Nepal is a fantastic country for the wildlife enthusiast, boasting 868 bird species and 210 mammals. This BBC Wildlife holiday has been carefully planned to offer a memorable experience, aimed at the first-time visitor who wants a relaxing journey through Nepal's birds, mammals, landscapes and lifestyle.
Although the country is often associated with the high peaks of the Himalayas, elevations vary from the highest point on earth to near sea level in the Terai region. We focus on some of the best lowland habitats, rich in wildlife, during a very enjoyable holiday focused on both birds and mammals. Key destinations include the country's finest reserve, Chitwan National Park, and Pokhara, one of the most spectacular places at lower altitudes, where views of the Annapurna range combine with excellent birdwatching. We also spend two very rewarding days birding in the Kathmandu Valley, as we drive to the 2,740-metre summit of Phulchowski, where our list will grow quickly as we find many new birds. Throughout our tour we take our time, and thorough organisation and planning by our team in Nepal ensures a relaxing and enjoyable holiday filled with wildlife. We have selected high quality accommodation in all locations, and travel by road in a medium-sized bus, and by a variety of methods inside the reserves including 4WD jeeps, and a leisurely boat trip. Our cultural highlights include a thrilling Mount Everest panoramic flight, plus a fascinating visit to some of Kathmandu's famous monumental sites. Nepal has so much to offer, and our itinerary is ideal for the first-time visitor who wants to enjoy memorable wildlife whilst enjoying a feel of the 'real' Nepal. Superb local guides, extremely friendly local people, excellent accommodation, and a wide variety of habitats hosting a wealth of wildlife, all combine to make this an unforgettable holiday.
This holiday is focused heavily on birding, and we have chances of seeing wintering wetland birds, passerines from Siberia and high Himalayan breeders migrating to lowlands for the winter, plus the extra interest provided by early summer migrants. We expect over 200 bird species, including woodpeckers, minivets, warblers, flycatchers, laughing-thrushes, yuhinas, fulvettas, sunbirds, flowerpeckers, and many more. Elsewhere we spend time looking for rare Ibisbill, and may well see sought-after and delightful Eurasian species including Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Rubythroat and Wallcreeper. Other fantastic birds include Cutia, and many more - a big list of special species!
This holiday has a strong secondary focus on mammals, particularly at Chitwan National Park, where we will explore by jeep, by boat and on foot. Key mammals include endangered Greater One-horned (Indian) Rhinoceros, which are present here in good numbers. The Park has a small number of resident wild Elephant which use night cover to hide and raid crops in the farms, though they are rarely seen during the day. Wild Boar, Sambar, Muntjac, Spotted and Hog Deer, Rhesus and Common Langur Monkeys, and Indian Grey Mongoose are among the commoner mammals seen. Sloth Bear and Gaur may also be seen, as well as Gharial and Mugger Crocodile. Tigers are also found here, and although sightings are relatively infrequent, you have a chance of seeing them, particularly during the cooller morning and evenings, when Tigers move to waterholes. Rhino prefer grasslands to graze, though readliy take to water holes when hot, and we have good chances to see these magnificent animals at close quarters.
Day 1: Saturday 17th March 2018 - London to Kathmandu.
We fly to Kathmandu from London via Doha/Abu Dhabi/Delhi. Full details of flights in your 'Information Pack'.
Day 2: Sunday 18th March - Kathmandu
We arrive in Kathmandu where we will be met by Suchit, your local wildlife expert and leader. A short drive from the airport takes us to a Tibetan-themed boutique hotel and one of the finest hotels in the city, situated in the quiet northern corner of the Kathmandu valley. After settling in, there will be an informal briefing, followed by further time to relax after a long journey. The hotel has an excellent terrace, a swimming pool and views overlooking the valley to the south and the hills to the north. Two nights at Hotel Shambala, one of Kathmandu's finest hotels.
Day 3: Monday 19th March - Phulchowski Hill
We take an early breakfast followed by a relaxed and rewarding birding trip on Phulchowki hill, the highest point (2740m, 9000 ft) close to the city. Phulchowski is fully forested, with a profusion of good wildlife habitat, and a good quality driveable track to the summit. By arriving early, we should get good views of the snow-clad Great Himalaya, including distant views of the Annapurna range and many of Nepal's other high peaks (provided the weather is clear!).
At the base, we hope to find some lower altitude species such as spectacular Red-billed Blue Magpie, White's Thrush, and a selection of Phylloscopus warblers wintering here from further north and east. There are more than 250 species of birds recorded, and mammals here include Orange-bellied Squirrel, Yellow-throated Marten and Muntjac, whilst Leopards are quite common but rarely seen, as the forest on either side of the road is dense and inaccessible. We drive to the highest point and enjoy the flora and fauna as we make our leisurely way down, taking the rest of the day to walk and drive downhill through fine temperate and subtropical forest, with a picnic lunch en-route. The variety of laughing thrushes, babblers, bulbuls, flowerpeckers, flycatchers, sunbirds, tits and warblers is tremendous. Avian highlights might well include Red-flanked Bluetail, Fire-tailed Sunbird, White-collared Blackbird, Long-tailed Minivet and many more. Everyone will no doubt be enchanted by the deep red blooms of the towering Tree Rhododendron (Rhododendron arboreum), as well as the many other spring flowering shrubs of the forest. Bird activity dies down after midday, and we slowly head back to the hotel in the afternoon. The evening will be spent with a taste of delicious Nepalese food with an optional opportunity to enjoy cultural dancing from the different ethnic tribes of Nepal. We stay a second night at the Hotel Shambala.
Days 4 - 6: Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd March - Chitwan
This morning we travel 170 km by minibus to Chitwan, a journey broken by first-class birding, photography and comfort stops. On leaving the Kathmandu Valley the road follows the edge of the fast flowing Trisuli River, dropping in altitude as we leave the city behind, with a landscape of tiered fields on the hillsides, curious locals who take a friendly interest in tourists, and breathtaking distant views of the highest mountain range on Earth, snow-covered and often dazzling in the sunshine. We stop at various places, including a fairly reliable site for Ibisbills (an enigmatic wader of the Himalaya) and other riverside and montane species. Other birds include beautiful White-capped Redstart, Brown Dipper and if we are very lucky, perhaps one of the wintering Wallcreepers that frequent the road and riverside rockfaces. We take a packed lunch with us and aim to reach Chitwan by mid-afternoon.
Royal Chitwan National Park comprises 932 sq. km. of Sal and riverine jungle, a magnificent environment with a greater variety of wildlife than any other area of Nepal. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded here and we can expect to see a good number of these, as well as many mammals and reptiles. These are likely to include the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros, Wild Boar, Sambar, Muntjac, Spotted and Hog Deer, Rhesus and Langur Monkeys, and possibly Marsh Mugger and fish-eating Gharial Crocodiles. Leopards, Sloth Bears, and Gaur (wild bison) are all fairly common and frequently seen. Tigers do occur in the area in good numbers but are very elusive and difficult to see. We will spend our time here exploring by Jeep, short walks and a boat ride on the Narayani River. On arrival we transfer to Barahi Jungle Lodge, a tasteful and very comfortable lodge situated close to the Rapti River, where we will be staying for three nights. Our Lodge enjoys a breathtaking view of the National Park from its river-facing stand-alone cottages.
Days 7 and 8: Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th March - Barahi and Pokhara
After a final morning safari tour we head towards the lake and mountain district of Pokhara. The transfer from Chitwan to Pokhara is a very scenic drive through the valleys of the Mahabharat range which rises up to 3000m, and we pass through beautiful villages, valleys and plains where rice is grown. On a clear day, views of the Himalchuli range can be seen throughout the journey. We make a few stops on the way for photography, birds and comfort breaks and aim to reach Pokhara for lunch. Perched at 1,000 feet above the Pokhara Valley on the Kandani Danda with a spectacular Himalayan backdrop, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge provides a perfect haven, the essence of tranquility, and we stay here for two nights. During our full day here we enjoy the trails around the Lodge, with the opportunity for gentle wildlife watching and a restful time in very comfortable surroundings, or perhaps longer walks for those who wish.
Day 9: Sunday 25th March - Pokhara Lodge to Kathmandu
We spend the morning birding or relaxing in the tranquil setting of Pokhara Lodge, and then take the afternoon flight back to Kathmandu. The 25-minute flight can be stunning on a clear day with views of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya. We return to the excellent Hotel Shambala, for two more nights, and the rest of the day can be spent at leisure at the hotel’s rooftop pool and café.
Day 10: Monday 26th March - Mount Everest and cultural sites of the Kathmandu Valley
We leave the hotel early to take an exhilarating panoramic journey towards the summit of Mount Everest. This one-hour flight is a truly unforgettable experience, as we head northwards then eastwards along the southern side of the highest mountains on Earth. We pass several spectacular peaks before arriving at Everest itself, and you will be able to chart our progress against the map provided, showing the outline of the Himalaya. Soon the famous profile of the highest mountain on our planet can be clearly seen, and we have time to truly appreciate this awe-inspiring spectacle. This really is one of those 'bucket-list' experiences which will live in your memory forever.
In the afternoon, more memorable experiences, as we take a guided tour to some of the special sites of Kathmandu. We also allow time for shopping in the good-value bazaar of the nearby Thamel district, or just a final chance to relax.
We visit three very different and culturally important places;
A significant Buddhist temple within the valley, Boudanath is listed in the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is the biggest stupa in Nepal, built around the 5th century. It is a hemispherical dome, in the typical style of Buddhist stupas, and has a large harmika with Buddha eyes. It is believed that the relics of the great Buddha Kasyapa are buried inside the stupa, due to which it is greatly worshipped. There are numerous monasteries within the perimeter of the stupa, where Buddhists, Tibetans and foreign students stay. Due to the noticeable number of Tibetans and Buddhists living there, this area is also known as Mini Tibet.
Pashupatinath is a large Hindu temple of Lord Shiva located on the banks of the Bagmati river in the eastern part of Kathmandu. The temple served as the seat of national deity Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises, and non-Hindu visitors are allowed to look at the temple from across the Bagmati River. It is regarded by Hindus as the most sacred among the temples of Lord Shiva, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A city of art and culture! Bhaktapur's history is alive and vivid, with its population still adhering to the age old traditions and culture with the same zeal shown by their ancestors. It has been able to preserve its artifacts and its medieval atmosphere. Stepping into Bhaktapur city, you travel back to ancient times, when people made pottery, and women were adorned by a traditional black saree, with a rich red color circumventing its border. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the valley, with guardian deities looking out of windows and shikhara style temples with wooden trinkets over them to give a rich feeling. The unique masterpiece of the square is the palace of fiftyfive windows, truly a man-made miracle! Nyatapola Temple is another intriguing site, a five storied pagoda standing on five giant stone stairs richly decked with stone sculptures of deities. The golden gate and colossal antiquated bell are some of the city's highlights. In fact, the whole city is festooned with architectural highlights and wonders as you walk down its narrow alleys. Our last evening will again be spent with a display of Nepalese dance at our farewell dinner.
Day 11: Tuesday 27th March - Flight Home
Today we say goodbye to Nepal and fly back to London.
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).
Accommodation is in comfortable lodges with en-suite bathroom including hot shower, at Chitwan and Pokhara. Hotel accommodation in Kathmandu is very comfortable indeed.
Food Hotels and lodges serve variety of food ranging from authentic Nepali to continental and Chinese. You can find a variety of beverages, both local and imported. Coffee and tea is provided at breakfast. We will keep bottled water with us in the field, but recommend you also obtain a personal supply. Most hotels provide a flask of purified drinking water in each room: when in doubt, stick with bottled drinks. Avoid ice. Tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in Nepal. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. The holiday is not strenuous. Please bring all personal medications with you, as it may not be possible to obtain everything you need locally.
Weather In early spring skies are clear and days are warm, but evenings can be cold. Temperatures tend to be quite cool in the mornings and evenings, but hot at midday. We may experience rain on some days.
Insects Malaria precautions are advised. Before travelling consult your doctor about suitable anti-malarial medication, and on arrival take adequate precautions against mosquito bites.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Heathrow. Transfers are necessary, and we prefer to make these in Muscat and Oman rather than Delhi, though final arrangements will be confirmed before you travel. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to help you.
Visa All travelers to Nepal must hold a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your expected date of departure from Nepal. An entry visa is also required. This can be obtained either in advance from your local embassy or upon arrival in Nepal, though we strongly recommend you obtain a visa prior to travel.
Suchit Basnet: One of Nepal’s very best Naturalists and guides, Suchit is known for his great enthusiasm, cheerful and friendly disposition, and exceptional knowledge.
Toby Green: A popular and experienced Leader for Heatherlea around the world, Toby looks forward to yet another brilliant wildlife experience in your company! Toby will join the holiday with eight or more clients.
Suchit Basnet Toby Green
Return scheduled flight from London Heathrow - Kathmandu, internal flight from Pokhara - Kathmandu, airport taxes, all land transfers between destinations including airports, full-board accommodation at hotels and lodges, picnic lunches, ground transportation inside Park and Reserve by 4WD and boat, National Park entry fees, all major tips including mealtimes (though see below), checklist, and the services of your leaders.
Holiday insurance, visa (around £20), optional tips to local guides/drivers (this is customary, allow around £30pp), drinks, and other personal expenses.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 27 years, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland.