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Nepal: Butterflying at the Foothills of the Himalaya
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Nepal: butterflying at the foothills of the Himalayas

Summary and recommendation
: "...11 days long itinerary focusing on the lower and midd-range of the Annapurna Himal, one of the most breathtaking environment on Earth for the butterflier. Well-developed tourism, good hotels, great birds and incredible scenery of the 8000's, like Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri and the famous Macchapuchare makes this tour unforgettable. Chitwan NP at the lowlands will offer some charismatic megafauna, which includes Indian Rhino, Crocs and even Tigers..."


Destination country: Nepal. Arrival and departure to/from Kathmandu.

Next schedule: TBA

Duration: 11 days

Price: 6-9 persons: TBA. 10-14 persons: TBA. Single supplement: TBA. Price includes: accommodations and meals, vehicle hire with fuel and driver guide, forest walk fees, park entrance fees and ranger guides. Apart from a few occasions we spend the entire day in the field, where picnic lunch will be organised. The price exclude: bank transfer loss, international flight, visa, tips, drinks, personal travel insurance and any other activities of personal request e.g. laundry, phone calls, toalet fees, etc.

Accommodation: Three star hotels and good lodges all the way with private facility.

Numbers: Min. 6 person, max. 12 person, with two guides.

Transport: Toyota Coaster minibus with optional 4x4 when its necessary.

Recommended literature: "Butterflies of Nepal" by Colin Smith is a very useable small format guide, what I used very extensively and with good result, so highly recommended, just like the "Illustrated Checklist of Nepal's Butterflies" by the same author. I also loved The "Butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya and Their Natural History. Includes Many Species Found Also in other Parts of India and Himalaya" by Meena Haribal. For birds just simply buy the "Field Guide to the Birds of Nepal" by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp. For mammals the ultimate choice is the "Mammals of Nepal With Reference to Those of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan" by Tej Kumar Shrestha and Steven Simpson.

Tour description: "...One of the things they say that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime is make a visit to the Himalayas. Autumn is the start of the dry season and is by far the best time of the year to visit with very pleasant weather, a countryside that is lush and green and good visibility. Nepal, perhaps surprisingly, has nearly 650 species of butterflies and 850 different types of bird. Our tour will start in Kathmandu and the first few days will focus on the wildlife of the Kathmandu Valley, including visits to the Shivapuri National Park and the foothills of Mt Phulchowki, which contain one of the last surviving ‘cloud forests’ in central Nepal. We then move on to Pokhara, about 200 km to the west. Pokhara is in a spectacular setting by the side of a large lake and is the gateway to the Annapurna range (the second highest mountains in the world after Everest). The idea will be to explore the area around the lake and surrounding hills, which are excellent for butterflies and birds, and to undertake an easy-paced mini trek into the mountains. Our final port of call will be the Royal Chitwan National Park which is home to 250 species of butterfly as well as Rhinoceros, Crocodile and Tiger. We shall take an elephant safari into the park as well as exploring other areas on foot. The standard of hotels in Nepal is very good and, as well as the wildlife, this should prove an interesting cultural experience. ..."


Day 1: Evening departure from London.

Day 2: Mid-afternoon arrival at Kathmandu Airport after our overnight flight from Heathrow via Delhi. Our first three nights will be spent at the Park Village Hotel and Resort which is just 15 minutes from the airport and well away from the bustle of the city. The hotel is set in 5 acres of woodland with many flowery trees and shrubs in the grounds attracting both birds and butterflies. After a welcome drink, we shall check into our en-suite rooms, each with a wide veranda overlooking the grounds where we can relax after our long journey. The hotel has its own swimming pool plus gymnasium, sauna and jacuzzi. Before dinner, we will hear a presentation on the Butterflies of Nepal by Bhaiya Khanal, one of the foremost butterfly specialists in Nepal. Bhaiya is from the Natural History Museum in Kathmandu and has been working on butterflies for the past 25 years. He has produced several research papers and has collaborated closely with Colin Smith, author of the Butterfly Checklist of Nepal.

Day 3: After an early breakfast, we will leave the hotel for the short drive to Shivapuri National Park by coach. The national park set in the Kathmandu Valley lies in the transition zone between subtropical and temperate climates with pine dominating the lower slopes and oak and rhododendron forest at higher altitude. We shall start walking from the Tokha entrance gate and make our way slowly through the different habitats within the park. If the weather is clear, we should enjoy our first distant views of the Himalayas. The park supports 177 species of birds and 150 different butterflies. The latter are most active earlier in the day and we should find a good range of species including Common Grass Yellow, Chocolate Pansy, Peacock Pansy, Indian Fritillary, Common Crow, Striped Blue Crow, Common Tiger, Plain Tiger, and Glassy Tiger. Magpie Robins, Common Mynas, Red-vented Bulbuls and Indian House Crows will provide a good introduction to the commoner birds of the Kathmandu region. At midday, we will return to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, a guided cultural tour of Kathmandu has been arranged visiting the main sites around Durbar Square including medieval palaces, temples and Buddhist shrines. Overhead, we will keep an eye open for Black Kites and Steppe Eagles which wheel above the valley, while towards dusk we may be lucky enough to spot Barn Owls or Flying Foxes. Late afternoon, we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight stay.

Day 4: After breakfast, we shall head off to Godawari and the foothills of Phulchowki taking a packed lunch. It takes about half an hour’s drive (about 20 kilometres) from the hotel to reach the foothills which are a hotspot for butterflies in the Kathmandu Valley with 250 species recorded here. Attractions, beside the species found in Shivapuri, includes the rare and beautiful Krishna Peacock, Kaiser-e-Hind, Chinese Windmill, Bird-wing (which is a CITES Appendix II species), Common Leopard, Clouded Yellow, and Lemon Pansy. Phulchowki is the highest peak in the valley at 2,740 metres and is a magnet for birds including woodpeckers, minivets, warblers, flycatchers, laughing-thrushes, yuhinas, sunbirds, flowerpeckers and rosefinches. Special birds to look out for include Grey-sided Laughing-thrush, Nepal Parrotbill and Cutia. Late afternoon, we return to the hotel for dinner and overnight stay

Day 5: Today, we leave Kathmandu and head towards Pokhara (about 200 km to the west) by private air-conditioned coach along the scenic foothills of the Mahabharat Range. Roads are not great and the journey can take 4-5 hours but the journey should give us a good introduction to rural Nepal as we travel along a road overlooking Himalayan rivers, valleys, terrace fields and villages. We will stop for lunch at an appropriate place en route. Pokhara is a considerable contrast to the hectic city life of Kathmandu, being located by the side of Lake Phewa with the Annapurna Range as the perfect backdrop. Its lower altitude gives it a much more tropical feel with lush green forests and many wildflowers. We shall be staying at the Fishtail Lodge (included in the book 1001 Places to See before you Die!), which has beautiful gardens sloping down to the lake and a magnificent view of the fish-tailed summit of Machhapuchare (22,946 ft) from which the hotel gets its name. Apparently, Prince Charles are amongst a long list of previous distinguished guests. Access to the hotel is via a rope ferry across the lake. In the evening, we will be entertained with a cultural dance and enjoy a Nepalese dinner.

Day 6:
After breakfast, we will explore some of the hills and Nepalese villages around Pokhara including Naudanda and Sarangkot by private coach and on foot The viewpoint above Sarangkot provides a panoramic sweep of the Annapurna Range and, if we are lucky with the weather, the day generally should provide magnificent views of the Himalayas and some good butterflies including Krishna Peacock, Oakleaf, Albatross, various Swallowtails, and Common and Paris Peacock. There should also be time to visit the forest above Lake Phewa and the World Peace Pagoda to check for species like Blue Bottle, Sword Tail, White-bordered Blue Baron, Jays and Great Black Veined. Birds are plentiful here including sunbirds and woodpeckers, while rarer species to look out for include Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Rufous-bellied Shrike-babbler, Vinaceous Rosefinch and Great Parrotbill. Red Panda and Yellow-throated Martin also occur in the hills and are occasionally seen.
Dinner and overnight at Fishtail Lodge.

Day 7: Today, there will be an option to enjoy a full day trekking in the Annapurna Mountains. We will drive to Nayapul, a few miles outside of Pokhara, from where we will start our trek to Birethanti, which is the official entrance point of the Annapurna Conservation Area. Birethanti is a large village with a bakery, banks and even pavement cafes. This is the first leg of the classic Jomsom Trek up the Kali Gandaki valley. The full trek takes nine days and reaches a maximum elevation of 3,800 metres. Our mini trek will take us along the terrace fields, streams and bank of the Modi River, passing through Alder woods along the way. It will be easy-paced and not involve steep slopes but should provide us with some great mountain scenery and the opportunity to enjoy an introduction to one of the great walks of the world. We will have our own trek guide and also porters to assist with our luggage. Beside many of the butterflies seen the previous day, at this time of the year some true Himalayan species will have migrated to the lower foothiils which should provide the opportunity of seeing several new species. A previous group saw the stunning Popinjay near Birethanti, together with Hill Jezebel and Common Nawab. The walk itself will take 4-5 hours with plenty of stops to admire the scenery and we shall have our dinner and stay overnight in a tea house. Those people not wishing to participate in the trek will be able to enjoy a day of relaxation at Fishtail Lodge, enjoying the garden, swimming pool and other facilities meeting up with the rest of the group the following day.

Day 8: After breakfast, we will return to Birethanti along the same route, which will give us the opportunity to watch butterflies in the first few hours of the morning that we may have missed the previous day. After lunch at Birethanti and meeting up with the rest of the group, we will proceed to Chitwan National Park (about 200 kilometres distance, 5 hours) by private coach. As well as really good numbers of butterflies, Chitwan supports over 480 species of birds. The 976 square kilometres of sal forest, water marshes and grassland is home to Rhinoceros, Wild Boar, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, various monkeys, Crocodiles and Bengal Tigers. Poaching mainly for animal parts for Chinese medicine is a growing menace and although around 60 Tigers survive in the park, they tend to lay low during daylight hours and sightings are rare. Check in at the Chitwan Jungle Lodge will be followed by a briefing about the activities and facilities of the national park and dinner.

Day 9:
Following breakfast, we will take a Dugout Canoe ride on the Rapti River bordering the Chitwan National Park to watch birds, butterflies and crocodiles basking on the riverbank. Two species of crocodile occur: the more common Marsh Mugger which is a distant relative of the Australian Saltwater Croc; and the rather bizarre looking Gharial with its elongated snout. Apparently, our word “Mugger” is derived from observations of this crocodile dragging unsuspecting villagers into the depths – so you have been warned! The river is also home to the Gangetic or freshwater dolphin, a very rare species in Nepal, which is completely blind and hunts by using sonar. We will follow our canoe trip with a walk through the deciduous forest and some of the tallest grassland in the world (8m high in places!) returning to our Lodge for lunch. In the afternoon, an Elephant back safari is planned to look for the rare and endangered One-horned Indian Rhino together with several species of deer and wild boar with lots of birds and butterflies to also seek out. Particular targets will be Cerulean, Sergeant, various Sailors, Least Grass Jewel, Sapphire (near water), Yamfly, Clouded Yellow, several Tigers, Psyche, four species of Pansy, Grass Blue and Fritillaries. Rarer birds include Scarlet crested Sunbird, Emerald Dove, Jungle Owlet and Crested Hornbill. We will return to Chitwan Jungle Lodge for dinner and overnight stay.

Day 10: Our final morning in Chitwan will be spent on foot in the Jankauli community forest and along the Dhungre river to seek out more birds and butterflies. After lunch back at the Lodge, we will start our return journey to Kathmandu (185 kilometre drive) by private coach via Mugling where we rejoin the main Prithvi Highway. We will stop for tea at an appropriate place arriving back in Kathmandu early evening. Our final night will be spent at the iconic Kathmandu Guest House (KGH) in the heart of the central Thamel district. This was the first hotel to open in the Thamel and is still the central landmark of the city. Everyone from the Beatles to Ricky Martin and Jeremy Irons have stayed here! It has a convivial and bustling atmosphere with BBC TV in the foyer, a mini Cinema, a sauna and a pleasant rear garden. We shall have a farewell dinner in one of the hotel restaurants before our final overnight in Nepal.

Day 11: After an early morning breakfast at KGH, we will head for the airport for our 10.00 return flight. We arrive back at Heathrow in the evening of the same day at 20.00 hours.


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