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Namdapha Tiger Reserve and Dibru Saikhowa Birding Tour Trip Report

North-East the scantily explored region of India, not just by the visitors from abroad, but by fellow Indians too. Keeping this in mind we have designed special nature and wildlife trips at Asian Adventures, to get you a taste of the untouched beauty. One such trip that I guide is the 12-day-long Namdapha Tiger Reserve and Dibru Saikhowa Birding Tour in Arunachal Pradesh.

On day one nature lovers arrive at the Delhi International Airport where the Asian Adventures local team attends to them and looks after their overnight stay.

The next day is the day when I welcome them at the Mohanbari Airport at Dibrugarh. If the flight is on time (which depends on the weather at times) after settling their luggage at the chosen accommodation, I guide their convoy to the Bherjan-Borjan-Padumoni Wildlife Sanctuary, Tinsukia. Not many know about this quaint Sanctuary and thus it is among the best-conserved wildlife reserves in India. Actually, it consists of 3 separate forests namely Bherjan, Borjan, and Padumoni. And we try to cover the safer zones at one of them – the Bherjan. Dotted with the lush green vegetation, Bherjan is home to Capped Langur, Rhesus Monkey, Gibbon, Leopard, Hare, Deer, Panther, etc. Giant Flying Squirrels are a delight to watch alongwith of lots and lots of birds!  84 species of birds have been found including Osprey, Kingfisher, Indian Pied Hornbill, Lineated Barbet, Woodpecker, Drongo, Common Mynah, Bulbul, Magpie Robin, Wagtail and some varieties of woodland birds. Many lowland birds of the Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests of Assam, of which only fragments are left, are found here. The Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris and the Near Threatened Great Pied Hornbill Buceros bicornis are occasional visitors to Bherjan. Towards evening we return to the lodging place and call it a day early, to start the next day at dawn.

On the third day of the trip, right at dawn, with our breakfast packed, I guide to convoy to “Namdapha Tiger Reserve” where we spend four full days in the jungles surrounding the campsite at Deban Bangalow. The three days that the birders spend here are usually spent exploring different regions of this wildlife reserve – like the Burma Nallah Road, the Noah Dhining river, we trek 4-5 hours during this trip each day to Haldibari, Hornbill, Bulbulia and Rani Jheel. Thus, it presents you the best of all regions of the forest which throws open a plethora of opportunities to have a glimpse of the Tiger as well as some 50 species of other wild animals and 450 plus species of birds. For instance, the park has a rich diversity of both flora and fauna it’s a home of four big Cat namely Tiger, Leopard, and Clouded Leopard and even the Snow Leopard.  A number of primate species are seen in the park, such as Assamese macaque, pig-tailed macaque, stump-tailed macaque and number of the distinctive Hoolock Gibbons (Hylobates Hoolock), highly endangered and only ‘ape’ species found in India dwells in this impenetrable virgin forest. The park consists of about 453 species of bird such as Hornbills, wren-babblers, laughing thrushes, parrotbills shrike babblers and scimitar babblers. Endangered species include the Rufous-necked Hornbill, Green Cochoa, Purple Cochoa, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-throated Hill-partridge, Ruddy Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, eagle, Eurasian, Pied Falconet, White-winged Wood Duck, Himalayan Wood-owl, etc. while the days are spent clicking the amazing av-fauna, the evenings are spent by the bonfire, digging your fingers into choicest Arunachali cuisines done to your taste – Dung Po, Kholam, Wungwut Ngam, Momos, Roasted Pork and Pasa. And ofcourse my real-life jungle tales! Time just flies – three days pass off in a jiffy at this mystically mysterious region which throws open a different species every time I take a tour of the region. On day seven I take the birders for a half-day long finale birding and wildlife tour to the Motijeel. And after this, we head back to Tinsukia for an overnight stay at a designated cosy hotel.

Day 08 is about driving from Tinsukia to Roing. On way, we take several stops for birding as we proceed to the Saikhowa Ghat, where we need to ferry our jeep across the Lohit River. The journey will take you through splendid tea gardens. Roing is in the plains close to the Lohit River. Many Himalayan foothill species can be found in the Roing area. Key birds include Black Eagle, White-browed Piculet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-throated Bulbul, Daurian Redstart, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spot-throated Babbler, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Sultan Tit, numerous Scimitar Babblers, Laughing Thrushes, Shrike-babblers, Fulvettas and Yuhinas are found in the region. And after a day long fun, I retreat the birders back to their dens at Rohing itself, from where have to move to our next destination, day after at 3AM!

Yes, day nine starts at 3:30am as the SUN rises early and sets early in this far East corner of India. You rise to the calls of Hoolock

Gibbons and we head to MYODIA, via main road to Hunli and beyond where the habitat is so pristine, and a forest so dense, and with the forest-edges. This drive is about four to five hours with several halts for en-route birding. (Please note that the tour takes a three-day stay as a flexible three nights trip between Mayodia and Roing. Hunli is not covered by us for birding circuits and no tour

of ours ventures there). After an early lunch, I take the nature loves to explore the region around their jungle cottages. Mayodia is rocky with a certain cold barrenness about it. The habitat comprises of temperate forests. Strangely there is a lack of conifer growth even at this height and extensive bamboo brakes dominate the roadside vegetation.

Key species that are found at Myodia is the beautiful Sclater’s Monal. It is also one of the few places where the Blyth’s Tragopan is regularly encountered. Many other rarely observed species like Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Ward’s Trogon, Grey-sided, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis etc can be found here.

After exploring the region for three days, on day 12 we head back from Roing to Tinsukia. But not before an early morning birding around the cottages and extensive birding along the way. The Hoolocks here are India’s only ape, restricted to the Northeast and are highly endangered. And a sight throws the tourists in amazement. The night stay is at Tinsukia.

Day 13 is about visiting the Dibru Saikhowa Sanctuary, which is just one km away from the place of stay. Thus, I guide the tourist on a trek to the place. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is one of the largest Salix swamp forest of north-east India. Permission is required for entry into the park. Night halt and picnicking inside the Park is not allowed. Sprawling over an area of 340 sq. km, and is famous for Feral Horses and the White Winged Wood Duck. Some rare and endangered animals of this sanctuary are Hoolock gibbon, capped langur, slow loris, water buffalo, tiger, elephant, gangetic river dolphin etc. Bird-life consists of Spot-billed pelican, White bellied heron, Pallah’s fishing eagle, Pale capped pigeon, Swamp francolin etc. and migratory birds like Geyleg goose, Brahmini duck, Bar-headed goose, Pelican, Black stork etc. Dibru-Saikhowa is also rich in herpetofauna and is the home to 8 species of snakes, 2 species of Monitor Lizards and 8 species of turtle. Owing to the rich and diverse wildlife of this national park, it is one of the favorite destinations among nature lovers. Thus an extensive tour of this majestic park wraps our two week trip to Arunachal.

Day 14 is about bidding adieu to the new friends I have made. About tight hugs and lots of nostalgia. And also about getting excited for a new bacth of toursists that will join me next. So when are you coming?