The region comprising Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal and the state of Sikkim is a tiny area, with fantastic variations. The telescoping of terrain - from the pleasant humid foothill valleys below 1000 meters, to the arctic cold of the snow capped peaks up to 8000 meters, has created marked altitudinal zonation in the humidity, rainfall, climate and vegetation. This factor is responsible for the great variety and abundance of the resident bird life, making this area arguably one of the richest areas of its size anywhere in the world. Dr Salim Ali -one of India's foremost ornithologists has recorded 527 species of resident birds. In addition there are vagrants, and transients on migration. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of the species of the Indian Sub continent can be spotted in this region.

Snake EagelBased on source material from Dr Salim Ali's book The Birds of Sikkim, and Krys Kazmierczak & Raj Singh's A Bird Watchers Guide To India, we have researched on the ground, suitable birding sites with a host of local guides, to create tours for bird watchers. Exciting itineraries have been evolved keeping in mind constraints of movement, infrastructure, time, and local conditions. These tours operate over a range of 900 meters to 4500 meters in elevation.

Planning your birding trip

Your Birding itinerary depends upon your interests, the duration of the planned trip, and other matters such as your budget. We feel the best way to finalize your itinerary is to first survey the birding sites described on this site, and our standard itineraries, then decide what you want. Thereafter together, via e-mail, we can formulate your trip plan.

The best time for birding in the Eastern Himalayas is Feb to mid May and Oct - Nov, though any time of the year can be productive. The rainy season is not a good time (June - September inclusive).

The duration of your tour can be as long as you like. You will find our suggestions of days required for each birding site. We have four itineraries, for ready reference. These can be tailored to your requirements. 

For first timers it will help to do some home work and come prepared with the under mentioned birding basics. Once you are at the site, our landscape and avifauna is a natural classroom

* Bird identification
* Names and classification - common names and scientific names
* Knowledge of how to use binoculars, and maintain records.

BIRDING SITES in DARJEELING & KALIMPONG HIMALAYAS

This area - particularly Lava and the adjoining Neora National Park is a birders delight. Some exotic birds such as Satyr Tragopan, Fire tailed Myzorinis, yellow-throated Fulvetta, and Blue fronted Robin and others have been recorded.
Bagdogra is the gateway airport. It is connected to Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata

Darjeeling

Located at an altitude of 2130 m, Darjeeling is a good starting point to discover the avifauna of the Eastern Himalayas. The Zoological Park, the botanical gardens and Tiger hill are good birding sites. Yellow-billed Blue Magpai, Red tailed Minla, Maroon backed Accentor. Red headed Bullfinch, Satyr Tragopan, and the rare Broad Billed Warbler, Hill partridge, Kalij Pheasant, Large Hawk, Oriental and Lesser Cuckoos, Spot bellied eagle owl, Himalayan swift let, Darjeeling Woodpecker, various Babblers, and other colorful species are to be seen.

The gateway airport is at Bagdogra, close to the town of Siliguri. It takes 3.30 hrs to reach Darjeeling by car. The alternative is eight hours journey by the World heritage Himalayan Railway "toy train" - but these means an overnight halt at Siliguri as the train does not connect with incoming flights.

There are several good hotels in Darjeeling. At the top end, our choice is New Elgin, and Cedar Inn. In the mid range the Attic floor of the Dike ling Hotel has comfortable rooms and friendly management.

Darjeeling weather allows limited birding hours in the mornings. You will need a minimum of three mornings.


Singe Lila (Sandakphu) Range Birding Trek

The Sandakphu Ridge of the Singelila Range at an elevation of 3600 m provides good birding in Bamboo,Oak and Rhododendron forests between 2000 and 3000 m elevation. Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Fire-tailed Myzornis, and Brown Parrot bills, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Amur Falcon, Kalij Pheasant, Rufus belied Woodpecker, Streak breasted, Rusty cheeked, and slender billed Scimitar Babblers, various Laughing thrushes, Red-tailed Minla, Staty backed Flycatchers, Golden Robin, Long Tailed thrushes, Grey-crested tits and many others have been spotted. There is also the attraction of breathtaking views of KhangchenDzonga, and glimpses on Mount Everest, apart from the delightful forests. 

Maneybhanjan, 30 kms from Darjeeling (02 hours by jeep) is the starting point for a 5-8 days trek. It is also possible to avoid the steep climb by driving up to the top of the ridge in a jeep along a very bumpy track and then walking. We will arrange fully serviced trek or drive cum trek to the several birding sites on this circuit.

On our tours we use a combination of Family lodges, trekker's huts, and fully serviced camping close to birding sites.

The full trek takes 08 days. Shorter versions of four, five, and six days are also available. Drive cum trek requires a minimum of 04 days for productive birding.


Lava and Kalimpong Birding Circuit

Lava
is the prime birding destination in this region, located 85 Kms from Darjeeling via Kalimpong. It is a small bazaar 0nce a halting place for caravans on the trade routes to Bhutan and Sikkim. It is now a forest Village with a Buddhist Monastery amidst a sea of evergreen forests at an elevation of 2100 m. Surrounded by very large tracts of protected forests ranging in elevation between 1600 and 2400 m, it includes the remote and uninhabited Neora National Park, and it is a bird watcher's delight. Some of the most sought after and least known birds of India can be spotted here. Satyr Tragopan, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Rufous throated and Spotted Wren Babblers, Yellow throated Fulvetta, Red - faced Liocichla, Cutia, Rust belied shortwing, Blue fronted Robin and long -billed Thrush, are some of the rare birds A host of other species including those found around Darjeeling have been spotted around Lava, with many being more common here. Bird lists are available on request.

White Wagtail There are several sites for bird watching and photography around Lava and the adjoining Neora National Park. Kalimpong is another hill station of the colonial period, which was once the trade center for natural wool from Tibet. The town is located at an elevation of 1200-1400 m, 52 kms from Darjeeling. It retains a lot of evergreen trees, and there are protected forests close by. There are several sites for birding close to the town, where most of the birds of this region can be spotted.

From Darjeeling, Kalimpong is 52 Kms (02.30 hours by jeep) and Lava another 35 kms (01.15 hours by jeep). It is also possible to reach Kalimpong and Lava directly from Bagdogra Airport in 2.30 hours and 04 hours respectively. Most sites are approachable by jeep, but be prepared for some walking.

At Lava, the best accommodation is in the Forest Rest House, but the number of rooms is limited, and availability at a premium during the season. On our tours we stay at Kalimpong hosted by General "Jimmy" Singh, and make daily trips to birding hot spots. We also provide fully serviced treks to The Neora National Park.

Lava will need at the least four days. Do remember that densities are not high, and birding is slower. In March 2002, Jan Vermeeulan, Eric Willie, Vittal Van Gorp with Peter Lobo recorded 156 species in 05 days.

Samthar-Ponbu Birding Circuit

Lava The Samthar area is connected to Lava by a 52 Kms forest road, which is partly a wilderness trail. This forested drive via Lolegaon, offers good birding. Two short two hours each, treks are in cooperated to make it a full days excursion. The route traverses evergreen forests, terraced fields, and small hamlets making it a nature & culture experience apart from the birding enroute. From the village of Samthar, which is the trail end, a two hours trek through farmland and more forests to the remote village of Ponbu offers more birding in the close by protected forests. Most of the species occurring below 2500 meters around Lava are present around Ponbu. 60 species were recorded in Nov 2001

Driving time from Lava is 2.30 hrs and from Kalimpong 3.30 hrs. Our Drive cum trek takes a full day of eight hours with four hours of trekking to reach The Samthar Farm House. On the next day trek to Ponbu in 02-03 hours to reach our birding camp. On the return we trek for four hours by a different route to the highway spending time birding in the Teesta Valley.

We stay at our Wilderness Eco Lodge called the Samthar Farm House.  At Ponbu stay is in our fully serviced camp.

Starting from Lava it is a four days circuit, with 02 nights at the Samthar Farm House and one night at Ponbu camping. This circuit is essentially for walkers.

ITINERARIES
B/01: 08 Samthar-Lava Birding Circuit

Day 01 Arrive at Bagdogra Airport or NJP railway Station. Transfer by jeep to Samthar Farm House 4.30 hrs. Overnight at Farm House.
Day 02 Samthar-Lish Valley birding walk. Overnight at Lish camp.
Day 03 Lish-Ponbu birding walk. Overnight at Ponbu camp.
Day 04 Ponbu birding walk and Ponbu-Samthar birding walk Overnight at Farm House
Day 05 Transfer by to Lava. Enroute birding at JhandiDara. Therafter Gitdabling- Nok Dara/Gompa Dara birding walk.Overnight at Camp Rachet ( 15 kms from Lava ). Alternative stay arrangements at Forest bungalow/guest house at Lava.
Day 06 Rachet birding walk. Overnight in camp
Day 07 Rachet birding walk. Overnight in camp
Day 08 Transfer by jeep to Bagdogra/NJP for departure ( 3 hrs)

B/ 02: 14 days Darjeeling, Singelila Range birding trek and Lava

Day 01 Arrive Bagdogra. Drive to Darjeeling
Day 02 Darjeeling birding
Day 03 Darjeeling birding
Day 04 08: Singelila Range birding trek
Day 09 Drive to Lava birding camp.
Day 10-13 Birding around camp
Day 14 Drive to Bagdogra for departure (or can go to Sikkim)

BIRDING SITES IN SIKKIM HIMALAYAS

Sikkim has not yet been fully explored by birders, due to travel restrictions. We are continuing to explore new areas and will add these sites to our birding tours as they are validated.

Sikkim is a restricted area but is open to Foreign tourists for 15 days at a time. Foreign nationals can easily get a Sikkim entry permit endorsed on their India visa, by applying for the same to the nearest Indian mission. 
Contact us in case of difficulty

Bagdogra near Siliguri Town is the gateway airport. It is connected to Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata


West Sikkim

Vershay and Kalej Valley Birding circuit

Vershay is located at 3300 m, on a massive ridge covered with protected forests of Silver Fir, hemlocks, magnolia, and Rhododendrons. It is one of the best birding areas in Sikkim. Starting from the road head at the small village of Hilley at 2700 m, it is an easy walk up to the ridge top. As you climb higher it is theRhododendrons that reign supreme. Branches of trees twine together to form a leafy canopy. Sunlight filtering through a fretwork of rich green foliage lights up flowers in splashes of colors. Butterflies of many hues dance from flower to flower. There is bird song in the air, and all the species of this zone can be spotted. Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Amur Falcon, Kalij Pheasant, Rufus belied woodpecker, Fire-tailed Myzornis, and Brown Parrot bills, Slaty-backed Flycatchers, Golden Robin, Long Tailed thrushes, Grey-crested tits, Streak breasted, Rusty cheeked, and slender billed Scimitar Babblers, various Laughing thrushes, Red-tailed Minla, and many others have been spotted. There is also the attraction of breathtaking views of Mount KhangchenDzonga, apart from the delightful Rhododendrons in bloom in Feb-March. The down hill trek to Dentam in the Khalij Valley (elevation 1500 m) requires walking for 3-4 hours. The route passes through a mixed forest of rhododendron, magnolia, and other flora. Look out for Red breasted Tragopan, Red eared Bay Wood Pecker, Solitary snipe, Brown Wood Owl, Himalayan Cuckoo, Kaleej, and others. There are chances of encountering Barking Deer and some of the wildcat family. In the lower regions as you walk through cardamom fields, wild orchids, and ethnic villages, you can spend a day birding for Ashy Wood Pigeon, Rufous throated and Spotted Wren Babblers, Yellow throated Fulvetta, Red - faced Liocichla, Cutia, Rust belied shortwing, Blue fronted Robin and long-billed Thrush. Hosts of other species including those found around Darjeeling and Lava have been spotted..

Hilley is 79 Kms from Darjeeling (04 hrs). It can also be reached from Kalimpong in 04.30 hours, and from Pamayangtse also in 04 hours. If moving directly from Bagdogra Airport it will take 06 hours. From Dentam after the birding trek it is a 1.30 hours drive to Pelling/Pamayangtse. 

We provide fully serviced camping on this circuit, with the possibility of staying at trekkers hut at Vershay.

Four days are required. to do this circuit. On the first day drive to Hilley from Darjeeling or Kalimpong or Bagdogra, for overnight camping. Spend the next day birding along the trail to Vershay, and spend the second night there. On the third day bird along the trekking trail to Dentam, spending the night there. Finally on the fourth day try the birding sites along the Khalej Valley, reaching Pelling /Pamayangtse by 
the evening.

Pamayangtse - Yoksom birding circuit

The Pamayangtse Monastery stands on a lovely site at 2085 m altitude with breathtaking views of Mount Khangchendzonga. It is the second oldest in Sikkim, and the main attraction of West Sikkim. Around Pamayangtse and the nearby village of Pelling there are several excellent birding sites and hikes. Some of the birds recorded are Besra, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Himalayan Griffon, Kalij Pheasant, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Oriental Turtle Dove, Various Cuckoos, Woodpeckers, Barbets, shrikes, Babblers, and 
Thrushes, Long tailed Minivet, Orange-belied leafbird, Striated Bulbul, Cutia, Yellow breasted Green Finch, various Robins, Warblers, tits, and Sunbirds, along with others.

The Khechepheri Lake at an altitude of 1980 m is 28 Kms from Pamayangtse. It is a sacred lake located in a natural crater-like basin. The lake hosts migrant ducks and occasionally some rare species such as Black necked Grebe, Baer's Pochard or Greater Sccaup. Other birds spotted have been Speckled wood pigeon, Emerald Cuckoo, Blue winged and Scaly Laughing Thrushes; White napped Yuhina and many of those at Pamayangtse. 

Golden Oriole Yoksom Village at 1780 m is as far as you can go by jeep. Around Yoksom some of the birds recorded are Mountain Hawk Eagle, Crimson breasted Woodpecker, Maroon Oriole, Short-billed and Grey chinned Minevets, Himalayan Bulbul, Red -tailed Minla, White-naped Yuhina, various Thrushes, Grey winged Blackbird, various Tits, White tailed Nuthatch, and various sunbirds.

Pamayangtse is 77 kms from Darjeeling and it takes 04 hours by jeep. It is also connected to Kalimpong (100 kms in 04 hrs). If you want to go directly from Bagdogra it is 148 kms and takes 05.30 hrs. From Pamayangtse Khochipheri Lake is 28 Kms and Yoksom is 32 Kms. It is feasible to drive from Pamayangtse/Pelling to Yoksom with a days birding at Khechepheri Lake.

Standard Tourist hotels are available at Pelling (02 kms from Pamayangtse), Gyalshing (10 Kms from Pamayangtse), and at Yoksom. We stay at the Hotel Phamrong at Pelling or the Tashigang Resort at Gyalshing. and at the Tashigang Hotel at Yoksom.

04 days are suggested with 02 nights stay at Pelling for 02 days birding around Pamayangtse, 02 nights, at Yoksom with one days birding enroute at Khechepheri Lake, and another days birding around Yoksom.

Dzongri & Prek Chu Valley Birding trek - Elevation up to 4400 m

For those who are enthusiastic about trekking in the high Himalayas, the best way to see higher altitude birds is to take the 08 days Dzongri trek along the circuit Yoksom-Tshokha-Dzongri - Thanshing - Tshoka - Yoksom. 

Some of the birds recorded on this trip are Blood Pheasant, Brown Parotbill, Fire-tailed Myzorinas, Cutia, Sapphire flycatcher, White browned Bush Robin, Grandala, Rufous - breasted Accentors, White winged and collared Grosbeaks, Spot-winged Rosefinch, Scarlet finch, and Khalij Pheasant. For details of this treklook under trekking

ITINERARIES
B/03: 12 days West Sikkim Birding Circuit

Day 01 Arrive Bagdogra. Drive to Hilley Camp (can also drive from Darjeeling or Kalimpong)
Day 02 Birding around Hilley and trek to Vershay
Day 03 Birding around Vershay
Day 04 Birding trek to Dentam
Day 04 Birding in Khalij Valley and drive to Pamayangtse
Day 05-06 Pamayangtese birding
Day 07 Drive to Khechipheri Lake and birding.
Day 08 Birding around Khechepheri
Day 09 Drive to Yoksom and birding.
Day 10-11 Birding around Yoksom
Day 12 Drive to Bagdogra for departure (or can go to Gangtok, Kalimpong, Lava, or Darjeeling)

B/04: 14 days West Sikkim Birding Trek

Day 01 Arrive Bagdogra. Drive to Pamayangtse
Day 02-03 Pamayangtse birding
Day 04 Drive to Khichepheri and birding
Day 05 Drive to Yoksom & birding
Day 06 Birding around Yoksom
Day 07- 13 Birding trek to Dzongri and Prekchu Valley. Return to Yoksom
Day 14 Drive to Bagdogra for departure (or can go to Kalimpong, Lava, or Darjeeling).


North Sikkim Tholung Valley

Located in the shadow of the 6888 Meters high Siniolchu, and the 5200 Meters Lamo Anden, this is virtually an uninhabited valley with a miniscule population ( less than 50 ) of Lamas, yak herdsmen, wood cutters, cow and sheep graziers. Due to restricted entry there is no 
tourist traffic.

It is the domain of glaciers, snow clad peaks, alpine lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, bio-diverse forests, cascading rivers and streams, and twittering birds, The altitudinal variation ranges between 1000 meters to 4500 meters. The lower valley has mixed open forest with amazing biodiversity. The variation in altitude, variety of trees and shrubs, lack of human population and vehicular traffic combine to make it a haven for birds, and a prime birding site.


A very good walking trail with offshoots of grazing trails provides access for birding. The entire length of the walking trail of 15 kms is a birding hot spot. Not yet on the birding map, the area is mainly unexplored. In November 2001, we recorded 67 species in two days. 

We offer two birding options. A leisurely birding walk to the Tholung Gompa is a rare opportunity to bird watch in the open mixed forest ranging in altitude from 1000 meters to 3000 meters and explore Tholung - the "secret hidden Valley of Sikkim", which is still a restricted area, even for domestic tourists. The whole family can enjoy nature’s bounty - far from crowds.

For the energetic we extend the birding up to Kishong Chu, 4228 meters looking for high altitude birds and enjoying the splendid views of Himalayan peaks, Alpine lakes, cascading streams, and grazing yaks.

Mangan is located on the North Sikkim High way. It is 70 Kms ( 2.30 hrs) from Gangtok and 153 kms (5.30hrs from Bagdogra Airport/NJP rail station via Singtam and Dikchu. After an overnight stay at Mangan you have to drive by jeep 14 Kms( 1.30 hrs) to Lingsha which is the start point of the trail toTholung Valley.

A special entry permit is required to proceed beyond Mangan.

At Mangan Tourist Lodge at Singhik is suitable for transit halts. For the birding, camping arrangements are provided by us.

7-10 days are required for productive birding in this area.


ITINERARIES
B/07: 07 days birding trek to Lower Tholung Valley

Day 01 Pick up from Bagdogra Airfield or NJP rail station. Drive to Singhik Tourist Bungalow. 153 kms Overnight
Day 02 Sunrise view of Khangchendzonga, from Singhik View Point. After breakfast drive to Lingsha, 1000 meters, in 2 hrs. Birding walk to Tsana 1573 meters. 09 Kms, full day birding. Overnight in Lodge or camping.
Day 03 Birding walk to Tholung Gompa 2600 M. 09 Kms, full day birding. Visit Gompa and overnight in lodge or camp.
Day 04 Birding walk back to Tsana. Overnight in Lodge or tents.
Day 05 Tsana birding walk. Overnight at Lodge or in camp.
Day 06 Birding walk back to Lingsha in 05 hrs. Drive to Mangan in 02 hrs. Overnight at Singhik tourist Lodge
Day 07 Drive back to Bagdogra/ NJP to board your flight/train. Or to Gangok to continue your Sikkim Holiday.

B/08:10 Days birding trek to Kishong Cho Lake

Day 01 Pick up from Bagdogra Airfield/NJP rail station. Drive to Mangan 150 kms in 05.30 hrs. Stay Overnight at Singhik tourist Lodge. Snow Pegion
Day 02 Pick up from Bagdogra Airfield/NJP rail station. Drive to Mangan 150 kms in 05.30 hrs. Stay Overnight at Singhik tourist Lodge.
Day 03 Birding walk to Tholung Gompa 2600 M. 09 Kms, full day birding. Visit Gompa and overnight at lodge or in camp.
Day 04 High Altitude birding walk to Pyaju Falls, 3600 meters. 6 kms. Overnight in camp
Day 05 Trek to Kishong Cho lake. 04 kms in 4 hrs. Birding around lake. Overnight in Camp
Day 06 Birding walk back to Tholung Gompa. 09 Kms . Overnight at Lodge or in camp.
Day 07 Birding walk to Tsana Wilderness Lodge. Overnight at Lodge, or in camp.
Day 08 Tsana birding walk. Overnight at Lodge or in camp
Day 09 Birding walk back to Lingsha in 05 hrs. Drive to Mangan in 02 hrs. Overnight at Singhik Tourisr Lodge.
Day 10 Drive back to Bagdogra ( 5.30 hrs) to board your flight or to Gangok ( 2.30 hrs), or stay back to explore Lachung and Lachen valley in North Sikkim.

Note : Special entry permits are required for these tours. First you have to get your visa endorsed for restricted area entry to Sikkim. Once this is done please send photo- copy of passport particulars and India visa, permit and Tolung Valley entry permit. Application forms will be sent on request. It requires 6 weeks to complete formalities.



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Hilltop, Kalimpong - 734301, India.
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