14 days holiday exploring different habitats and cultural sites in search of Bhutan's butterflies, birds, mammals and plants

Bhutan - birds, butterflies and culture

Monday 18th September - Sunday 1st October 2023

Bhutan has been protected by both its isolation within the Himalayas and the topography of its mountainous land, resulting in over 70% of the land remaining forested with approximately 25% protected by 10 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
The incredible range of habitats present in Bhutan, from sub-tropical in the south to alpine in the north presents a vast array of habitat niches for birds, butterflies and mammals. Bhutan has over 680 species of birds, some 800 species of butterflies and 90 mammal species recorded to date.
In 1970, when Bhutan opened its doors to the outside world, it did so with a policy of carefully controlled and well-organized tourism. These policies have worked hand-in-hand with the Buddhist way of life, inherent to all Bhutanese where life is sacred and should be protected; therefore wildlife flourishes, and Bhutan is now considered one of the worlds bio diversity hot-spots.
Our tour will begin in the west and travel through central Bhutan before heading south to explore the rich Royal Manas National Park. Our guides will lead you through forested areas where few visitors to Bhutan have been; you will explore sub-tropical forests, virgin temperate forests, alpine meadows and along untamed rivers. As we travel on this tour we will discover as many as 300 species of birds, 300-350 species of butterflies and 10-15 species of mammals.
We will also spend some time seeing the amazing architecture, meeting the friendly local people and seeing for yourselves their culture and religion; expanding your interests but not compromising your main objective. We hope that you can join us on this incredible adventure in Bhutan. It is autumn time and the roads will be ablaze with colours from flowering plants, trees and shrubs - a paradise for birds and butterflies!


Day 1 Delhi/Calcutta to Paro and birding along Pa Chhu (river). This morning we take the Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines flight to Paro, where we should have good views of the Himalayas, including many of the highest mountains in the world. After checking into our hotel and having lunch we will begin with a walk along the river to look for Ibisbill, River Lapwing, Indian Roller, Rock Pigeon, Olive-backed and Rosy Pipits, Black Bulbul, Long-tailed Minivet, White-capped and Plumbeous Redstarts, White-browed Fulvetta, Long-tailed and Grey-backed Shrikes, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch and Russet Sparrow.
Expected butterflies for the day are Indian Purple Emperor, Painted Courtesan, Tawny Rajah, Black Rajah, Leopard Lacewing, Grey Pansy, Peacock Pansy, Blue Admiral, Great Satyr, Striated Satyr, Indian Tortoiseshell, Banded Treebrown, Himalayan Grass Dart, Chumbi Wall and Small Tawny Wall, Chestnut Angle, Yellow Flat. Stay overnight in Paro, at 2,300 m asl..

Day 2 We depart early for our journey up through ancient pine and fir forests to Chele La Pass (3,822m), where there are fantastic views of the high Himalayan peaks. Chele La is almost above tree line with its unique bio-diversity. Here we will look for Bhutan Glory, Yellow Gorgon, Dark Clouded Yellow, Common Copper, Narrow-banded Satyr and Gem Silverspot, Blue Pansy, Tailed Labyrinth and many others. After the breakfast we will continue birding in this beautiful area before gradually making our way back to Paro and on to Thimphu. Expected birds for the day are Lammergeier, Hill Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Large Hawk-cuckoo, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Alpine Accentor, White-collared Blackbird, Dark-throated Thrush, White-throated Redstart, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Collard Grosbeak, Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Green-backed Tit, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Yellow-browed Tit and Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, Blue Whistling-thrush, Little Bunting, Black-tailed Crake and Brown Dipper. Stay overnight in Thimphu at 2,300 m asl.

Day 3 This morning we will drive to the Dochu La (3,116m) in time to see the incredible sunrise over the High Himalayas, where prayer flags line the road carrying their messages to all sentient beings. Here we will also be on the lookout for rare and interesting butterflies. After breakfast we will continue to Lampelri Botanical Park and walk the park trail and around Punakha we will look for Great Barbet, Rufous-breasted and Maroon accentors, White-browed Shortwing, Ashy-throated and Whistler's warblers, Verditer and Ferruginous flycatchers, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Blue-fronted Redstart, Rufous Sibia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Fire-capped Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Dark-rumped Rosefinch and Large-billed Crow. Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Large Niltava, Grey Bushchat, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Hoary-throated Barwing, Maroon Oriole and Grey Treepie, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, Slender-billed Oriole and Richard's Pipit
Butterflies to be seen include Bhutan Glory, Yellow Gorgon, Yellow Helen, Golden Birdwing, Long-banded Silverline, Tropical Fritillary, White-bar Bushbrown, Tailed Labyrinth, Himalayan Five-ring, Orange-tailed Awl and many others. Overnight in Punakha for two days, at 1,300 m.

Day 4 Explore Jigme Dorji National Park, well known for its amazing variety of butterflies. We will rise early to get to Rimchhu valley to enter the park for the morning birding. The forest is pristine at an elevation of 1,300m where we should encounter Long-banded Silverline, Common Mormon, Common Mime, Stately Nawab, Great Nawab, Tawny Rajah, Variegated Rajah, Golden Emperor, Large Silverstripe, Plain Tiger, Blue Pansy, Mottled Emigrant, Chestnut Angle, Water Snow Flat. In the afternoon when the butterflying lessens we will return back to Punakha and visit the magnificent Dzong before returning to our hotel.
Birds we expect to see today include Red-headed Trogon, Rufous Woodpecker, Spangled Drongo, Slaty-backed Forktail, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Mountain Bulbul, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Elachura, Speckled Piculet, Nepal Fulvetta and possibly the rare Pallas Fish Eagle and the critically endangered White-bellied Heron.

Day 5 Today we travel to Trongsa but will be stopping along the bird rich forests of Khelekha and Nobding village. Along this route apart from the many variety birds we will also look for butterflies such as Yellow Orange-tip, Tailed Judy, Blue Imperial, Fluffy Tit, Long-banded Silverline, Great Orange Tip, Lemon Pansy, Hill Jezebel, Common Castor, Orange Oakleaf. We will ascend up through mixed forests ablaze with flowering rhododendrons to the pass at Pele La (3,390m). From the pass we will continue our journey descending through more beautiful rhododendron forests and thickets of dwarf bamboo where we will stop, looking for the mentioned above and many other interesting species. In Trongsa we will settle in to our hotel from where there are magnificent views of Trongsa Dzong, an imposing structure, situated on a spur above the Mangde Chhu gorge. Birds for the day will be Rufous- chinned Laughingthrush, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Fire-capped Tit, Greater and Lesser yellownapes. Birding along the pass we will look for Great Parrotbill, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Crimson-browed Finch, the brilliant Spotted Laughingthrush and Himalayan griffons. Black-faced and Chestnut-crowned laughingthrushes, Whiskered and Stripe- throated yuhinas, Oriental Skylark and Humes Bush Warbler, which can often be heard before seen. Stay overnight at Trongsa, (2,200m).

Day 6 Our route today is from Trongsa to Tingtibi via Shemgang, (110kms). We rise early to bird the famous Shemgang road making our first stop at Chunjey Pang where we should encounter: Common Bluebottle, Glassy Bluebottle, Common Batwing, Paris Peacock, Yellow Helen, Common Birdwing, One-spot Grass Yellow, Tree Yellow, Yellow Orange-tip, Tailed Judy, Punchinello, Indian Purple Emperor, Spotted Jester, Common Awl, Yellow Flat. After a picnic breakfast, we continue our drive to Dangdung village at 740m, stopping briefly at Kuenga Rubten the former Summer Palace of the Second King. From Dangdung we will climb up to Koshala, where amongst the flowering trees, we should encounter many butterflies. The view along the Shemgang road is spectacular with mountain ridges and deep river valleys below with endless butterflying opportunities. Approaching Tingtibi in the warm broadleaf forest we should find great variety of birds typical for these forests Chestnut-crowned Warbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Pygmy Cupwing, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Striated Bulbul, Spotted Forktail and Himalayan Thrush, Spot-winged Starling (only three known sites in Bhutan for this species and very local), Bonellis Eagle, Crested Bunting, Green-billed Malkoha and the beautifully plumaged Blue-capped Rock Thrush, White-throated Needletail, Striated Prinia, Black-crested Bulbul, the rare and endangered Beautiful Nuthatch, Red-faced Liocichla, Blue-winged Laughingthrush (rare and elusive), Crimson Sunbird, Striated Yuhina and our first of the many chance to see the rare Rufous-necked Hornbill, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Pin-tailed and Wedge-tailed green pigeons. Two nights in Tingtibi.

Day 7 Explore the rich sub-tropical forest of Tingtibi for birds, mammals and butterflies. Today we will explore in and around Tingtibi and Shemgang as we have lots of target birds to check. The magnificent and very rarely visited Dakphai Road is one of the most beautiful and peaceful roads, with similar elevations to the now famous Lingmethang in the east, we can see an amazing variety of rare and special butterflies as well as the Red Lacewing, Leopard Lacewing, Indian Nawab, Club Beak, Small Yellow Sailer and Common Sailer. Golden Leaf Langur can be seen often as it is their prime habitat. Some of the target birds for the day include: Rufous-throated and Chestnut-breasted partridges, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, White-browed Piculet, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-tailed Robin, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, the stunning Himalayan Cutia, Rufous-vented and Rufous-necked laughingthrushes, Sultan Tit, Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Long-billed Wren Babbler and White-hooded Babbler (rare and the only known site for Bhutan).

Day 8 Tingtibi to Panbang, best known for birds, flowers and butterflies. This morning we will spend time exploring the rich bamboo forests of Tingtibi and after breakfast continue to Panbang, stopping along the way in prime areas for excellent birding and butterflies. Tingtibi is the beginning of Royal Manas National Park. Within its boundaries it is possible to see up more than 50 species of mammals, 13 of which are totally protected. It is the only park where it is possible to see all of Asias Big Five: Asian Elephant, Asian Water Buffalo, One-horned Rhinoceros, Clouded Leopard and the Bengal Tiger as well as other rare species such as Golden Cat, Gaur, Sloth Bear, Binturong (Asian Bearcat), Himalayan Black Bear, the Assamese Macaque and three rare primates: the Golden and Capped Langurs. The park is home for over 900 species of vascular plants, at least 350 species of butterflies and over 432 different species of birds. These include the White-striped Ringlet, Angled Red Forester, Spotted Snow Flat, White-spotted (Himalayan) Grass Dart. We continue to our Eco Communities Campsite - an enterprise which enables local villagers to participate in the parks conservation activities and management schemes, which also aims to raise the standards of living through community tourism programs. Birds seen today may include Bengal Florican, Collard Falconet, Red Junglefowl, Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Red-faced Liocichla, Yellow-vented and Rufous-faced warblers, Crested Serpent Eagle, and the most recently recorded Malay Night Heron and Black Baza. Three nights in eco lodge at 3200 m asl.
Days 9 and 10  Today we will explore this unique World Heritage Site and one of the oldest protected areas in Bhutan. Manas National Park has an area of 1,059 sq. km and is now linked to the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park to the north, India's Manas Tiger Reserve in the south as well as Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Thrumshing La National Park through biological corridors, providing a continuous gradation of protected, natural habitats from the tropical lowlands up to the High Himalayas. Over 90% of the park area is under forest cover including vast areas of tropical and sub-tropical monsoon forests, interspersed with expanses of natural grasslands and wide riverbeds, promoting the wide variety of wild-life found within its borders. Each night we will take a night safari with search lights to maximize our chance of seeing the rare and elusive mammals. With 8 different species of cats and the largest recorded tiger density in the world, we have a good chance for these species. On these two days we will butterflying the route from Panbang to the park office at Manas (13kms), where we will look for Tailed Sulphur, Yellow Jezebel, Popinjay, Bamboo Treebrown, Tiger Brown and Wavy Maplet, amongst the many that are frequent in this ancient landscape. Birds to be seen are Oriental Dwarf and Ruddy kingfishers, Puff-throated and Stripe Tit babblers, Red-breasted Parakeet, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Dollarbird, White-rumped Shama, Citrine Wagtail, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Hill Myna, Wreathed, Hooded Pitta and Silver-breasted Broadbill.

Day 11  Today we will spend the morning exploring the park for butterflies and birds and retrace our way back to Tingtibi in the afternoon. Expected butterflies for the day: Common Bluebottle, Glassy Bluebottle, Veined Jay, Tailed Jay, Yellow Helen, Spangle, Red-base Jezebel, Great Orange-tip, Indian Wanderer, Indian Cabbage White, Club Silverline, Pallid Nawab, Branded Orange Awlet. Night in Tingtibi.

Day 12  This morning we will rise early and bird around our hotel in Tingtibi before making our way up to Tama La at 1661m. From the pass we decent down through mix temperate forests to the little village of Surey. Butterflies will include Lime Swallowtail, Red-spot Jezebel, Psyche, Gaudy Baron, Black Prince, Colour Sergeant, Peacock Pansy, Long-branded Bushbrown and many others. Along this drive that we stop at a sheer cliff face near Tama La to look for the rare Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. Other birds will be Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Red Collared Dove, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Large-tailed Nightjar, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Rufous-backed Sibia and Banded Bay Cuckoo. Two nights at Gelephu.

Day 13  This morning we will rise early and bird around our hotel in Tingtibi before making our way up to Tama La at 1661m. From the pass we decent down through mix temperate forests to the little village of Surey. Butterflies will include Lime Swallowtail, Red-spot Jezebel, Psyche, Gaudy Baron, Black Prince, Colour Sergeant, Peacock Pansy, Long-branded Bushbrown and many others. Along this drive that we stop at a sheer cliff face near Tama La to look for the rare Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. Other birds will be Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Red Collared Dove, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Large-tailed Nightjar, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Rufous-backed Sibia and Banded Bay Cuckoo. Two nights at Gelephu.

Day 14  Exit Gelephu and drive to Guwahati airport stopping over at few butterflying sites where you have the chance to see some other species we missed previous days. We will also see Lesser Whistling Teal, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Grey-headed Lapwings and Cotton Teal.. Some of the endangered species of the Indian Subcontinent can also be found in this area Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser and Greater Adjutant Storks, Baers Pochard and White-bellied Eagle.


Photo and video gallery

Bhutan's Butterflies, Birds and Mammals

Bhutan's Butterflies, Birds and Mammals

Bhutan's Butterflies, Birds and Mammals tour gallery