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North Bengal and West Sikkim are blessed with a rich variety of wildlife and birds. Cover the virgin territories of Mahananda, Samthar, Lava and Neora Valley, Rangit Valley, Vershay Rhododendron Sanctuary, Pamayangtse-Khichepheri and Maenam-Damthang, where tourist footfall is at a minimum and spectacular bird species on full display. This itinerary will also present an opportunity to visit areas ranging from 100 mts to 3050 mts.
National parks/sanctuaries visited: Mahananda National park, Hilley-Vershey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary
Suitable time to visit: November to April
Route: Delhi/Kolkata - Bagdogra Airport - Siliguri - Samthar Farm House - Lava - Kalimpong - Okhray/Hilley - Pelling - Kewzing - Bagdogra Airport - Delhi/Kolkata
Day 1: Delhi/Kolkata - Bagdogra Airport - Siliguri
Arrive at Bagdogra airport and drive straight to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in Siliguri. Explore this sanctuary that's home to species like Lesser Adjutant, Besra, Indian Grey Hornbill, Himalayan Vulture and Asian Barred Owlet. Later, return to Siliguri for your overnight stay.
Day 2: Siliguri - Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary - Samthar Farm House
Spend the first half of the day spotting birds at Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and then drive to Samthar Farm House for more birding before you retire at the farm house area for your overnight stay.
Day 3: Samthar Forest and Charkhole
Drive for about thirty minutes to embark on a full day's birding tour inside the Samthar Forest and Charkhole area. Some bird species that you are likely to see are White-browed Shrike-babbler, Longtail Broadbill, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Lemon-rumped Warbler, and Rufous Sibia.
Return to Samthar Farm House for your overnight stay.
Days 4 to 7: Samthar - Lava
Drive to Lava. En route, stop for more birding at Samthar forest before checking into a hotel/resort in Lava. Spend the next three days exploring Neora National Park. Prime species to spot are Satyr Tragopan, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Blue-fronted Robin, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Cutia, and Hodgson’s Redstart.
Day 8: Lava – Kalimpong
Enjoy a full day of birding along the Lava-Algarah road, and the isolated forest trail. Later, drive to Kalimpong for an overnight stay at a hotel/guest house.
Day 9: Kalimpong – Hilley
Drive to Rangit River Valley for some early morning birding in this area. After a short drive of 45 mins, we will enter the state of Sikkim through Melli check post. Stop for entry formalities at the border gate as Sikkim is a restricted area and it is mandatory for foreign passport holders to have a Sikkim Entry permit.
Later, continue driving to Hilley at 2700 mts through Jorthang. We will spend some time birding in the forest nearby. Stay overnight at Okhray, a few kilometers away from Hilley.
Day 10: Hilley-Vershay Rhododendron Sanctuary
Spend your entire day birding along the Vershay Ridge after a 4 km trek. Later, return to your lodge at Okhray for your overnight stay.
Day 11: Hilley - Vershay - Soreng - Pelling
This morning you will have another chance to trek to a new destination – Soreng, through Vershay-Rhododendron Sanctuary - from where you will have the chance to enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Kangchendzonga. This is a 6 hr trek that is mostly downhill along a well-defined forest trail. Some species to look out for are Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Fire-tailed Myzornis, and Brown Parrot Bills, Streak-Breasted, Rusty-cheeked and Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, and various Laughing Thrushes.
After a full day of birding, arrive at a road heading to the small town of Pelling at 2100 mts. Stay overnight at a hotel in Pelling.
Day 12: Pelling - Pamayangtse and Khichepheri Lake
Spend the day birding around Rabantse forest and across the Sangacholing Ridge. In these moist temperate oak forests, you will have the chance to spot Striated Bulbul, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-capped and Black-chinned Babbler, Hoary-throated and Rusty-fronted Barwing, White-browed Fulvetta, Cutia, Himalayan Shrike-babbler, Pygmy Blue, Flycatcher, Grey-sided and Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Dark-breasted Rosefinch and Red-headed Bullfinch.
Later, drive 24 kms for another birding tour in areas around the holy Khichepheri Lake. This lake hosts migratory ducks and occasionally some rare species such as Black-necked Grebe, Baer’s Pochard or Greater Scaup, and Black-tailed Crake. Return to Pelling for your overnight stay.
Day 13: Pelling - Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary
Drive from Pelling to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, sitting at an altitude of between 2300mts and 3263mts. Home to the Red Panda and Satyr’s Tragopan, spend your day exploring Maenam and spotting more of its interesting species. Stay overnight at a lodge in Kewzing.
Day 14: Damthang Forest
Spend the day trekking through Damthang Forest. Species to look out for Grey-winged Blackbird, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Black-throated Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird, and Brown Bullfinch. Stay overnight at a lodge in Kewzing.
Day 15: Kewzing - Bagdogra Airport - Delhi/Kolkata
Drive back to Bagdogra airport for your onward journey.