Wild Red Pandas Expedition and the Wonders of Northeast India, 2023
Holidays for Birders
The Natural World
Wild Red Pandas Expedition and the Wonders of Northeast India, 2023
A place of soaring mountains, lush jungles, and fragrant tea plantations. A place that is home to half of India’s entire biodiversity. A place boarded by Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh where hundreds of different tribes and religions co-exist. This is Northeast India.
This once-in-a-lifetime holiday takes you high into the exotic Himalayan forest where you will discover one of best habitats for wild Red Panda in the world. Staying in a remote and beautiful homestay in the heart of the Singalila National Park, your neighbours will include Red Panda, Clouded Leopard, Black bears, Barking deer and more that 300 species of birds. Wake up to see the sun rise over the Himalayas and watch the peaks turn golden as the sun sets at the end of the day.
Other highlights include stays in Kolkata, where you will discover why it is known as the ‘City of Joy’, the beautiful hill town of Gangtok and Darjeeling, the land of Buddhist monasteries, tea plantations and the World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
Join us for an unforgettable adventure in India’s least explored and most mysterious region.
How much is it?
Please note, due to the unique nature of the homestay and its environment, there are only four rooms available on each programme. We will be taking bookings on a first-come-first-serve basis. Confirmation will require a deposit payment.
A Deeper Dive
Kolkata – Day 3
Option 1 – Marble Palace, Tagore House and Kumartuli, 14:00-18:00. £45 per person (minimum of 2, maximum of 6 people)
The neoclassical Marble Palace is named after its marble walls, floors and sculptures and is one of the best-preserved and most elegant houses of the 19th century. You will then visit the 18th century Tagore House, the ancestral home of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and now a fascinating a museum dedicated to Tagore, members of his family and the Bengal Renaissance. The afternoon ends with a visit to Kumartuli, a traditional potters’ quarter where clay idols for various festivals are made.
Option 2 – Adda with a poet, writer, and publisher, 14:30-18:30. £45 per person (minimum of 2, maximum of 6 people)
An adda is an informal chat and they are a Kolkata institution. Addas take place in the comfort of someone's living room, in the smoky confines of a coffee house, on the steps of a college, at the bus stop, at the corner of the daily market…just about anywhere where two or more people can get together. And what do they talk about? Politics, sports, religion, books, art, films, music, the news, food... just about anything in fact! In this one, you will sit down with a poet, writer, and publisher and enjoy not only a stimulating conversation, but also Baul music (Bauls have wandered the countryside of West Bengal singing their religious songs for hundreds of years), and a relaxing dinner with your host.
Option 3 – local market, cooking demonstration and Bengali meal, 17:30-21:00. £99 per person (maximum of 5 people)
Bengalis and food are inseparable, to the extent that they tend to place ‘visit to the daily market’ on a higher pedestal than any other chore of the day! This experience begins with a visit to a local market to buy groceries and watch people negotiating with the shopkeepers. You will then be welcomed into a Bengali family home where you will learn about the five types of tastes mentioned in the ancient Indian treatise, Ayurveda, which the Bengalis follow while preparing food. A short cooking demonstration and a Bengali meal included in this experience.
Kolkata – Day 4
Option 1 – visit the Indian Museum, 14:30-16:30. £30 per person (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
The Indian Museum is one of the oldest museums of the world and houses extraordinary collections of historical importance ranging from contemporary paintings to Egyptian mummies, ancient sculptures, and a sacred relic of Buddha.
Option 2 – discover the Temples of Kolkata, 14:30-19:00. £40 per person (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
You will visit Dakshineswar Kali Temple, a Hindu temple built in 1855 by philanthropist and devotee of Kali, Rani Rashmoni. The presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna, a mystic of 19th century Bengal. There are twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva—Kali's companion—along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river and a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. You will then go on to Jain Temple, which was built by art enthusiast Ray Badridas Bahadur in 1867 and boasts an interior filled with intricately patterned marble, mirrors, stained glass, chandeliers, and gilded surfaces. The temple is dedicated to Pareshnath, the 23rd Jain Tirthankar. It houses four temples where the deity of Lord Shitalnathji is seated in the sanctum sanctorum. One of the major attractions of the temple is the lamp, which has been constantly burning inside the sanctum since the initiation of the temple in 1867.
Option 3 – Kolkata Food Walk with tasting, 17:00 – 20:00. £55 per person (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Learn about Kolkata’s culture through its street foods and heritage eateries. Accompanied by an expert, you will walk and ride a tram to various specialised eating joints famous for their recipes. This gastronomical adventure will also offer a completely different perspective of the multi-layered, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial entity that is Kolkata.
Gangtok – Day 6
Option 1: Visit Ray Mindu Village, 13:00-16:30, £45p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Ray Mindu Village is nestled between the world renowned Rumtek and Lingdum monasteries and situated below the Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary amidst a diverse flora and fauna. The dominant community living in the area is Lepcha, with only handful of Nepalese. Most of the people are Buddhist by religion and they observe various Buddhist and Lepcha festivals. You will have the chance to meet with local people, walk through the village and to stop for a cup of tea. There is also a handicraft centre with various traditional Sikkimese items. Ray Mindu village is also famous for its traditional food.
Option 2: Visit Namgyal Institute of Tibetology & Directorate of Handloom and Handicrafts, 15:00-17:00, £20p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
This Buddhist institute, the most prestigious of its kind in India, is home to a vast collection of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, statues, and rare thankas (tapestries used in Buddhist liturgy). The collection also includes over 200 Buddhist icons and other prized objects of art. Today it is a renowned worldwide centre for Buddhist philosophy and religion.
The Directorate of Handloom and Handicrafts was set up to promote traditional Sikkim art and handicrafts. Exquisitely carved wooden friezes, intricate bamboo work, along with beautiful hand-woven carpets and handlooms are on display. Visitors can purchase these items and also see the artisans at work. A favourite item here is the ‘choktse’ a wooden table with carved panels that can be folded into a portable pack.
Gangtok – Day 7
Option 1: visit to Do-Drul Chorten stupa and Tashi Viewpoint, 14:45-16:45, £20p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Do-Drul Chorten was built in 1945 by the Trulshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The stupa is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels, all of which are inscribed with Tibetan mantras. The Chorten also has two huge statues of Gura Rimpoche (Gura Padmasambhava) around it.
The nearby Tashi Viewpoint offers an amazing view of the hills and valleys and also a grand sight of Mount Kanchenjunga and Siniolchu.
Option 2: visit to Tsuk-La-Khang and Enchey Monastery, 14:45-16:45, £20p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Tsuk-La-Khang is the principal place of worship within the Royal Palace premises near the Ridge Park in Gangtok. The great façade has a magnificent portal, and each corner of the building boasts a wooden sculpture relief of the head of a snow lion. The wood walls are covered with Buddhist murals and an eternal butter lamp burns in front of the floor-to-ceiling altar. The air of peace and calm is heightened by the fragrant juniper incense that pervades chapel air.
The Enchey Monastery is nestled within lush woods on a ridge offering a spectacular view of Gangtok town. Built in 1910 on the site of the hermitage of the great tantric saint, Lama Drutob Karpo, who was renowned for his powers of levitation, this monastery is home to the monks of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Darjeeling – Day 10
Option 1: Meet Mr. Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of world famous Tenzing Norgay, 16:00-17:30, £35p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest for the first time along with Edmund Hillary. Chat with his son and his family over tea and listen to their amazing stories about ‘Sagarmatha’ (Please note, this is provisional at the moment. Mr. Jamling Tenzing’s availability will be confirmed nearer the time.)
Option 2: Meet a veteran Gurkha Soldier of the British Army, 16:00-17:30, £16p/p. (Minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
The Gurkhas are a unique unit in the British Army with a reputation of being amongst the finest and most feared soldiers in the world. They are closely associated with the Khukuri, a forward-curving Nepalese knife and have a well-known reputation for fearless military prowess. They have fought alongside their British comrades in arms in many parts of the world and have proved themselves one of the closest friends and bravest of allies that Britain has known.
Darjeeling- Day 16
Option 1: Heritage walk of Darjeeling with an expert photographer, 15:00-17:00, £52p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Starting at Darjeeling Railway Station, you will follow a route past Trumbull School, Union Church of Gandhi Road, Municipal School, Darjeeling head post office, State bank of India, a few landmarks along the Laden-La road, Clock tower, Keventer’s historic restaurant (which has remains of Edward Keventer’s dairy farm in Ghoom), Planters Club (established in 1868 for British planters and their wives to enjoy their evenings), Das Studio, old shops at the mall like Habeeb Mullick & sons, St. Andrew’s Church (built in 1843), Darjeeling Gymkhana Club (first established in 1909 and still going.)
Option 2: visit the Tomb of Alexander Cosma De Karos, 15:00-17:00, £20p/p (minimum 2, maximum 6 people)
Alexander Cosma De Koros was a Hungarian Linguist, philologist, traveller, and Orientalist, born in Koros, Hungary on 4th April 1784. He was the author of the first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book. In 1842 he planned to travel to Lhasa but, unfortunately, he contracted Malaria and died from in Darjeeling. His hexagonal memorial tomb is located in the Old Cemetery on the Lebong Cart Road in Darjeeling.
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