The land of rugged mountains, rhododendrons, Mt. Everest, sub-tropical jungle and grasslands! Great seas once rolled across what is now Nepal. Fifteen million years later parts of that gigantic sea bed have become the Himalayas – the highest region in the world. Located beneath their southern slopes is the kingdom of Nepal sharing borders in the east, west and south with India and in the north with the Tibeten region of the Peoples Republic of China. At times Nepal has played the role of intermediary between these two great powers and at other times it has faced the threat of invasion. Nepal is a beautiful and diverse land with an amazing variety of wildlife and landscapes. Its cultural and religious mix and intriguing history have conquered the hearts and minds of visitors throughout time.
Our birding tour explores all the key areas of this fascinating, beautiful and changing country. Our tour begins in Kathmandu-Shivapuri National Park, where we find Nepal’s only endemic bird, Spiny Babbler and Hoary-throated Barwing, a near endemic shared only with Bhutan. We spend a few days in the Phulchowki Hills, a popular birding site and excellent introduction to Himalayan Birding with such highlights as Besra, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Kalij Pheasant, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Fulvetta, White-throated Laughingthrush, Grey-headed, Darjeeling and Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Hill Partridge and Ashy Wood Pigeon.
A visit to Nepal would not be complete without a spot of hiking. We will spend one day of the tour taking a gentle hike from Phedi to Dhampus, a traditional Gurung village. The Gurungs are an ethnic community who inhabit the hills of the Annapurna region. From the village we have an unbroken vista of some of the worlds’ highest mountains; the snowy Annapurna Range, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu. We will also keep our birding list ticking over, with Red-headed Bullfinch, a number of pheasants and even a chance for Scaly Thrush. A visit to the famous Chitwan National Park gives us ample opportunities of finding Tiger and Indian Rhinoceros, while Bengal Florican, Grey-crowned Prinia, Slender-billed Babbler, Rufous-rumped Grassbird and Lesser Adjutant will be sought.
As the tour draws to a close, we head to Hetauda where various rivers and gorges en route may offer up sought after Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Brown Dipper, and a quartet of possible Forktails covering Little, Spotted, Slaty-backed and Black-backed. Our final birding stop will be at Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve that protects riverine grassland on the banks of the Koshi River. With luck we may find the threatened Swamp Francolin, amongst other habitat specialist such as White-tailed Stonechat, Striated Grassbird, Yellow-breasted and Black-faced Buntings, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Black-throated Weaver. Riverside pools may harbour Baillon’s and Ruddy-breasted Crake as well as Cinnamon Bittern. The Kosi Barrage has formed a massive man-made wetland, that hosts the highest concentration of wintering wildfowl in Nepal. We should be able to find the rare Falcated Duck, Black-necked Stork and Bar-headed Goose amongst the commoner species that may include Lesser Adjutant, Black-headed Ibis, Pied and Pallid Harrier, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark, Bluethroat, Citrine and White-browed Wagtail and Red Avadavat.
Spiny Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Scaly Thrush, Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Brown Dipper, Swamp Francolin, White-throated & Streaked Laughingthrush, White-browed Fulvetta, Whistler’s Warbler, Himalayan Bulbul, White-collared Blackbird, Black-chinned Babbler, Nepal Fulvetta, Tibetan Serin, Pink-browed Rosefinch, White-tailed Nuthatch and Rufous Sibia.
Tiger, Indian Rhinoceros, Sloth Bear, Rhesus Monkey, Northern Red Muntjac, Hog Deer and Nepal Grey Langur.
rhododendron slopes, sal woodland, lowland scrub, temperate forest, grasslands, wetlands, lakes,
Typically warm to hot. Higher altitudes vary from cool to cold. Very low chance of rain, althoguh the skies are typically grey and overcast.
relaxed with most birding done on foot, some hikes are at altitude
Gurung village, Himalayan peaks, Annapurna valley, Nepalese culture & food
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu
It is a panoramic thrill flying into Kathmandu on a clear day. The views of snow-capped mountain peaks sprawling down below you are quite astounding. On arrival you will be met by your Rockjumper leader and time permitting we may venture out in the late afternoon to enjoy our first looks at bird species typical of the area. Later on we will meet in the evening for a welcome dinner to discuss the upcoming activities for the tour.
Day 2: Shivapuri National Park
Today on our Nepal birding tour, we will visit the Shivapuri Conservation Area, a short drive north from the main city hub. This reserve covers 159 km² of pristine habitat, comprised of lowland scrub and temperate forest, and supports a diverse population of wildlife. More than 300 species of bird have been recorded in the area and Shivapuri will no doubt provide us with a splendid opening day to the tour. Low density species that we shall attempt to locate include Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Hill Partridge, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Kalij Pheasant, Grey-winged Blackbird and Nepal Fulvetta while other species such as Eurasian Jay, Great Barbet and Indian Paradise Flycatcher should be fairly commonly encountered. The forest is also home to a significant population of range-restricted specials. These include Spiny Babbler – Nepal’s only endemic bird, the near endemics Hoary-throated Barwing and the delicate White-throated Tit.
Days 3 & 4: Phulchowki Hills
The next two days of our Nepal birding tour shall be spent exploring Phulchowki Hill. The area is accessed via a short drive to the south-east of Kathmandu, and is the highest mountain encircling the Kathmandu Valley at 2760m above sea level. The low scrub vegetation of lower Phulchowki will be covered on the first day while densely vegetated temperate forest of higher Phulchowki will be explored on the second day. This birding paradise regularly produces some fabulous birds and we hope to find some of the areas more uncommon species such as Chestnut-headed Tesia, Himalayan Cutia, Ultramarine Flycatcher and Rufous-bellied Niltava. In addition to the above we also expect to find Greater Yellownape, Yellow-browed Tit, Lesser Racket-tailed and Bronzed Drongo, Whiskered Yuhina, Besra, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Red-billed Leiothrix, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black Eagle, Spotted Forktail, Red-flanked BLuetail and possibly even Spectacled Finch, a passage migrant, may put in an appearance if we are very fortunate. White-rumped, Slender-billed and Cinereous Vulture may also be seen overhead, although numbers are terribly depressed these days owing to the massive diclofenac associated population crash in the 90’s. This area is also well known as a migration route and more than fifty such species have been recorded moving to and from their breeding grounds, along a seemingly natural north to south migratory route through the park. After our incredible birding experience, we shall return to our central accommodations in Kathmandu.
Day 5: Taudaha Lake
After a wonderful breakfast we’ll travel a short distance to the Dakshinkali Temple. Taudaha lake is located 10 km south-east of the Kathmandu Valley and is the last refuge in this area for migratory water birds. Here we hope to connect with the rare Falcated Duck, while other widespread species such as Mallard, Ruddy Shelduck, Lesser Whistling Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Common Coot and Common, Ferruginous and Red-crested Pochard are all regularly seen. We will also keep watching for Steppe Eagle which is an occasional visitor to the region. After a full day birding and exploring the vicinity of the wetland, we will drive back to our hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 6: Kathmandu to Pokhara
A wonderful breakfast will be followed by a short flight to Pokhara. On arrival we will head to our accommodation and enjoy lunch before heading out to explore the surrounding lakes and forests. Birds we shall be searching for here include Crimson Sunbird, Puff-throated Babbler, Red-billed Leiothrix, Besra, Black-thighed Falconet, Ashy Bulbul, Maroon Oriole, Kalij Pheasant, Black-backed Forktail, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Red-billed Blue and Common Green Magpie. Migrant ducks such as Common Goldeneye and Falcated Duck take up residence as they pass through on their migration, while nearby we may have a chance to glimpse Himalayan and Red-headed Vulture as we hike up the Peace Stupa at the top of Raniban. After a full day birding in the woods we will return to our accommodation for dinner.
Day 7: Day trip to Phedi and Dhamphus hike
Today we’ll embark on a hike from Phedi to Dhampus, a traditional Gurung village. The Gurungs are an ethnic community who inhabit the hills surrounding the Annapurna region. From the village we will explore some stunning and spectacular sub-tropical and temperate forests. Another excellent birding site where we shall search for scarce species such as Golden Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Fulvous Parrotbill and Golden-breasted Fulvetta. Himalayan and Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier) may be seen along the mountainside gliding on the mountain thermals.
The Annapurna area is widely regarded as one of the richest regions of biodiversity in the world. The Cheer Pheasant, one of eight globally threatened species, may be found while all six of Nepal’s Himalayan pheasant species may be located as we traverse the area. Yellow-rumped Honeyguide and Satyr Tragopan are resident, while other near-threatened species of the region include Red-headed and Cinereous Vulture, Pallid Harrier and Ferruginous Pochard. We will have further chances to find Spiny Babbler, Nepal Wren-Babbler and Hoary-throated Barwing, while Spectacled Finch is only seen in this region over the winter months. The region also provides an excellent platform to enjoy Demoiselle Crane and large numbers of other migrant species, particularly raptors. After another incredible day of birding, cultural experiences and wonderful birding, we return to Pokhara for our overnight stay.
Days 8 & 9: Chitwan National Park
The next two nights of our Nepal birding tour will be spent in the vicinity of Chitwan National Park, the first established National Park of the country situated in a valley of the central lowlands. After breakfast we will make our way toward Chitwan, birding en route. Time permitting, we shall begin investigating the immediate surroundings of our lodgings this afternoon.
An early breakfast will follow a full day excursion into the 932 km² Chitwan National Park, housing two thirds of Nepal’s globally threatened bird species. The habitat consists mainly of Sal woodland and small areas of grasslands while pine and tropical forests are also present. There are several lakes and ponds formed on the floodplains of the three rivers that traverse Chitwan. Of prime interest are the endangered grassland species that include Bengal Florican, Lesser Adjutant and Grey-crowned Prinia. The park is the only known place in Nepal where Slender-billed Babbler occurs, whilst the endangered Indian Spotted Eagle breeds locally. Other threatened species we may encounter include Great Hornbill, Oriental Darter, Black-bellied Tern, Painted and Black-necked Stork, White-tailed Eagle, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish Eagle, Red-headed and Cinereous Vulture, Laggar Falcon, Pallid Harrier, Indian Grassbird and Yellow-breasted Bunting. As we progress through the day, we may also add Sarus Crane, Indian Skimmer, Bengal Florican, Jerdon’s Babbler and Pallas’s Fish Eagle, while Bar-headed Goose, a high altitude trans-Himalayan migrant is also occasionally recorded in the region. Aside from the numerous birding targets, we shall also spend time focusing on two major mammal highlights in the form of both Tiger and Indian Rhinoceros. After an exhilarating day we will return to our lodging to enjoy their hospitality and another great meal.
Day 10: Chitwan National Park to Hetauda
A fine breakfast amidst the woods at Chitwan National Park will be followed by a short drive to Hetauda. Located at the base of the Mahabharata range, the area will allow us to connect with some high altitude species seeking some warmth from the winter chill. Upon reaching Hetauda we will begin birding a variety of sites, specifically searching for the sought after Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Brown Dipper, and a quartet of Forktails covering Little, Spotted, Slaty-backed and Black-backed. After a thorough exploration of Hetauda we will drive to the lodge for the well-earned rest and dinner.
Day 11: Hetauda and surrounds
An early morning start will be followed by a pleasant canoe ride followed by a walk along a jungle trail. During the course of the morning we can expect to find White-throated Kingfisher, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and Greater Flameback, while the endangered Great Hornbill is also see regularly in nearby forest patches. We also may encounter some great mammals, having further chances of finding Indian Rhinoceros and Tiger while enjoying the jungle exploration. In the afternoon we have the option to indulge in an Elephant Back Safari through open grassland and forest for a totally different perspective of game viewing and birding. After a fantastic day we’ll return to our hotel in Hetauda.
Days 12 & 13: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Today on our Nepal birding tour, we depart the wonderful forests of Hetauda after breakfast and impart on a long drive to the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Home to the last surviving wild Asian Buffalo and Nepal’s first RAMSAR site, where we shall be based during the next two nights. Upon reaching Koshi Tappu we shall check into our lodgings before spending some time birding in the immediate vicinity. We will settle at our camp for dinner and a well-earned rest.
We’ll begin our second morning with a walk through our magnificent surrounds, an assortment of habitats covering grasslands, ox-bow lakes, riparian vegetation and marshes. To its south is the Koshi Barrage, a massive set of sluice gates that keep large tracts of land under water. After breakfast we’ll embark on rafting excursion along the Koshi River where we will be searching for the critically endangered Bengal Florican amongst a supporting cast of Indian Pond Heron, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Black-headed Ibis, Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Western Osprey, Pied and Pallid Harrier, Black-winged Kite, White-rumped and Cinereous Vulture, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Long-legged Buzzard and Grey-headed Swamphen. We’ll enjoy an idyllic picnic lunch on the bank of river before heading towards the Koshi Barrage itself with the hope of a special encounter with Ganges River Dolphin. After another active day in the field we’ll return to our comfortable hotel.
Day 14: Koshi Tappu to Kathmandu via Biratnagar
We’ll start the morning birding in the forests in the immediate vicinity of our camp. After breakfast we will drive to Biratnagar Airport for a short flight to Kathmandu and then transfer to our comfortable hotel. We have the afternoon free to explore the city at our leisure. We’ll enjoy a farewell dinner this evening, recounting our fantastic two-week exploration of Nepal.
Day 15: Final departures
After breakfast this morning, we shall transfer to the airport where our tour will conclude.