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NE India. Eaglesnest and Singalila NP. (2 Viewers)


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N.E. India Eaglesnest (Part 1) and Singalila (Part 2) Notes from a trip in search of Blyth’s and Satyr Tragopans


Having returned home from a trip to NE India I wish to share my experience with anyone/group who may wish to tackle this area independently. I feel that I can assist future independent traveller's the most by sharing my experiences and offering advice on the logistics which make visiting this region more taxing than most.

I wished to see two Palearctic birds (Tragopans). The two sites I chose were Eaglesnest (Arunchal Pradesh) and Singalila NP (West Bengal). Having not travelled to India since 1973 and travelling alone it was to be a challenge.

I travelled 21st march returning 19th April. The rainy season had already started and I lost valuable birding at Nameri and Mandala.The rains increase throughout May and the National parks are closed from June onwards. For tragopans March is perfect but some birds e.g. Purple cochoa may not arrive until later into April. So some of the big tour groups travel 2nd half of April into May to maximise the variety of birds and obtain a large list.


I travelled from Durham Tees airport UK to Mumbai rtn. With KLM. (£699 inc add-ons) From Mumbai I travelled to Guwahati with Indigo (£111 ).
I later flew from Dibrugargh to Bagdogra (West Bengal)Vistaria airlines (£55). The route was completed with a flight from Bagdogra (Indigo £125) back to Mumbai for the return leg.

Flight experience
I wish I had travelled outward to Kolkata and not Mumbai. The layover in Mumbai followed by another 3.5hr flight made the outward journey seem very long.
I would recommend flying into Kolkata and then fly direct to Tezpur. Spicejet fly daily (1hr flight £35+ single).
The significance of flying direct to Tezpur becomes apparent when undertaking the drive from Guwahati airport to Nameri. This drive took 5.5hrs along a very busy highway mainly through built up areas. It was really unpleasant and very tiring. From Tezpur it’s about 40min to Nameri on a very good highway. (If you wish to see Greater Adjutant at Garbhanga then you must fly into or leave via Guwahati)
I booked a flexi ticket with Vistaria Airlines to fly from Dibrugargh to Bagdogra (£64) but I had given myself a week to search for Blyth’s Tragopan had I been unsuccessful at Eaglesnest. So I changed my plans and on arrival in Dibrugarh I changed my flight bringing it forward a week. This proved simple and was carried out by;
Khowala Travel agency ( [email protected] Tel +91 9435033148,)in Dibrugarh.
I had to cancel the flight I was booked on and make a new booking. Surprisingly the new flight on the next day was (£55) a little cheaper than the original £64, because it was not flexi and I was refunded the full amount of my original booking which was confirmed by email immediately . (Having come out ahead I had a smile all day). The Vistaria flight was on a new plane and was nearly empty,it even took off 15min early.

Arunchal Pradesh permit
Foreigners require a PAP (Protected Area Permit for Arunchal Pradesh)

This can be obtained online e-FRRO Home
Whilst an agency will obtain this for you, it is still necessary to download, complete the forms, and submit passport and visa copies online to the agent, so, just as easy to send them direct. You must allow min 2 weeks , I would recommend 4 weeks in case of errors etc.

I was travelling alone and discovered that PAP’s are only given to groups of 2 or more, they are not issued to single travellers. I found I had to book with a travel agent who had a number of foreign travellers entering Arunchal Pradesh and I was incorporated into a group permit after which I was accompanied at all times by my driver.

Once issued the permit is valid for 30 days from the date of entry and you are allowed to exit and re-enter so I could have gone to Mishmi hills on the same permit but you must state the areas you intend to visit in your application whether you end up going to all the places or not.

Transport is a necessity.
I booked a tour with the travel agent who was to arrange the PAP for me. I was charged 70000 INR or £668. This was for a 10 day trip and included a 4x4 car with driver and including the driver’s accommodation and food and the PAP. It also included my accommodation for 2 days at Nameri and 2 days at Mandala but not my accommodation at Eaglesnest.

My Itinerary

  1. Arrive Guwahati. Collected from airport and taken to Nameri by taxi. (5.5hr drive)
  2. Nameri
  3. Nameri to Mandala Top (6hr drive)
  4. Mandala Top
  5. Mandala to Lama camp.( Birding enroute arrived mid afternoon)
  6. Lama camp
  7. Bompu camp
  8. Bompu camp
  9. Bompu camp
  10. Bompu to Bokakagat (Kaziranga) (8hr drive)

This trip was becoming very expensive so I am a little embarrassed therefore, to offer advice to independent traveller’s who like me generally wish to travel on a budget. I should point out that I was in double occupancy rooms and a 5 seat vehicle. A couple travelling together would therefore share this cost.
I booked with Arkaya holidays based in Tezpur [email protected]
call & whatsapp: +91- 9678511955
This was not the cheapest quote, but it all went smoothly, the bookings were made and vehicles turned up at the airport and Nameri as promised.
I was also impressed with Silverlines Travel based in Guwahati. [email protected] Contact Niren Bora +91 9954497737
Silverlines was cheaper but the only reason I opted for Arkaya was because of the problems with a PAP and travelling as a single, Manjil at Arkaya seemed to be more sure of getting this. Both will obtain normal PAP’s on request.

Vehicles Retrospective
The vehicle was a Mahindra Bolero and was perfectly adequate however the driver was new to Eaglesnest and inexperienced with elephants.
Our first encounter happened when I jumped out of the vehicle to inspect a small patch of bamboo only to hear elephants just inside the bamboo so we made a quick getaway. On our first day at Bompu I decided to travel to Sunderview but when driving along a steep hillside we just turned a corner,to be confronted by a large bull elephant just 30m ahead and coming our way. It dropped its head as if to counter our advance but instead the driver was quick to go into reverse, and back down the narrow path as quick as he could. After about 500m we found somewhere to turn around but within no time the elephant was nearly at the car (It was not chasing us but clearly on a mission to get somewhere and we were in its way, and, they walk very quickly). We gave up and returned to Bompu for breakfast before starting out again. The following day there were 4 elephants not far from Bompu. Ordinarily an experienced driver would find somewhere to pull off the track and allow the elephants to pass and this should not interfere with the day’s birding ( not recommended when a large bull elephant is encountered, it’s best to put some distance between you and the elephant). The outcome of our elephant experiences was to make the driver very nervous about driving in the forest, he was keen not to travel far and rather reluctant to accommodate my birding choices.
It follows that I would advise getting a car with a driver who is experienced in driving in Eaglesnest.

I did not have the benefit of a birdguide but I would recommend one. Having a birdguide who works in Eaglesnest and very familiar with the reserve, will also mean that even if the driver is inexperienced then the guide will know how to behave and would communicate this to the driver. Drivers are unlikely to speak much English.
Guides are stationed at Ramalingam close to the entrance gate. (Hiring a local guide supports the local economy)

I should add that when I visited the track for Bugun Liocichla,alone, on the first day I was told by a group of Indian birders that I really must have a guide because of the threat of Elephants, they were most insistant. On reflection I thought why? Surely the guide is only going to coordinate the groups actions by shouting Run! Which as it happens I am most certainly going to be the slowest, and therefore the one who gets trampled on anyway.

Guides and accommodation in Eaglesnest can be booked directly with
Indi Glow +91 8729915566 [email protected]

Guides charge 3500INR a day

Accommodation at Eaglesnest is in large tents with two bunk beds.
Lama camp costs 3500INR (INR =Indian rupees £1 = 104INR) a night and Bompu 4500INR a night. However for a couple sharing, Bompu is 6000INR and Lama 6000INR. Which equates to 3000INR per person.
Food (and plenty of it on request) is included in the price.

Stayed at Elephant Paradise highly recommended and only 400m from park entrance.
Whats app +91 8721803907 or +91 80111 59372. [email protected] Double room for 2 people 3000INR inc breakfast. Dinner 500INR pp.
( Good views of Large tailed Nightjars in fields just opposite the entrance to Elephant Paradise).

If travelling into Tezpur airport, then it will be simple to arrange a taxi to take you direct to Nameri, the cost should be no more than 1000-1500INR. If you book your stay at Elephant Paradise in advance then you can start your tour from Nameri. This will save having to pay the day rate for a car and driver for 1 or 2 days? That would be a minimum of 5500INR per day.

To enter Nameri NP you must first go to the Forest office (250m from the entrance gate) On paying a fee you will be allowed to cross the river and walk along a track accompanied by an armed guard. The visits begin 6.00am for 3 hrs and 13.30 for 3 hrs but these timings could be flexible.

For Foreigner Tourist:

  • Forest entry fee per person = INR 500.00
  • Boat crossing fee per person = INR 40.00
  • Forest guard fee = INR 100.00
  • Still Camera = INR 50.00
  • Video Camera = INR 1000.00
* Prices exclusive of Taxes.

My visit was hampered by frequent violent thunderstorms making it impossible to visit the park.

Nameri to Mandala
There are 2 open picnic areas alongside the river which you pass a few kilometers before Bhalukpong (small pratincole and river lapwing). On reaching Bhalukpong you cross the border into Arunchal Pradesh. You need to provide photocopies of your passport, visa and PAP. You should bring some copies with you but the visa they want is the one stamped in your passport which you receive at Indian Immigration and not your evisa which you receive online. Luckily there is an office which provides photocopies just next door to where you have your PAP checked. There is an ATM (SBI or state bank of india) just 50m on the left beyond the border.

Mandala top
Chose to stay at Mandala Top. yutso homestay Tel +91 7641040011 or +91 8415013935.

This homestay is very basic and is very small so can accommodate only maybe 3 or 4 persons? Although there was a small homestay advertising about 100m away.
See my comments on staying at homestays in Part 2.

There is a birding lodge on the way up from Dirang but which is now surrounded by a large army camp.

My main target was Blanford’s Rosefinch. This bird can also be found along the route to Sela Pass but seemingly later in spring. On reaching Mandala the upper reaches were covered in mist and patches of snow still lay around, it was freezing. (I was grateful I had not planned to visit Sela pass where presumably the weather would be even more dire at the higher altitude this early in the season) Travelling up from Dirang there were a number of logging camps inc. the army camp and finally a logging camp at the top itself. Cows were being grazed in what was left of the woodlands near the top, coupled with the weather conditions, birding was going to be challenging.

Starting 05.30 next morning and before I can walk out of the small village there is a Blue- capped Rock thrush on the roadside. Plain mountain finch 10-12. Rusty-flanked treecreeper. Himalayan white browed rosefinch.Himalayan shortwing.White collared blackbird.Black francolin.Streak-throated barwing.Yellow-billed magpie etc. No Blanford’s Rosefinch. Neither did I even hear a Temminck’s Tragopan.

Lama camp
I gather what information I can on the location of Blyth’s Tragopan. The consensus is that the best site is found 1km back down the road where there is a valley containing a stream which crosses beneath the road. I walk to the spot at first light, hopeful of sighting a bird on the roadside. Two separate birds do later call from the hillside forest, but quite distant and the forest is impenetrable in addition to the fact that visitors are warned not to wonder into the forest because of the risk of elephant encounters. I spend a lot of time in the area not sure what I was hoping for,perhaps a bird crossing the road or one calling close by. Late afternoon/evening dressed in my camouflage I was back at the site watching the area of the road alongside the valley at a spot where someone had reported seeing a bird a few days earlier from a car. I knew I had a hopeless strategy after all, the vast majority of sightings are from vehicles alongside the track by people who have just got lucky.
But I had come especially to see this bird, could I just rely on luck, and spend my time early morning driving up and down, in likely habitat?

Bompu camp
Arrive lunchtime only to hear a tragopan calling from the hillside not far from camp,nevertheless once again quite distant. My enquiries identify that an area about 500m downside from Bompu has produced some recent sightings ( locally the camp personnel refer to the track leading back towards Lama as the upside and the track leading to Khellong the downside).
I walk to the area to recce, find a single birder and guide who have just seen a bird in a tree by the track but which has been disturbed. I later spend some time in the evening by the track watching quietly with no luck.
I had heard from Lama that a recommended site is found between 3-5km upside from Bompu. This was confirmed at Bompu. The decision was to travel this area and then go on to Sunderview (1hr drive) to bird. Bikram who was managing Bompu camp and also acted as a guide, volunteered to join me. It became clear to me that he was concerned that I would be alone even though the car would be nearby. Of course the plan fell apart when we encountered a bull elephant.
I spent my time taking excursions out, mainly downside and also walking from Bompu . Regardless of the birds I was finding, my chances of seeing Blyth’s were looking bleak
On my second evening a birder at the camp reported seeing a tragopan in the bamboo on the hillside behind the camp. I was determined to give this a shot and early next morning I was joined by Biikram. We climbed up through the tall bamboo and soon came out at a ridge. Just one female call was played and almost immediately a male tragopan walked into view.

[ Find the path which leaves the camp from behind the kitchens,the path leads into bamboo. After only about 50m the path branches, just look for a narrow path leading off to the left and clearly going uphill, Just follow this for about 10min. The bamboo is thick so it would be difficult to stray off this route. You will arrive at a ridge/flattish area with smaller more open bamboo]

Sikkim wedge billed babbler. This bird was found upside, not far from Bompu,only a short walk, but I will not disclose the exact location due to the possibility of too much playback.

Chestnut throated partridge. This bird was heard singing very close to the track during the evening (6.00-6.30pm) It was tantalisingly close and did not respond to playback. The site was only 300m downside from Bompu. The next day Bikram and myself were passing the spot and heard movement. There were 2 birds feeding among the dry leaf litter and gave great views, only 2m from the track but in the same spot where the bird had been singing.

Rufous necked hornbill. This bird was seen from a distance flying above the tree canopy 4-5km downside.

Generally I found the birding very slow at times. Of course you always anticipate something special turning up. Birdlists are found on ebird so I have omitted my own which does not compare favourably, mainly because I was a single observer and spent a lot of effort seeking the tragopan. I failed to find Beautiful Nuthatch and Ward’s Trogon unfortunately.

Bompu to Kaziranga
I had planned to leave Eaglesnest via Khellong and Diomara. In the event I was informed that the route is not allowed! apparently there has been some political unrest/problems so the route is closed. This meant that we had to backtrack to Lama. This is a 2hr drive which meant that I should have planned to stay Bompu first and end in Lama. It turned the journey into an 8hr marathon not least because I had planned to visit Kaziranga via the Eastern gate the most distant. So the place I headed for, was Bokakhat.
Bokakhat is only a small town. I had booked a homestay but I cannot recommend it. However there were noticeable hotels on the main street. This was opposite the bus station Hotel Kaziranga Continental. [email protected]. (2000INR double)
I had booked 2 nights but following arrival there was a severe thunderstorm. I was told that the park would be likely closed the next day if the tracks are impassable. This seemed to be reminiscent of Nameri and I was cursing my luck. In the morning the skies were clear so the homestay manager phoned the reserve reception and they sent a jeep for me. You can get a 3hr morning visit or 3hr afternoon visit. The cost is 2700 INR for a whole jeep inc. pick-up. There is also 1100 INR entry fee inc. extras (this depends on your photographic equipment you even pay separately for a tripod) Payment for entry must be made by card at reception. The entrance gate is about 4-5km from Bokakhat.
I had chosen this gate because I wanted to escape the crowds, which enter the central gate. Also I wanted to see waterbirds and raptors and it did not disappoint. The previous night’s storm had taken its toll of trees, and there were at least 6 places where trees were blocking the track, having been struck by lightning. Workers who were cutting up the trees had already cleared a path around them. We met no more than about 12-15 other jeeps but occasionally we could see one parked up and partly hidden and were clearly watching for tigers. The driver of one of the jeeps which passed in the opposite direction reported having just seen a tiger.

Spot-billed Pelican. Woolly-necked stork. Black-necked stork. Black-headed ibis. Lesser adjutant. Pallas’s Eagle.Grey headed fish eagle. Crested serpent Eagle Lesser fish eagle. Great Hornbill. Pied Hornbill.
The raptors and hornbills could all be seen from very close range in trees close to the track.

Bokakhat to Dibrugargh
I bought a bus ticket leaving the following day at the bus station found on the main street. The bus station is just an area where a few coaches can be found parked. A man seated in a small kiosk will book your ticket. He will book a ticket using the internet site redbus. You can see the choice of buses on the site, and their photos, and you book the seat you want. Some coaches come in a 2-1 seating arrangement which means one side of the bus has single seats and the other a pair of seats. I chose a single seat on a new looking Volvo coach which cost 300INR for the 4.5hr journey. It left at 12.30 the next day but I was told to be there 1hr early. In the event the bus arrived 30min early. The bus just passes through Bokaghat but this was no problem because the ticket seller was in contact with the driver by phone and when the coach got near he found me and took me across the road in time for the bus.
The seat I had was leather and it reclined quite a lot. The journey was really comfortable and everyone was quiet and respectful. We had a lunch stop and comfort stop but hardly stopped other than that. It finally stopped right in the centre of Dibrugagh. Given the choice again I would choose this bus journey over a taxi.

Dibrugargh Accomodation

Hotel Rajawas is really special and has an excellent restaurant. 2750INR for a double delux room inc. buffet breakfast. English is spoken Wi-Fi available and they will help with onward arrangements. [email protected] 91-373-2323307 A short walk from where the bus stops.

Based on my misadventures any independent birders are likely now to be googling bird tour companies.
But for those still interested but hesitant it’s worthwhile just comparing general prices. There are a number of Indian bird tour operators and these will put a package together based on your requirements. The downside is that traveller’s are not able to benefit from the savings made by making your own arrangements and sharing costs. The reason being that the prices are per person. Though prices will be cheaper depending on numbers.
However travelling as a member of a tour you have the benefit of a guide who knows the best areas and can identify difficult birds,without which you need to do a lot of research in advance and still probably miss some birds, so saving money is not always the best option.
Group numbers effect the cost significantly. Unless there are 2 people then a group of 5 becomes most economical, assuming you don’t want 3 on the back seat. (NB. Car 1 will have the guide).

In summary I paid 70000INR for the tour.
Accommodation in Eaglesnest 20500INR
Accomodation at Bokakhat (2 nights) 2500INR
Accommodation Dibrugargh (3 nights) 7200INR
Visit to Kaziranga 3800INR
Extras - food 300-500INR per day when not in Eaglesnest (est 4000 INR)

Total 108000INR or £1038 (15days) Exchange rate 104 INR to £1 sterling.

Roughly then for 2 travellers est =117000-120000 INR or est £1150 total = £575pp.

I would really appreciate it if anyone can correct errors they find or can provide further information to help future visitors.

NB When contacting people in this part of India always use Whats App. or as I did I paid a little for a deal allowing me to call directly. This caused a few problems with my wife because it was her phone as I don't have a mobile. Anyway even when an email address is given a response is usually very slow if any, due to very poor connectivity especially in Arunchal.

Luckily Part 2 proved to be so much cheaper
Great info!
I can vouch for redbus, having used them quite a bit on my previous trips.
Happy to hear you went with Bikram, he's a very friendly guy and while I was there 2 years ago, he was head of the kitchen and tried to accomodate my group as good as possible.

I hope the ones looking for travel companions in the other subforum are reading this, as it highlights the fact that travel times and travelling in general is quite tiring in India. People shouldn't underestimate the driving into the Himalayas. It's very important to avoid fatigue, badly maintained vehicles and bad driving habits once in Arunachal; an accident is often just around the corner...

ps: I (luckily) have never seen elephants on Eaglesnest. Only near Nameri.
Hi, Temmie. We were unlucky with elephants. Two elephants walked past Bompu camp on my first day (probably the ones I heard in the bamboo. It led to 2 camp workers being stationed at the camp entrance keeping watch for a while, so you still need to be aware even when just birding locally from Bompu.

I have contact details of a driver based in Tezpur. His details were given to me by Phaurung (contact in report). The driver knows Eaglesnest very well because he does work for the forestry researchers. Contact Puspalal mob. +91 9678039675/+91 9401757644.
[email protected]
He speaks very good english and his rate is 5500INR a day.

Just planning a dry season and therefore winter visit to look for Western Tragopan. So hope there are fewer elephants in Great Himalayan NP. ?

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