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India Red Panda Quest 2021

March 2020 (9 days)

Dates

15 Mar 2021 - 23 Mar 2021

Tour Leader

Adam Walleyn

Single Supplement

TBA

Tour Size

8 Participants & 1 Rockjumper Wildlife guide

Start Location

Delhi

Flight Cost (Approximate)

TBA

Spaces Available

Spaces Available

End Location

Delhi

Type of Tour

Wildlife

Cost

TBA

Key Locations

Singalila National Park

Tour Highlights

Red Panda, Yellow-throated Marten, Bhutan Giant Flying Squirrel, Leopard Cat, Assam Macaque, Himalayan Serow, Satyr Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Hill Partridge, Brown Dipper, Spotted Forktail, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Gould’s Shortwing, Spotted and Scaly Laughingthrush, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Great and Fulvous Parrotbill, Fire-tailed Sunbird and Gold-naped Finch.

Trip Reports

Trip Report - RWT India - Manitoba: Tigers & Taj Mahal 2019 (2 mb)
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Day 1: Delhi to Bagdogra and transfer to Kurseong

Our exciting adventure begins with a flight to Bagdogra in the Darjeeling district of northern India. From here, it is a short drive to our accommodation for the night in Kurseong. We will be staying in a delightful old colonial house perched high upon a ridge, with rooms overlooking the mighty Himalayas and lush tea gardens below us. We will no doubt savour a tasty dinner and a cup of the famous tea as we prepare for the exciting days ahead!

Day 2: Kurseong to Singalila National Park

After breakfast this morning, we will drive to Maneybhanjang, which is the gateway to Singalila National Park. We will continue through the park and arrive at our homestay, which is located just on the Nepali side of the border. The setting here is truly incredible, with the tiny and remote village of Kaiyakata situated in the midst of the Tinchuley Forest, right in the heart of prime Red Panda habitat. The homestay is built in the Nepali design typical of the region, and is the perfect base from which to explore.

Given the quality of the location, Red Pandas are even possible on the grounds of the homestay! So, once we are settled in, we can immediately begin our search. The grounds also have a bird-feeding station, which will only add to the excitement of initial discovery.

Days 3 to 8: Singalila National Park and Tinchuley Forest

Over the next 6 days, we will be exploring these lush eastern Himalayan forests on both sides of the border. On the Nepali side, there is the Tinchuley Forest; while on the Indian side, we have Singalila National Park. Set amidst the Singalila Ridge, at an elevation around 2,800 meters above sea level, these forests are cloaked in fir, hardwood and Rhododendron. With a thick bamboo understory and hundreds of orchid species, the trees are adorned in mosses, lichens and bryophytes. The world’s highest mountains, including Everest, tower above us and can be seen if conditions allow. Slowly walking different trails each day, armed with the latest knowledge from local researchers and assisted by skilled trackers, we will set about to find the distinctive Red Panda.

Instantly recognizable, it is one of the most striking and unusual mammals in the world. Although previously considered to be either a Raccoon or a Bear, we now know that it is not particularly close to either of those, and is indeed in its own family, the Ailuridae. Furthermore, it is quite unusual for a ‘carnivore’, in that its diet is primarily bamboo! An Endangered species, this area holds one of the highest densities within its limited range, which spans from the eastern Himalayas to southern China. Conservation-minded folks on both sides of the India/Nepal border have teamed up here to help conserve the species with research projects and tourism initiatives.

It is widely accepted that nothing in nature can be guaranteed; however, we have allowed ourselves enough time in the area that several quality sightings of Red Panda are highly likely. We have also timed our tour so that, if we are fortunate, we even have an excellent chance of seeing them with cubs! Of course, in such bountiful forests many more exciting mammals occur; however, apart from the Red Panda, all others are typically shy and very difficult to find in the dense vegetation. Possibilities could still include Assam Macaque, Indian Muntjac, Himalayan Serow and Yellow-throated Marten. With some spotlighting at night, there is a chance for Leopard Cat and Bhutan Giant Flying Squirrel. It is also worth noting that, although sightings of any of the following mouth-watering species will be very unlikely, there is still an opportunity for Indochinese Clouded Leopard, Asian Golden Cat, Marbled Cat, Himalayan Black Bear and even Chinese Pangolin.

The birding in this area is sensational. Nearly 300 species have been recorded, and at the top of the list are some exceptional pheasants. The stunning Satyr Tragopan is arguably the most alluring of the lot, and we stand a great chance of seeing this amazing species. Other exciting gallinaceous birds in these forests are Blood Pheasant, Hill Partridge and Kalij Pheasant. Overhead, we can watch the skies for Himalayan Swiftlets and White-throated Needletails zooming around, or perhaps a flock of Ashy Wood Pigeons passing over or perching to enjoy the early morning sun. The massive shape of a Himalayan Griffon is likely to come soaring overhead at some point, and we will watch for Golden Eagles and Mountain Hawk-Eagles as well.

Of the songbirds, the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis is perhaps the most exciting. The skulking Gould’s Shortwing is another possibility, and the mind-blowingly colorful Golden-breasted Fulvetta will be looked for in some of the mixed flocks. We should also see some boisterous flocks of Yellow-billed Blue Magpie and Spotted Nutcracker. A fine array of thrushes move around on the forest floor and visit fruiting trees. Amongst more than 10 species recorded here are Black-throated and Red-throated Thrushes and White-collared and Grey-winged Blackbirds. Flycatcher and chat diversity are similarly outstanding, and we will be on the lookout for such stunners as Large and Small Niltavas, Orange-flanked and White-browed Bush Robins, Himalayan Bluetail, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher and White-throated and Blue-fronted Redstarts. Along cool rushing streams, we can watch for Brown Dipper, Little, Slaty-backed and Spotted Forktails, and Plumbeous Water and White-capped Redstarts. As is typical of these eastern Himalayan forests, there is an outrageous diversity of laughingthrushes, with an exceptional nine species occurring! They are always a highlight, and we will have opportunities to find Spotted, Grey-sided, Chestnut-crowned, Striated, Scaly and Black-faced. Parrotbills are bamboo specialists that are also very well represented here, with the scarce Fulvous, Great and Brown all possible, along with the commoner Grey-headed! We will carefully bird the various mixed flocks moving through the mossy forest for species like White-browed Fulvetta, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Hoary-throated Barwing, Green Shrike-Babbler, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Rufous-vented and Grey-crested Tits, Green-tailed and Fire-tailed Sunbirds and an array of Phylloscopus warblers, all here on their breeding grounds. There are also several accentors available in the region, including Altai, Alpine, and Rufous-breasted, as well as a fine array of colorful montane finches, such as White-browed, Beautiful and Dark-breasted Rosefinches, with Plain Mountain Finch, Red-headed Bullfinch, Red Crossbill, and the beautiful Gold-naped Finch.

A nocturnal foray could yield sightings of some of the owls in the region, which include the impressive and scarce Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl, Tawny Fish Owl and Brown Wood Owl. Grey Nightjar is another nocturnal species that we could find.

Apart from our birding in the forest, there is also a photographic station on site at our homestay. Here, we have a special chance to get some amazing views and images of some of the shier forest birds at close range. Species that sometimes visit the feeder setup include Kalij Pheasant, Great Barbet, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Blue Whistling Thrush, Black Bulbul, Spotted and Scaly Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked and Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, White-browed and Golden-breasted Fulvettas and Common Rosefinch, amongst others!

Day 9: Kaiyakata to Delhi via Bagdogra

This morning, we will drive back to Bagdogra, where we will catch our flight back to Delhi. The tour will conclude here.

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JR - Private Rwanda

Trip has been wonderful! Dale is second to none! Really thrilled to have him and Eric (driver)!

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LH - Best of Botswana & Vic Falls 17

We were very lucky to have such knowledgeable guides, Shadow had the ability to place us in the right spot at the right time when other guides were still thinking about it. It was nice just to sit and observe the interactions.
Great tour, the mix of participants also worked well. Many eyes help spot things which might otherwise be missed (back seats are higher and sometimes you just catch a glimpse that the front seat people miss).

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EB - Best of Botswana & Vic Falls 17

Great communications and customer service.
One of the best trips I’ve been on. The sightings were fantastic, Andre was great, the food phenomenal and the support staff exceptional!
Andre was an excellent guide in all regards and made sure everything went smoothly.

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I.T - Best of Botswana & Vic Falls 17

The tour was excellent. The staff from the Safari company were also excellent.

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LH - Tailor-made South Africa & Botswana October 2018

I want to thank all of you at Rockjumper who worked to give me and my six friends the trip of a lifetime! The trip was perfectly planned; we saw a wonderful array of sights in perfect settings and lodgings all throughout the thirteen days. Logistically, everything worked like clockwork and it took all the stress out of traveling.

But without a doubt, what made the trip so incredibly special was our tour guide/leader, Rainer Summers. He not only lead us to the sights, through airports and into the bush but he managed to keep us all together, without losing anyone for more than five minutes – and I can assure you: that was not an easy task. (We really are not senile – just a bit independent).

His knowledge of what we saw and where to take us, especially in Cape Town improved our experience greatly. His knowledge of the wildlife and its social structure and behavior at Mala Mala and in Botswana increased our appreciation of what we saw exponentially. Nothing was too much trouble whether it was showing us how to use binoculars or camera or how to spot birds.

He also made sure that everyone was comfortable and at ease in all situations. He anticipated everyone’s needs and he ensured that we all had what we needed and/or wanted everywhere.

But most of all, Rainer was delightful to be with. He was fun and his wit and sense of humor made him a great companion. He is a tremendous asset to your organization. We all would like to return to Africa and Rockjumper’s tours but we will want to have no one but Rainer with us!!! We cannot envision a tour leader who could top this experience.

So, thank you for arranging the tour and a special thanks for choosing Rainer to be our guide. It was a magnificent experience and a week later, I am still wishing I was in Africa!

Sincerely,
LH

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