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Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information253This exciting holiday focuses on therich wildlife of the eastern Himalayaand, in particular, a quest to trackdown and observe the elusive Red Panda- an iconic mammal, sought after bymany but seen by very few. In an attemptto achieve our goal, we focus on the lastremaining areas of temperate oak-rhododendron forest in the far east ofNepal. Here, in the Himalayan foothills, notfar from the Indian hill-station of Darjeelingand the shadows of Kanchenjunga (theworld's third highest mountain), RedPandas are not uncommon. Until recently,however, they were rarely seen. Now,thanks to the work of the Nepalesescientists who have been tracking andresearching the species in this area withthe help of local forest guards, we at lasthave a chance of observing the RedPanda in the wild.In fact, these forests are well known toNaturetrek staff, tour leaders and someclients, as we have explored themregularly over the past 30 years or so,looking for their rare birds - in particularthose east Himalayan specialities notfound elsewhere in Nepal. Such aviangems as Bay Woodpecker, Large Niltava,Yellow-cheeked Tit, Hill Prinia, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Slender-billed ScimitarBabbler, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler,Rufous-capped Babbler, Cutia, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Rusty-fronted andHoary-throated Barwing, Golden-breastedFulvetta, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Brown andBlack-throated Parrotbill, Maroon-backedAccentor and eight species of laughing-thrush have been among our targetspecies in the past, and we will look forsuch special species again on this tour.To reach the area chosen for our RedPanda quest, we must fly first toKathmandu, and onward to Bhadrapur inthe fertile lowlands of east Nepal. Fromhere we will take a long but scenic drive,on a metalled road, up into the pleasantgreen hills around Ilam. This small town,set amongst terraced hills and teagardens, is the centre for tea production inthe country - Nepal's Darjeeling. Fromhere we complete our journey into the hillsusing the dirt road to Dobate, a tinySherpa village where we will set up atented base-camp for a 3-night stay. Enroute we will pass heavily cultivatedterraced fields which rise steeply, likesteps, for thousands of feet above theshady river valleys, watered by tumblingstreams whose deep hillside ravinesharbour remnant subtropical vegetationand towering bamboos, the home ofscimitar babblers, sibias, piculets, minlasand other exotic birds.It is in the higher temperate forestsbetween Dobate and Hange Tham,however, that we will search for RedPandas. This is a marvellous region ofdense, damp forest, where oaks,rhododendrons and magnolias, decoratedwith mosses, lichens and epiphyticorchids, support an outstanding range ofHimalayan birds and mammals. Here, wewill use the local forest trails to accessknown roosts and feeding areas in thecompany of the local forest guards whohave been monitoring the species inassociation with the Red Panda Network(RPN). We will spend two days on foot,from our tented base camp at Dobate,before trekking on for a day to HangeTham. There we will set up a second basecamp for two nights to allow us to explorethe similarly excellent forest above thissecond Sherpa village.The Red Panda (also known as the FireFox or Lesser Panda), like its relative theGiant Panda, also eats bamboo, althoughnot exclusively. It is a solitary animal and,although found in China, India, Burma(Myanmar) and Bhutan, as well as Nepal,relatively little is known about its behaviourand distribution owing to its preference forremote mountain forests lying between 2,200 and 4,800 metres (7,200 and 15,700feet) in altitude. In particular, the speciesfavours mixed deciduous and coniferforest with abundant old trees and adense understorey of bamboo. Thathabitat is found here, and it is favouredalso by such other mammals as Leopard,Leopard Cat, Serow, Large Indian Civet,Yellow-throated Marten and HimalayanOrange-bellied Squirrel, a sighting of anyone of which must be considered a bonus.We conclude our visit to the area with afinal night in Ilam, before driving toBhadrapur for a flight to Kathmandu thenLondon. However, for those wishing toextend their holiday, we offer an extensionto Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, one ofAsia's finest wetlands. Here, a remnantpopulation of wild Water Buffalo may beseen, as well as such other mammals asGanges River Dolphin, Jungle Cat, GoldenJackal, and even the endangered FishingCat, amongst others. Our base, thedelightful and tranquil Koshi Camp, is alsoa birder's paradise. Up to 160 bird speciesmay be seen in a single day; amongstthem such local specialities as Red-necked Falcon, Striated Grassbird and theendangered Swamp Francolin and BengalFlorican. Indian Courser, Small Pratincole,Pallas's Gull, Black-bellied Tern, SiberianRubythroat and Smoky Warbler will beamongst other target species, whilst theBlack, Cinnamon and Yellow Bitternsresident at Koshi Camp are always acrowd pleaser! A full day on PhulchowkiMountain (a top site for birds, flowers andmountain views), from Kathmandu, is alsoincluded in this extension.Nepal - In Search of the Red PandaA unique 10-day wildlife adventure in search of the elusive Red Panda, plus other mammals andbirds, in the temperate oak and rhododendron forests of eastern Nepal's Himalayan foothills. Sunday 25th November - Tuesday 4th December 2012 Cost: £2,695Sunday 14th April - Tuesday 23rd April 2013 Cost: £2,695Sunday 24th November - Tuesday 3rd December 2013 Cost: £2,695Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve extension available on all tours Cost: £595TIBETTIBETINDIAINDIAINDIADHAULAGIRIGHOREPANIPOKHARACHITWANNATIONAL PARKKATHMANDULANGTANGNATIONALPARKANNAPURNACONSERVATIONAREASHEOPURI WILDLIFERESERVENEPALLUKLASAGARMATHA (EVEREST)NATIONAL PARKMt EVERESTLHOTSEMAKALUKANCHENJUNGAKOSHI CAMPBIRATNAGARBHADRAPURILAMPHULCHOWKIKOSHI TAPPUWILDLIFE RESERVEANNAPURNA I(EXTENSION)Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Kathmandu.Day 3Fly Bhadrapur; driveDobate.Day 4/5Dobate.Day 6/7Hange Tham.Day 8Ilam.Day 9Drive Bhadrapur; flyKathmandu.Day 10Fly London.Koshi extensionDay 9/12Koshi Tappu WildlifeReserve.Day 13 Fly Kathmandu.Day 14Phulchowki Mountain,Kathmandu.Day 15Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotel inKathmandu (with en suite facilities).Fully serviced camping in Dobateand Hange Tham. Basic hotel inIlam. Koshi Camp is a comfortabletented camp with shared facilities.FoodIncluded in the price, except fordinners in Kathmandu. Allow £30.Grading/TrekkingGrade B. This is a wildlifeadventure to a tourist-free regionwhere facilities are adequate butsimple. The holiday also includesfour days of gentle to moderatewalking/trekking in the foothills.FocusRed Pandas, other mammals andbirds.LeaderSuchit Basnet or Shambhu Ghimire,plus local guides.Single room/tentsupplement£295 (extension: £95).Web quick search:NPL17 DobateRed Panda

254Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryNowhere in the world is the mountainscenery as magnificent as in theEverest National Park. Nowhere elsecan the mere walker feel such a part ofsuch great mountains. Our trek on thisholiday aims at quality not quantity; it isone of superlatives. There may not be thevariety of scenery and wildlife that the KaliGandaki Valley offers but what there is is asspectacular as any in the great Himalayanchain. The brilliantly coloured HimalayanMonal, Nepal's national bird, the very tameand very noisy Tibetan Snowcock, and thatshaggy brown goat, the Himalayan Tahr,both match and complement this mostgrandiose of mountain scenery.We have chosen this season to visit thepark for two reasons. Firstly, this is thebest time to see the floweringrhododendrons and other plants of thepark, as well as the breeding birds andmammals which are so active in thespring. Secondly, the region is relativelyfree of the tourist crowds that flood thepark each autumn in order to capitalise onthe fine weather for optimum mountainviews. These visitors are sadly unaware ofnature's superb spectacle available eachspring, when the mountains are still happyto present themselves!We fly from Kathmandu by Twin Otter toLukla, a large village at 2,740 metres, in theheart of Sherpa country. For the first twodays we walk very slowly up the DudhKoshi Valley in order to adjust to the highaltitude, and enjoy the common Himalayanbirds and plants of field and forest. AtNamche Bazaar, the large market town ofthe Solu Khumbu, the drama of this greatmountain area begins to unfold. We havetime to visit the park's museum which holdsa mine of local information. Whilst duringan acclimatisation day here, we are able toclimb high above Namche and explore thedwarf juniper and rhododendron forests.Here, and in the fields around the sprawlingSherpa capital Khumjung, we find our firsthigh-altitude specialities: Snow Pigeons,Himalayan Monals and, if we are lucky, therare Musk Deer.A wonderful morning's walk, dominated byour first real views of Everest and Lhotse,takes us to Thyangboche, a small clusterof stone houses perched upon a high spur.Surrounded by rhododendron forests andthe highest mountains, many have claimedthis to be the most beautiful place onEarth. The protection afforded to the localwildlife for so many years by the monks ofThyangboche monastery has made bothbirds and animals ridiculously tame. Thus,this is the ideal spot to photograph andget to know these beautiful mountainspecies-pheasants, thrushes, bluetails,rosefinches and grosbeaks -and anotherexcuse for an acclimatisation day!Our journey now takes us, via thedelightful village of Upper Pangboche(whose old monastery houses the driedhand and scalp reputed to have belongedto a yeti!) into a high and wild valley. Aswe ascend, only yak herders' summersettlements decorate the high pasturesand stony river valleys, and massive snowypeaks loom all around us: Ama Dablam,Tamserku, Kangtaiga, Taweche, Everestand Lhotse. From here we walk slowly toour high point, the beautiful Gokyo Lakes.Even at 4,570 metres we find a variety ofducks on these lakes, and in theflower-filled meadows and rocky hillsidesaround them Red-breasted Rosefinches,Himalayan Rubythroats, TibetanSnowcocks and many other uplandbreeding birds are to be found. Migrantbirds, passing through the Himalaya ontheir way north to Siberian breedinggrounds are also regularly found besidethe lakes. We will spend two nights atGokyo, in order to make the most of theinteresting flora and fauna of the area, andto allow time for the ascent of Kala Pattar,a walkable 5,180-metre peak that offerssplendid views onto the famoussouth-west face of Everest, as well as ofMakalu, Lhotse, Cho-oyu and theenormous Ngozumpa Glacier.As we return slowly via high yak pastures toNamche Bazaar, we will see plenty ofHimalayan Tahr, and birds such as SnowPartridges, accentors, Mountain Finchesand the startlingly beautiful BloodPheasants and Himalayan Monals. FromNamche we return to Lukla and take areturn flight to Kathmandu. There we spenda day exploring the forests of Phulchowki,the highest peak of the Kathmandu Valley,and a day sightseeing around the city. Avisit to the lowland grasslands, Sal forestsand dense riverine jungle of ChitwanNational Park is recommended as an idealcomplement to this holiday, either before orafter the trek, and can easily be arrangedfor you. Chitwan is very hot at this time ofyear but it is a good time to see some ofthe larger mammals, including Tiger, Gaur(wild bison), Sloth Bear and IndianRhinoceros, and the exciting birdlife isaugmented by the arrival of many summervisitors from southern India which breed inthe park. Mount Everest & theGokyo Lakes of NepalA 22-day holiday (with a 15-day trek) to enjoy the breeding birds and spring flowers of the Everest National Park, plus birdwatching and sightseeing in the Kathmandu Valley.Friday 3rd May - Friday 24th May Cost: £3,995 Extension to Chitwan or Koshi available on request.Outline itinerary Day 1Depart London. Day 2/3Kathmandu. Day 4/18Trekking. Day 19Return to Kathmandu. Day 20/21Kathmandu. Day 22Fly London.AccommodationFully serviced camping on trek, anda comfortable hotel in Kathmandu,with private facilities.FoodIncluded in the price, except forlunches and dinners in Kathmandu.Allow £45.TrekkingGrade B/C. Moderate. Between2,740 and 5,180 metres.FocusBirds, plants and mammals.LeaderHathan Choudhary or ShambhuGhimire.Single room supplement£195. Single tent supplement£195. ExtensionsAvailable on request in Nepal, Indiaand Bhutan. Web quick search:NPL02TIBETTIBETINDIAINDIAINDIADHAULAGIRIGHOREPANIPOKHARACHITWANNATIONAL PARKKATHMANDULANGTANGNATIONALPARKANNAPURNACONSERVATIONAREALUKLANEPALSAGARMATHA (EVEREST)NATIONAL PARKMt EVERESTLHOTSEMAKALUKANCHENJUNGAKOSHI CAMPBIRATNAGARPHULCHOWKIKOSHI TAPPUWILDLIFERESERVEANNAPURNA IGokyo LakeHimalayan Monal