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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Bhutan

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING INDIA: All U.S. citizens need a passport valid for at least six months after the date of departure from India, and a multiple entry tourist visa. Visitors must apply for visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country, as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival for U.S. citizens. Citizens of other nations should contact the nearest Indian Consulate for entry requirements.

Evidence of a Yellow Fever vaccination must be shown only if you are arriving within six days after leaving or transiting endemic areas.

ENTERING BHUTAN: The Kingdom of Bhutan requires a passport valid for at six months beyond the date of departure from Bhutan, and a tourist visa. Our Bhutanese agent will apply for a visa on your behalf and it will be issued on our arrival at Paro international airport. The cost of both is already included in the tour price.

BHUTAN AND INDIA COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information for India at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1139.html and for Bhutan at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1068.htm. The CIA World Factbook background notes for India and Bhutan are at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html and at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bt.html, respectively.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following vaccines: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region, and as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.

Malaria: The CDC recommends a malaria preventative. Please consult your physician as to which is best for you.

Note: Chloroquine (brand name Aralen) is not an effective antimalarial drug in the Indian Subcontinent and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region.

Insects: Biting insects are not numerous, but biting Black Flies do occur locally.;: insect repellent will provide adequate protection. Water: Tap water is not safe to drink, but bottled water, soft drinks and beer are widely available.Intestinal Disorders: Intestinal disorders are not uncommon in both India and Bhutan.

Altitude:  Much of our birding will be between 4500 and 8000 feet but we will spend small amounts of time up to 12,000 feet. Our highest overnight stay will be about 10,800 feet and most nights will be between 4500 and 7500 feet. In our experience most acclimatisation problems can be overcome by sitting quietly in, or near, the vehicle and by drinking plenty of fluids.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

Note: Smoking was made illegal in Bhutan in early 2005. However this law was relaxed slightly in 2011 so that visitors can now bring 200 cigarettes in to Bhutan providing that they are for their own use only. This new law is enforced in all public places and applies to both foreign tourists and Bhutanese citizens, and smoking cigarettes is considered a serious offense with penalties including a modest fine and between three and five year in jail!

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

Please note that any health/medical information contained herein is gleaned by WINGS from websites that are dedicated to traveler’s health issues. Advisories and recommendations by agencies such as the CDC can, and do, change frequently. We urge you to consult with your physician, local health department or the CDC for the most up-to-date health advisories for travel to Bhutan. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet site; http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/bhutan

 PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: The tour will have a series of lengthy days and frequent hotel changes, and it can be tiring. In several places the best areas of forest will be some distance away from our hotels, and we will need to leave as early as 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. Our staff will travel ahead of us and set up their cooking equipment; we will often do some bird watching before joining the crew for breakfast. Tables, chairs, plates and cutlery etc. are all provided for these excellent and enjoyable meals. We will usually also have lunch in the field, and once again the crew will normally go ahead of us and set up the tables and chairs at a suitably scenic spot.Most of the birdwatching will be done from the road.

Away from Paro, the capital, Thimpu, and Punakha, the second capital, there is relatively little traffic, and in any case the forests are often so dense that it would be impractical to try venturing into them. We will venture onto forest trails on several occasions - one of these trails is fairly steep and continues for about one and a half miles. Our coach will drop us at the start of the trail and drive around to re-join us at the bottom. The second forest trail is of similar length and again is downhill all the way with the coach waiting for us at the bottom. We will remain out all day and aim to arrive at our next hotel in the late afternoon/early evening.

On many days there will be a break of an hour before dinner. We’ll compile a checklist of the birds we’ve seen just before or just after dinner and then retire early to bed (especially when we’re making an early start the next day).

We anticipate having at least two vehicles with us throughout the tour - one for us and at least one for our Bhutanese ground crew. In this situation we have more flexibility and can offer the option of returning to our hotel early for those who wish.

CLIMATE: Delhi will be very hot, with mid-day temperatures in mid-late April perhaps approaching 40°C (104°F). Lowland Bhutan, i.e. the areas south of Zhemgang and near Geylegphug, will also be warm, perhaps 30-32°C (86-90°F) if the weather is clear. Since much of the remainder of the tour is spent at moderate altitude, it will be noticeably cooler for the bulk of our trip. Temperatures on the higher passes may drop to just below freezing, and there may be a few patches of snow or ice lingering in shaded roadside gullies. It is unlikely to snow during the tour. Rain is possible anywhere. 

ACCOMMODATION: We will be staying in moderate or good quality accommodation. Our hotels or guesthouses will always be among the best that are available, and although the rooms will always be clean and fairly well maintained, Bhutan is a third-world country and that hotel facilities are below western standards . Few tourists visit sites away from western Bhutan and the tourist infrastructure in the east is still in its infancy.

Camping: Partly because the accommodation in eastern Bhutan is somewhat basic, and partly in order to avoid long drives and to be near the best bird watching, we will camp at three or four sites spending a total of six nights under canvas. We will use modern, two-man tents. These are spacious, decent quality walk-in tents, each with sown-in ground-sheets, a fly-sheet and a door at either end. They measure about 10’ long and 8’ wide and are about 7’ high down the central ridge. Our ground agents will erect the tents for us. Each double tent will be provided with two comfortable camp beds, each with a mattress and a couple of thick blankets or quilts. Single tents are exactly the same except that only one bed will be provided. One or possibly two latrine tents are also provided. We will have a separate meal tent complete with tables and chairs . All of our camps will also have an enclosed shower tent that is approximately 7’ tall and 4’ square. Our camp staff will provide large buckets of hot water and a ladle. This ‘shower tent’ might not be available for our one night at Sengor (we’ve found that it’s a little too cold there for most people to be interested in having a shower); instead bowls of hot water for washing will be provided.

FOOD: The food will, for the most part, be very good. We will have a few hotel breakfasts and most of the others will be cooked for us in the field by our ground staff. The meals that our ground crew provide when we are camping are amazing and are usually the tastiest of the entire tour. Field breakfasts are almost invariably tastier than those provided by any of the hotels, consisting of porridge or cornflakes, followed by either scrambled, fried or poached eggs or omelettes, often with baked beans or sausages. There are also ample supplies of toast and jam and tea and coffee. As always in Bhutan, the quantities of food provided will be vast. Lunches will usually be eaten in the field and will frequently be a meal cooked for us on site. These are often lighter than our breakfast with a wide variety of soups, biscuits, bread and cheeses being offered over the course of the tour. All evening meals will be in our hotels (usually hot buffets) except when camping, where our camp staff will cook for us. Up to ten different dishes have been provided at dinner, and there’s always more than enough!

INTERNET ACCESS AND MOBILE PHONES: The hotel that we will use (briefly) in Delhi at the start and end of the tour has free wireless internet. The only other hotels on the tour loop that offer wireless internet access are the ones in Punakha, Trongsa, Jakar (Bumthang), Gelephu and. Gauhati. Note however that the service in many of these places is occasionally, or perhaps even frequently, not working and that even when it is up and running connection speeds are usually slower than what many of us are used to at home.An increasing number of foreign mobile phone operators are now forming alliances with one or other of the two Bhutanese mobile phone companies and a modest number of foreign mobile phones can be used in Bhutan. If this is important to you we recommend that you contact you mobile phone company to see whether your devise will be usable in Bhutan before the trip.

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation between sites is by coach in both Delhi and in Bhutan. The leader will arrange a seating rotation. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.Our internal flights from Delhi to Paro are with Druk Air, Bhutan’s national airline, while our flight back to Delhi from Gauhati in Assam is with a good quality Indian airline. Both of these carriers’ planes are very modern, and their safety record is excellent.

Updated: July 2014