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18 Days Himalayan Birding Tour April 2003
Great Himalayan National Park, Mahananda Wild Life Sancuary,
Lava and Neora National Park, Singelila range, and Darjeeling
Neil Poul Dryer



This tour was tailor- made to the requirements of the birding group, and has been evolved after exchange of 56 e-mail messages over a period of more than a year. The design of the tour was focused on Himalayan upper altitude species with special attention to pheasants.

This was purely a birding tour with little sightseeing. Niels Poul Dreyer organised the trip from Denmark and Peter Lobo from GURUDONGMA TOURS & TREKS was the operator and leader on the tour. I can only say that the serves and logistics provided by the operator and Peter Lobo was outstanding and consequently GURUDONGMA TOURS & TREKS is highly recommended. There was no delays or hick-ups on the tour and everything especially the food was a delight.

Gurudongma House, Hilltop, Kalimpong, 734301
Telfax: 91-23552-5520 Web: www.gurudongma.com

gurutt@satyam.net.in and gurut@sancharnet.in

Birding guests with Gurudongma  have on an average recorded 200 species over 3-4 days. For detailed bird list go to www.birdingindiatours.com > Sikkim & North Bengal > Bird List

Tour Design

The tour has been designed in two parts.:-

Part 1: 05 Apr to 13 Apr: Looking for Himalayan Monal and other pheasants at the Great Himalayan National Park in the Western Himalayas

Part 2: 14 Apr to 24 Apr: In North Bengal in the Eastern Himalayas visit, Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary, Lava Forests, Singelila Range and Darjeeling

Ole Michael Lemming, Jørgen & Bodil Nørgård went on Western Himalayan tour.
Niels Poul Dreyer, Hans Meltofte, Ebbe Alfred Hansen ond John Damgård Nielsen took both Western and Eastern Himalayan tour.

Tour Price

Four people paid 1700 dollars for the 18 days tour and 3 people paid 870 dollars for 9 days tour which included the following

  • Reception at Delhi airport

  • Accommodation on twin share with all meals.

  • On birding treks, all camping arrangements, porters and birding guide with all meals. We (7 people) paid each Rps 500 in tip to 14 porters on Western Trip and Rps 700 in tip each (4 people) to 10 porters on Eastern trip. The porter fee is Rps 1500 for 5 days.

  • Exclusive transport for all transfers and birding trips as per itinerary: (a) Delhi & GHNP Sector – Two Cars AC shared by 07 plus guide. (b). Kalimpong & Darjeeling Sector- Hard top jeep 08 seated to be shared by 04 plus guide

  • Peter’s services as birding guide.

Price did not include:

  • We paid 1100 dollars in return Airfare from Copenhagen to New Delhi

  • Air fare Delhi > Bagdogra > Delhi, which cost us 400 dollars

  • Personal expenses such as tips, laundry, telephone, and medical expenses which was less than 150 dollars per person

  • Insurance which cost us 120 dollars each.

Total price including airfare for 20 days was $3550 for West & East Himalayas, and $2680 for 9 days in the Western Himalayas

Information on weather & climate

In brief the weather in the plains was warm ( 20-36 C) and only cottons were required with sun hats.. For GHNP and Singelila trek temperature range was 06-20C. We bought sun hat, woollen cap, underclothing and track suits, thermos underwear, heavy socks, ( with spares), trekking boots, sleeping bags and outer waterproof jacket with lining. Only in the Eastern part we had regular thundershowers- usually in the late evening, but apart from one thunderstorm in the morning of 19 April we missed all the rain while were in the field.


Richard Grimmett, Carol & Tim Inskipp, 2002. Birds of theIndian Subcontinent, HELM
Krys Kazmierezak, 2002: A field Guide to the Indian subcontinent.
Krys Kazmierezak, 1998: A birdwatcher’s Guide to India.
Hoyo, J del, Elliott, A.,Sargatal,J., 1994. New world Vultures to Guineafowl. The Handbook of Birds the World. Vol 2:, Birdlife Int. & LYNX Edicions.
Clement, P.,Harries A. , Davs, J.,1993. Finches & Sparrows, An Identification Guide, Princeton Uni Press. New Jersey.

WB PLUS North America version bird database based on Peter’s taxonomy 1998.

Part I: 09 nights Western Himalayas


The Great Himalayan National Park is located 530 Km. from Delhi. It is 60 Km. from Kulu in Himachal Pradesh. Covering an area of 765 sq. Km., it is enclosed on the northern, eastern and western boundaries by the Greater Himalayan range. The variation in altitude is great - 1300 m to 6100 m. More than half the area is above 4,000m with most of the eastern part perennially under snow Glacial advances have given the region its unique topography. It is characterised by dazzling high ridges, glaciers, deep gorges. Alpine meadows and valleys with closed virgin forests. It is arguably one of the largest areas of relatively undisturbed Western Himalayan Eco-systems. With its stunning natural beauty, and dedicated conservation, the Park is a virtual treasure for the researcher, the sensitive nature lover and the adventure seeker.

The park comprises of the upper catchments areas of the Tirthan, Sainj, Parvati and the Jiwa Rivers – all are tributaries of the great Beas River. On this trip we will be exploring a small part of the catchments areas of the Tirthan River.

The forests comprise sub-tropical alpine, and dry alpine shrub types. 'Chir' Pines, Conifers, Oaks, Firs, Rhododendrons and Junipers can be seen. Alpine meadows hold a high diversity of herbaceous species.

The excellent habitat shelters a large number of mammals. It is possibly the only place in the Himalayas where the 'Bharal' (blue sheep) occurs virtually side-by-side with the Himalayan 'Thar'. The largest population of the Himalayan Thar - endemic to India is in this park. The endangered Musk Deer can also be found here. The elusive and highly endangered Snow Leopard has also been reported

The park is a delight for Himalayan avifauna watchers with over three hundred species that can be sighted. One of the few known viable populations of Western Tragopan, a highly endangered species of pheasants, lives in this protected environment. Out of the seven pheasants found in the Western Himalayas, six of them, the western Tragopan, Monal, Cheer, Koklass, Khaleej and Himalayan Snow-cock can be found in the park. It also has an unexplored treasure of butterflies and a variety of insects. The return road journey to the park from Delhi takes 02 full days. We did trekking in the park for birding for 05 days.


05Apr : Reception and overnight at Delhi

We arrive Delhi airport by Swiss Air Flight LX 172 from Zurich. at 2310 hrs. We had to fill in forms to verify that we had not caught Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Zurich before we could enter the country. Fortunately India did not at that time have any case of the much feared SARS disease. We were received by Peter Lobo and transferred by 02 cars/mini bus to Jukaso Inn, Accommodate in 4 x dbl. AC rooms on B& B basis.

06 Apr: Delhi > Chandigarh

After breakfast we departed at10.30 hrs by 02 x 4WD Toyota, from Delhi to Chandigarh on 250 Km., long highway. The weather was unusually cool and pleasant in New Delhi. We did some short stop birding enroute and saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle just before Chingdigarh. After a bit of confusion we found Hotel Quality Regency. The city is a high education town and looks like a huge university, quarter blocks of which each had a number.

07 Apr: Chandigarh > Sai Roopa

We left 0600 hrs at sunrise through Indian traffic towards Sai Roopa in Thirthan Valley. On the way we stopped for breakfast and refreshments just before the foothills. A tied monkey posed a health hazard for us as it went out to chase us every time a person entered within it action radius. We spotted Plum-headed Parakeet, Crested Bunting and Large Grey Babblers along the hedges and fields. Spring was underway and birds active in the foothills. We continued our way for 257 Km. along the Sutlej River Valley to Mandi – an ancient city on the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas Rivers. The highway follows the Beas River Valley up to Aut along a new hydroelectric project. Thereafter we branched off up the Thirthan River Valley – a tributary of the Beas River to Ghusiani and SaiRoopa. We arrived at Ghusiani or Sai Ropa by 1400 hrs, in time for lunch.

Several folks especially Hans and John were worried about their safety as the second jeep had to keep pace with the first one as the driver liked hard core driving and the challenge of overtaking slow moving trucks on the winding mountain roads. Upon arrival we had to be transferred in a hanging wire chair across the river. In that process Ebbe’s new Lica scope was demolished by one of the porters, who did not know how to dismantle it, before sending it across the river. In the afternoon we did some birding in the Lower Thirthan Valley. We had dinner and an overnight stay at the Sai Roopa Forest Bungalow, a very nice place with spring flower in the garden. A couple German expatriates had found refuge here in order to escape the 40 degree heat in New Delhi. We were fortunate not to have been here the previous week in the middle of a rainstorm. We had splendid clear sunshine every day during our 5 days stay in the Great Himalayan National Park.

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Tour options for non-birding spouse/friends: www.gurudongma.com.

Bird photographs by Yashodhan Bhatia,

Ronald Saldino,  Niels Poul Dryer, Ketil Knudsen
Kalypso Adventures & Gurudongma Team

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Hill Top, Kalimpong, 73430, India


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