui (Pakke) Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh adjoins the Park on its North-eastern side. The National Park has varied forest vegetation that covers more than 90% of the area, while there are also areas of open grassland and marshland, various rivers have sandy riverbanks and gravel bars. Nameri is also home to some endangered species like Himalayan Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Gaur, Indian Wild Dog and many other species. One needs to be really lucky to spot a Leopard or a Tiger. Overnight stay is in tents.

Note: No elephant or jeep safari facility is available at Nameri National Park.  

The park remains open from 1st Nov to 30th April only.

 

 

 

 
 
 

Day 4 Nameri National Park

nameri-national-park

Today we will spend the entire day birding at Nameri National Park. Birding is done while trekking inside the reserve or while rafting down the Jia Bharali River. Nameri is famous for its sizeable population of the critically endangered White-winged Wood Duck. Other interesting birds to be found here include White-cheeked Partridge, Great, Wreathed, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Oriental Hobby, Amur Falcon, Jerdon's, Black Baza, Pallas's, Grey-headed, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle, Silver-backed Needletail, Long Tailed Broadbill, Long-billed Plover and Ibisbill. Apart from these, a number of forest birds like Pygmy Woodpeckers, Orioles, Barbets and Thrushes can be spotted here. Species like Common Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon, Oriental Hobby and little Pied Falconet can often be found looking for prey from exposed perches. Also 6-7 species of Bulbuls can be easily seen every day. There have also been sightings of Green Cochoa, Pied Falconet and Chestnut-winged Cuckoo round the camp site. Overnight stay is at safari-style tented camps.

 

Day 5 Nameri – Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary

  • 195 km

  • 6.5 hr

eagle

Today in the morning we will explore the river system and adjacent grassland patches where we might find Indian Spot-billed Duck, Little Ringed Plover, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, River Tern, Common Kingfisher, Sand Lark, Himalayan Wagtail and Blue Whistling-Thrush. After the morning session of birding, we will have early lunch and drive to Lama Camp in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. As we bird along the way, we would stop at Bhalukpung and Tippi.

Eaglenest is one of the finest birding areas in South Asia for bird watching. It is situated at 500-3200mts and covers an area of 218 sq. km. The Sanctuary is located in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The overall forest type consists of lowland evergreen forest; broad-leaved forest, bamboo, conifers and roadside scrub. At a higher altitude, there will also be conifers, while at lower altitude the broadleaved forests become more subtropical, and there are also clearings and areas of upland agriculture.

If lucky, you might spot Bugun Liocichla is one of the latest species of bird to be dicovered in the world! Discovered by Ramana Athreya in 2006, there might be as few as 30 birds remaining in the wild. This species, named after the Bugun tribe with which they share territory, has not be seen anywhere except a 10km patch in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Overnight is at the serviced camps in Lama Camp.

 

Day 6-10 Birding at Lama Camp & Bompu Camp

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We will take a birding drive cum trek from along the jeep track over the pass and down to Chaku and Bompu. The accommodation and facilities available at the camps here in Eaglenest are kept at a very basic level, so as to reduce the human footprint on the environment. Our daily schedule would almost be the same every day. It would look somewhat like this; an early morning pre-breakfast walk (you are free to wander on your own or the guide can accompany you) followed by breakfast. Then we will begin our 3-hour morning birding excursion, we might pause in between for refreshments. After that, continue with another two hours of birding before stopping for lunch. The lunch can either be taken in the forest or we can come back to the camp. Then spend the rest of the afternoon birding nearby, till sunlight permits.

The plus point of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary over other wildlife sanctuaries is that, it has easy access, with a drivable jeep track cutting through the jungle. Another advantage is that, most birds can be spotted near the two camps (Lama and Bompu).

Bompu Camp is situated centrally for accessing just about every species from the Eaglenest pass (20 kilometres) to Sessni (13 kilometres). The principal species in the immediate vicinity of Bompu itself are Ward’s Trogon, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Fire-Tailed Myzornis, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Black-header Shrike-Babbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, and the Blyth's Tragopan, whose distinctive ‘yowls’ are a regular feature of the early morning. We hope to surprise these wonderful pheasants in the roadside scrub within a radius of a few 100 mts of camp.

During early spring, roving bird-waves, which typically include Longtailed Broadbill, Striated Laughing Thrush, Green and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, Blue-winged and Red-tailed Minlas, Speckled and White-browed Piculets, Greater Yellownape, White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-chinned and Short-billed Minivets, Golden and Grey-throated Babblers, Rusty-Fronted and Streak Throated Barwings, Striated and Black-chinned Yuhinas, Yellow-vented, Chestnut crowned, Grey-cheeked, Green-crowned and Whistler’s Warblers (the latter two split from Golden-spectacled), Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Black-breasted Sunbird, Streaked Spider hunter, and Bronzed, Lesser Racket-tailed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, with a sprinkling of gems like Himalayan Cutia, Rufous-backed and Longtailed Sibias, White-naped Yuhina, Black-headed Shrike-Babbler and the much sought-after Beautiful Nuthatch and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird amongst them.

As the altitude changes another set of birds comes in front. The birds of this area and the scarcity of visitors have combined to give the place a magical, almost mythical quality, with the allure of untried trails in wonderful temperate forests where only a few people have gone before. On any given day you can take a short birding drive and trek down to Sessni. The habitat there is Subtropical Broad-Leaved forest and Bamboo and has large patches of open scrub.

Sessni is a perfect place to enjoy birding one can see Scarlet Finch, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch and Long-tailed Sibias. Situated at an altitude of 1,250mts, Sessni affords breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain and forest. It is also a good location to see species such as Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Bay Woodpecker, Rusty-Fronted Barwing, Greater Orange-headed Parrot bill and Sultan Tit. The more open shrubby vegetation could provide views of Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Silver-eared Mesia and Grey-sided Bush-warbler.

In Sessni, we will try to spot the elusive Wren-babblers, Eye-browed, the Wedge-billed and Long-billed Wren-babbler with its long curved beak and long toes. Another species we look forward to see is the lovely White-gorgeted Flycatcher, a species which is quite commonly heard here. We can trek down to 750mts and search for lower altitude species such as Striated Yuhina, Maroon Oriole, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Nepal Fulvetta, Bay Woodpecker, Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-backed Sibia and, with some luck, even the Rufous-throated Partridge.

 

Other species seen regularly at this location include Grey-cheeked and Black-faced Warblers, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Rufous-winged and Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, waves of Black-throated Parrotbill and Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Streak-throated Barwing, and the colourful Rufous-bellied Niltava. Quite a few Galliformes are present here, with three species of hill-partridge, Common, Rufous-throated and the restricted-range Chestnut-breasted all possible, while pheasants include the magnificent Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopans, along with the more widespread Kalij Pheasant and Grey Peacock-Pheasant.

Depending upon the sightings we’ve made till now, you can pick and choose where you want to bird next but, on the last day we will do birding around Lama Camp as we will travel to Nameri the next day. While patrolling the stretch between Lama Camp and the Pass you could get lucky and spot the elusive Red Panda.

Day 11 Lama Camp – Nameri National Park

  • 195 km

  • 6.5 hr

nameri-national-park

After a bit of birding before breakfast at Lama Camp, we set off for Nameri National Park. Check in at Nameri Eco Camp. If time permits we can bird for a while. Overnight stay is at the camp.

Day 12 Nameri – Kaziranga National Park

  • 115 km

  • 2.5 hr

kaziranga-rhino

Post breakfast we will go for rafting on the Jia Bharali River and bird along the river. Later in the afternoon we drive to Kaziranga National Park and check in at hotel. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Note: The Park remains open from 1st Nov to 30th April only.

Day 13-14 Kaziranga National Park

Photo Credit: Prashant Ram Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage site . It is renowned as one of the great national parks in Asia to view wildlife, and birds are an important component. Kaziranga's importance for biodiversity conservation can scarcely be overstated. It helps protect some 25 globally threatened birds and 24 that are near threatened, not to mention being home to the world’s largest remaining populations of Indian Rhinoceros, Eastern Barasingha (Swamp Deer) and Wild Water Buffalo, plus holding very important populations of Indian Elephant and Tiger. Close encounters with these animals and a host of other animals are assured.

 

The Park also has more than 450 species of birds. Because of the varied habitat types that the Park comprises of, as also of the strict protection accorded to them, birding in Kaziranga is very special. The varied terrain provides habitat for wetland, grassland, and woodland species. The Bengal Florican is the main attraction. You should also be able to see a good variety of raptors.

 

Since you are not allowed to walk inside the park, birding is by Jeep and Elephant. The Eastern Range of the park is good for water birds such as Falcated Teal, White-eyed Pochard and Spot-Billed Pelican (a colony of 200 pairs is located in this range). The Bengal Florican can be seen during the elephant ride in the Central Range. Other interesting birds include Green-backed Heron, White Bellied Heron, Lesser and greater Adjutants, Black-necked Storks, Spoonbill, Grey-headed and Pallas's Fish-Eagle, Swamp Francolin, Grey-headed Lapwing, Black-bellied Tern, Marsh Babbler, the rare Jordan's Bushchat, White-throated Bushchat and many more. Some other birds recorded are Lineated Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Spotted Redshank, River Lapwing, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Pied Harrier, Spot-billed Pelican, Black-necked Stork, Rosy Minivet, Spot-winged Starling, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Streaked Spider Hunter, Forest Wagtail, Blyth's Pipit, and Yellow-breasted Bunting. You will have full day safaris inside the park in morning and afternoon.

Note: Timing (Kaziranga National Park)

Elephant Safari - approx 45 mins duration

05.30 to 06.30

06.30 to 07.30

Jeep Safari

Forenoon: Entry time between 07:00 to 09:30 Hours. Visiting time is till Noon.

Afternoon: Entry time between 13:30 to 15:00 Hours. Visiting time is till Sunset.

Elephant safari for foreign nationals is held only on Kaziranga Range, Kohora (Central Range). Allocation of elephant riding seats and timings are regulated by the forest department, Kaziranga National Park, Government of Assam. The tickets for the same are issued only on the previous evening of the ride after 7:30 PM. We will try our utmost to avail the seats but cannot guarantee the same.

Day 15 Kaziranga – Jorhat

  • 100 km

  • 2 hr

After breakfast we drive to Jorhat Airport to board your morning flight to Kolkata. At Kolkata airport you will board your flight back home.

Day 15 Kaziranga – Majuli – Jorhat

  • 80 km

  • 2 hr

After breakfast we drive to Neematighat for ferry crossing to Majuli (1 hr downstream boat cruise- the time depends upon the water level of the river). It is the largest inhabited river island in the world and famous for the Vaishnavite Satras or Monasteries (Kamalabari Satra, Auniati Satra, Benganti satra, and many more). The island has long served as a monastic retreat to the Vaishnavite community and is noted for its beautiful rural setting and the traditional Assamese and Mishing tribal architecture. Visit the monasteries and interact with the tribes on the island. Return to mainland late in the afternoon. Later, we will drive past the Mishing Villages. These houses are typified by being built on stilts and their ‘long house’ style of design. On the way, we will stop at a Vaishnavite Monastery where, you will be given an orientation tour by one of the monks of the monastic cell. (Please note that you will be expected to remove your shoes when entering the Vaishnavite monasteries). These Satras were set up by Srimanta Shankerdev, the leader of Vaishnavite revival in the 16th Century. These are very active and nurture the traditional dance form ‘Satriya’ (which is the 5th nationally recognized dance form other than Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Manipuri), music and crafts (mask-making), besides religious teachings. By evening, proceed to Jorhat and check in at the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 16 Jorhat – Sivasagar – Dibrugarh

  • 140 km

  • 4 hr

Today after breakfast, we will drive to Dibrugarh. En route visit the 13th Century Ahom monuments at Sivasagar. The Ahoms ruled Assam, for 600 years. The Siva Temple, built by the Ahoms, situated here is believed to be the tallest of all existing Hindu temples. The ruins of the Ahom palaces and monuments dot the landscape around this historical town. Centuries, before the arrival of the British, this part of the world was controlled by a number of tribal chieftains. In the town of Sivasagar, one can still see the remaining well preserved relics. Palaces, tanks, forts, places of worship, present the richness of this highly evolved and advanced civilization. The largest and the oldest amphitheatre of Asia (Rang Ghar) is also another remarkable landmark in the history of Sivasagar. The Tai-Ahom Museum of Sivsagar contains some of the relics of the Ahom period, like – swords, clothes, manuscripts and sundry artefacts. Later, proceed to Dibrugarh, which is the gateway to the “Hidden Land” of Eastern Arunachal Pradesh and Northern Myanmar. Experience and enjoy the richness of these tea gardens while staying at the Heritage Chang Bungalows. These are constructed on stilts and are situated in a serene atmosphere free from pollution. When the British established their tea plantations in the mid-19th century they quickly built comfortable bungalows designed to make life as pleasant as possible in what, was to them, a hostile and strange land. One of the main features of these buildings has given rise to their name – Chang Bungalows. Chang in the local language means “raised on stilts” and the design served multi purposes to keep the house cool by allowing the breeze to blow underneath and to keep both water and animals out. In the evening enjoy a dance performance (Bihu Dance) by an ethnic dance group on the bungalow lawns. Overnight stay is at Chowkidinghee Heritage Chang Bungalow.

Day 17 Dibrugarh – Jokai – Dibrugarh

Today early morning we drive to Jokai Reserve Forest. It’s a small broadleaf forest minutes away from Dibrugarh. Numerous low altitude tropical species are present here in good numbers like the Small Niltava, Little Pied Flycatcher, Black-winged and Large Cuckoo-shrikes, flock of Pompadour Green Pigeons, Emerald Dove, Red Headed Trogon, Crimson Sunbird, Ruby Checked Sunbird, Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker, Black breasted Thrush and many others. During spring various flycatchers can also be seen here. In the evening come back to the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 18 Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Early morning after breakfast, we visit Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. This National Park has the most distinct and vibrant wilderness on earth and is known for its pristine scenic beauty. The forest in this park ranges from Semi-evergreen to Deciduous to Littoral to Swampy marshes with patches of Wet Evergreen jungles. It is a safe haven to many rare and endangered species of over 350 birds. Several other species that can be found in the extensive grasslands, wetlands, and riverine forests include Jerdon's Bushchat, Black-Breasted Parrotbill, Marsh Babbler Baer's Pochard, Bengal Florican, Pale-Capped Pigeon, Falcated Duck, Baikal Teal, Chinese Spotbilled Duck and Rufous Vented Prinia. We would take a boat ride on the Dibru River and go for jungle walk in order to spot birds. While boating there’s an opportunity for Gangetic Dolphin sighting. Return to Bungalow for overnight stay.

Day 19 Dibrugarh – Kolkata - Journey Home

In time you will be transferred to Dibrugarh airport to board your afternoon flight for Kolkata. From Kolkata you will board your flight for your onwards destination.
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