Royal Manas National Park Tour
Day 1: Arrival into Paro
On arrival in Bhutan you will be met by your expert Bhutanese guides and Dr Wang on arrival and drive to your nearby Paro hotel. Lunch is taken in a local restaurant before the afternoon is spent sightseeing in the beautiful Paro valley. Considered to have the most beautiful homesteads in Bhutan, a walk through the fields and houses in an enchanting start to your journey. Depending on time we can visit the ruined Drukyel Dzong, under Mount Jomolhari a huge 24000ft backdrop to this fortress, the Dungtse temple and Paro town itself, with its main streets of painted houses and shops. Overnight hotel (B & D)
Day 2: Paro – Taksang – Paro
Today you will travel to the wonderful and magical Taksang Monastery, otherwise known as Tigers Nest Monastery. Built high on the side of a cliff the monastery is one of the wonders of the world and the hike up there is a wonderful walk, through the forests and several birds species are known from the forest. This hike up and down can take all day and the reward of exploring the monastery is incredible. Overnight hotel in paro(B, L, D)
Day 3: Paro – Thimphu
After breakfast you will be driven towards Thimphu and the base of the Cheri Monastery, or Gonpa. An hour’s walk takes you into this 17th century monastery and a fascinating insight into Bhutan’s monastic and religious life in this architecturally fascinating building. It is possible on your walk to spot Goral, the rare and nimble goat antelope of the Himalayas. Lunch will be taken back in the capital city of Thimphu, after checking into your hotel. Afternoon will be an opportunity to explore Thimphu on foot. Thimphu is as modern as Bhutan gets, with traffic, smart traffic policemen directing traffic, old shops and modern houses built in the old style, but with concrete. It’s experiencing something of a boom these days. Overnight hotel (B, L, D)
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha
After Breakfast, visit the takin preserve and the tallest Buddha in the world (at a spot popularly know as the Buddha point). After some tea and snacks at a café, begin your journey towards east by driving through windy but scenic drive east and after one hour reach the 10000ft high pass of Dochola, with breathtaking views over the high peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, many over 23000ft peaks. Quantities of prayer flags and 108 chortens mark the pass. Eat lunch here and enjoy the scenery.
After lunch, trek down through leafy forests to a botanical garden for a break (1.5 hours including trek and visit to the park center). After lunch, drive onto Punakha (winter home of the central monastic body), the unlikely old capital of Bhutan and visits its Dzong built in 1637, that much resembles a ship on the confluence of two rivers. Recently a glacial lake bursted (through a combination of climate change effects and a mild earthquake here. This is also the site where the first king and all the consequent kings were crowned, and where the present king and the queen got married. Drive back to punakha town for evening tea, stroll through the town and then drive onto wangdue for night halt.
Day 5: Wangdue to Phobjikha
Chukha hydropower project (impacts etc), and the reconstruction of wangdue dzong which was totally gutted by fire 2 years ago. Tea and snacks at a local café, followed by a drive (1.5 hours) ascending to Khelekha, where we will stop to get quick lunch. After lunch, we trek to Phobjikha (this is a good 5.5 hour trek) through subtropical vegetation changing into temperate and ultimately appearing into one of the breathtaking valley of Phobjikha. At 1000ft, Phobjikha is the wintering grounds of the endangered black necked cranes. Here you will be able to spot a large number of black necked cranes, which migrate from Tibet to avoid the cold winters. Enjoy a stroll through this wondrous valley and night halt at a hotel. Overnight hotel (B, L, D)
Day 6: Phobjikha – Zhemgang
Early morning stroll to see if you can spot any wildlife. The cranes are unfortunately still planning their journey to this beautifu valley from China and Tibet, so you wont see any cranes (cranes can be seen Nov-February). After breakfast start journey towards Trongsa through picturesque scenery, windy roads, cherry blossom trees and along steep gorges (Weather permitting, we could start with a 3 hour trek from Phobjkha to Longtey. the car will drive around and wait at Longtey. Check in and stroll to the impressible Trongsa dzong and museum. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue the scenic drive towards Zhemgang Dzongkhag slowly dropping cool broadleaved and chirpine forests into subtropical zone. You will be able to sight golden langurs, rufus necked horn bill and other wildlife. As well as the impacts of mega hydropower project (Mangdechu hyrdopower project). Tea in Zhemgang followed by a quick stroll and night halt at Zhemgang. Overnight guest house (B, L, D)
Day 7: Zhemgang – Pangtang
The guest can take an early morning stoll. After breakfast, drive slowly down to Tingtibi (one of the lowest point in Bhutan (at 90meters above mean sea level, Dr Wang spent 3 years in this village at the start of his career as a park manager). Get off to visit the park rangers office and Berti farmers cooperative sales counter (Berti is a traidtional fishing village for whom the Government has relaxed ban on fishing to allow sale and earn income). Continue to drive towards Gonphu stopping along the way to enjoy breatking view of ravines and subtropical forests. Lunch in Gonphu. After lunch car ride or hike till pangtang, depending on guest choice). (Lunch at Gonphu and afternoon trek for about 1.5 hours to Dunmang Hot Spring for a dip in mineral hotspring known to cure many common ailments) IT IS SUGGESTED WE DROP THIS AS IT WILL BE SUPER HOT DURING AUGUST.If we take the trek option, the trek is only moderately challenging and walking at a pace to suit the party, stopping to enjoy the views, meet the remote village communities and watch out for wildlife and birdwatching along the way. This area received a tiny number of visitors a year, as its well off the beaten track even by Bhutanese standards. Overnight camping in eco-camp. Pangtang is a local satellite town with Basic service including health, school, etc.
Day 8: Pangtang – Shilingtot
Guest are free to take an early morning stroll around the camp. Breakfast at 7am, and we start the treak (there is dirt road for vehicle but we trek). Again the walk is moderate but now is more through subtropical forests and very remote villages, there is a good chance of spotting birds and animals as well as seeing signs and tracks of tigers and leopards here. Chances to spot primates, barking deers, jungle cats, horn bills, many other birds And a little of the terrain and walking route, we start off on a flat plain walk, slowly ascending into a hilltop, then descending into a stream valley. We stop by the stream bed to east pack lunch by the stream (not so little during august) amongst the singing of the stream joining the larger chamkhar river which ultimately joins Manas river. Some wading though water is required. After lunch, slowly trek ascending into a village on a shoulder of a hill, where we will stop for the night in an community owned eco-camp. After some refreshment, we will visit a local limestone cave (3 storey) hidden away into the forests below a local village. Hardly anyone visit this magnificent cave including the local. It is believed that only the superior humans can get entry. Try your luck here. After this visit return to your camp for a refreshing cup of coffee/tea and rest till dinner. Dinner is served by the community followed by local dance. Overnight camping (B, L, D)
Day 9: Shilingtot – Panbang
After breakfast slowly walk though subtropical forests, the trail in this section of the trek is a bit adventurous due to traffic (from local people and their livestock) and lack of proper maintenance. We will need to cross a major stream whose bridge is out of order, we will make makeshift bridge but if the stream is really big, we may have to take a detour, which will involve walking and driving. After 4 hours of walk we will reach a small settlement named chenga zam (zam in Bhutan means Bridge). We will have our lunch by the river in the sand. After lunch, guest and guide can take a little stroll and then continue the trek, cross the bridge to reach a motorable road where our car will be waiting for you. If you are not satisfied absorbing the tropical heat, we can continue walking for another few hours (3 hours sometimes through motorable road sometimes off road to reach our eco-camp by the side of chamkhar river. Night Halt at Eco-Camp.
Day 10: Panbang – Royal Manas National Park
Early morning wildlife observation. We will walk along the river side to sigh wildlife especially on the other side of the river (which is Royal Manas National Park, the heart of Bhutan’s protected area system. Breakfast at 730am and trek about 2 hours to the nearby subdistrict town (Panbang). Stroll through the satellite town and visit the local subdistrict administrator and his office. Followed by Lunch. After lunch walk towards royal manas national park for few hours (depends on how long the guests want to walk, and the vehicle will pick us up to take us to the bed of manas river for a short rafting to cross the river into the official rangers office of the Royal manas national park. (alternatively, if the river is not too harsh, we will raft from panbang to manas camp (1.5 hours). Staff of manas park will greet the guest with refreshments. After tea settle into your camps and take some rest. Evening stroll and dinner. Royal Manas National Park is the Bhutanese part of the Natural World Heritage landscape of Greater Manas Tiger Reserve, a larger part being in Indian Assam, divided and bordered by the Manas river, a tributary of the holy Brahmaputra river. This Project Tiger park is in a region of astounding biodiversity at the foothills of the Himalayas including large grasslands and savannah and deciduous woodlands, but until a few years ago was beset by civil conflict and heavy poaching. The only park in India that effectively contains all of India’s ‘Big Five’ including Asian Elephant, Bengal tigers, Asian water buffalo, One horned Indian rhinoceros and leopard. It however can add far more than this to it prestigious list of mammals including clouded leopard, golden cat, Sloth Bear and Himalayan Black Bear, Gaur, the wild cow of India and herds of Hog Deer. Three rare primates also live here Including the Golden Langur, the Capped Langur and the Assamese Macaque, and if this is not all, Asia’s rarest Ape, the fascinating Western Hoolock Gibbon. Birdlife is astounding with a recorded 380 bird species including the rare Bengal Florican, magnificent Giant Hornbills, colourful Kalij Pheasants and noisy Fishing and Serpent Eagles to name a few. A ecological briefing by the park’s staff and ecologists followed by setting up some of the camera traps that play such an important role in monitoring the wildlife in this park. Before dinner will set you up for the coming three days in the park and your activities within it. Night halt in Guest house/camp. Dinner with park staff and presentation from park ranger.
Day 11: Manas local sightseeing
Accompanied by park staff and ecologists you will help to set up some of the camera traps that play such an important role in monitoring the wildlife in this park. There will be opportunities to game drive and do some wild walking during the day looking for tracks and signs. River boating and fly fishing can be enjoyed on the river in the late afternoons, once the traps have been set up. Elephant safari towards the evning is a wonderful opportunity to sight wildlife. Wildlife in this park is generally elusive, and not habituated to visitors as in other Indian parks, but you can expect to see signs of many of its creatures and the enjoy the cacophony of sounds from its extraordinary birdlife. You can expect to capture many of them on your camera traps though, used as part of ongoing census data by staff. Very few westerners have been allowed in this wilderness so you will be some of the very first to have explored it comprehensively. Alternatively, you can hide in bushes and wait to sight wildlife. Overnight camping. (B, L, D)
Day 12: Manas – Special thang
Today we will walk about 3.5 hours through tropical forests to a place called special thang (thang meaning plains). If the rivers are crossable with elephants, we will hire elephants to get this trek done. If it coincides with heavy rain, we may just go to the nearest crossable river and do some wildlife sighting instead. This is originally where our kings go for retreat and watch wildlife. We will have lunch at the Look out tower. Walk over to a salt lick (2 hrs to and fro from the look out tower). Return to the look out tower for evening glimpse of sunset with possibilities of sighting wildlife. We can choose to either spend the night at the look out tower (has a room with attached toilet for your guests. We will sleep on the tower or in camps.
Day 13: Manas Gaihati
Today we will cross the manas river on boat and walk along the Bhutan India boarder through forests to a dry river bed called Gaihati. Chances to sight elephants and other wildlife. We will eat pack lunch at the rive bed (where we might be able to sight signs of a resident tiger. After lunch walk into Indian Manas and trek back to Bhutan Manas. Night halt in guest house/camp
Day 14: Manas Norbugang
Early morning we will retrieve our cameras and check what we got. Look at the photos over breakfast. After breakfast we will say good bye to our park staff and cross manas rive in a boat and drive towards east. Although there is a newly paved high way, we will combine walking and driving with lunch on the road and arriving the ecocamp of norbugang in the east southern part of Bhutan. night halt in eco camp.
Day 15: Norbugang – Nganglam
After breakfast we will continue to both walk and drive to arrive at a sub-district of Ngalam bordering India for lunch. After lunch we will drive further east towards pema gatshel for sighseeing and return to Ngalam town for tea. After tea guest are free to stroll at his or her own will. Nigh halt at District guest house.
Day 16: Norbugang – Gauhati
Today we will clear immigration and transfer into an Indian vehicle and drive using local roads (2 hours) to get to an Indian Immigration office, where we will clear immigration and head to Gauhati for exit.
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