Nepal Raptor Tour
2018 Edition with STEVE HOFFMAN!
There's nothing quite like being eye-to-eye with a curious Bearded Vulture or a soaring Steppe Eagle, and I loved the famous views we woke up to at the migration site in Thula Kharka. The guides were first-class and exceptionally patient with helping me identify a wide variety of species."
Elaine Radford, USA. 2015 Edition
The Best Himalayan Raptor Migration
Tucked away in the foothills of the Nepali Himalayas, the small mountain village of Thulo Kharka is one of the best places in Asia to watch and photograph large raptors up close during the fall migration. This recently discovered hawk-watch is located at the edge of the Annapurna Conservation Area and offers stunning views of the Himalayas.
The raptor flight at Thulo Kharka during our stay will be dominated by Steppe Eagles (EN) of all ages and plumages. We should expect between 10 and 300 eagles each day. We should see them overhead, at eye level, and from above, and at incredible close ranges. The second-most common migrant will be Himalayan Vulture (NT), of which we should see dozens every day, mainly immatures, but also a few adults. As an optional bonus, early in the morning each day (before the raptor migration begins) we will explore the local area for a diversity of non-raptors (such as barbets, laughing thrushes, jays, sunbirds, and many others).
Endangered Asian Vultures
Once among the most abundant raptors in Asia, world populations of White-rumped Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, and Slender-billed Vulture have crashed drastically since the 1990s. These three species are virtually on the brink of extinction and thus considered to be critically endangered (CR). The endangered (EN) Egyptian Vulture, and near threatened (NT) Bearded Vulture, Himalayan Vulture, and Cinereous Vulture can also be seen.
Enjoy the Raptors of the Central Terai at two unique destinations!
At the base of the Himalayas, the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion spans from Uttar Pradesh in India to the south-western extreme of Bhutan. This narrow strip (av. 25 km) contains the highest density of tigers, rhinos and ungulates in Asia.
Our first stop in the Terai is Lumbini—the revered place of birth of Siddharta Gautama, better known as Buddha. It is also superb raptor-watching country. Here we will target Black-winged Kite, Indian Spotted Eagle (VU), Greater Spotted Eagle (VU), Western Marsh Harrier, Pied Harrier, Shikra, and White-eyed Buzzard. Also Griffon Vulture, and several species of vultures we’d see at Thulo Kharka, but here at a local vulture restaurant. Sarus Cranes and Lesser Adjutant can be seen too.
With over 540 species of birds recorded Chitwan National Park is the quintessential central Terai birding destination. Raptors we’ll target here include Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Hen Harrier, Shikra, Gray-headed Fish-Eagle (NT), Collared Falconet, and Peregrine Falcon. One-horned Rhino (VU), several species of deer, Gharial (CR), and Mugger Crocodiles can be seen here as well. Lucky visitors may spot a Tiger (EN), however this is unlikely.
Western Terai Extension
(Available upon request only. Minimum number of participants is 3)
The Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is tucked against the Indian border in the far western Terai subtropical lowlands. Some 420 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve, including 43 species of diurnal birds of prey. Slender-billed Vulture (CR) breeds in the reserve. In 2015 we watched up to 11 individuals soaring together! Also seen here: Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Crested Honey Buzzard, White-rumped Vulture (CR), Himalayan Vulture (NT), Red-headed Vulture (CR), Cinereous Vulture (NT), Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle (VU), Steppe Eagle (EN), Bonelli’s Eagle, Hen Harrier, Shikra, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Gray-headed Fish Eagle (NT), and Black Kite.
Make A Difference!
Raptours®, L.L.C. makes financial contributions to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Montana Audubon for every respective member that signs up for this tour.
Raptours®, L.L.C helps support Raptors of Nepal's research and conservation work led by former Hawk Mountain conservation trainee Tulsi Subedi
Join us on this tour and make a lasting contribution to raptor conservation!
Day-by-Day Itinerary | Main Tour
Arrive in Kathmandu at Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA code: KTM). Transfer to Hotel Shanker in Thamel. Visit a large colony of Indian Flying Fox, and Black Kite roost at sunset. Dinner and overnight in Kathmandu.
Breakfast and checkout. Shuttle to airport. Fly to Pokhara (25 min). Drive to Phokedanda (1,250 m a.s.l.). From there we will hike uphill (1.5 h) to Thulo Kharka (2,000 m a.s.l.). We will rely on hired help to carry our luggage and equipment. Check-in upon arrival, and relax at the hawk-watch while eating lunch and watching the migration. The lookout is a short 5-min (level) walk from the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Thulo Kharka.
Our daily routine will be quite simple. 7.00-8.00 am, optional general birding on trails. 8.15 am, meet for breakfast. 9.00 am, we’ll meet at the hawk-watch, pick our favorite spot, set up our chairs and enjoy the migration! Around noon we’ll eat lunch at the hawk-watch. Meals are brought to us from one of the little restaurants nearby. We’ll continue watching raptors through 3.00-4.00 pm depending on bird activity. 5.00-6.00 pm, optional general birding along nearby trails. 7.00 pm, dinner. 8.15-8.30 pm, optional raptor evening talks. Overnight in our small hotel.
Last day at the mountain. Morning as usual, but be all packed before lunch. After lunch we’ll hike back to the main road. 2.00-3.30 pm, drive to Pokhara. Check-in at the Temple Tree Resort. 4.00 pm, meet at the lobby. Visit the local garbage dump where we expect to see roosting Egyptian Vultures (EN), and other birds. 7.00 pm, drinks and dinner by the pool. Overnight at the Temple Tree Resort.
The second part of the tour begins today: lowlands of the Terai. 7.00 am, breakfast. 8.00 am, check-out and start our way to Lumbini. We’ll stop at selected places to target raptors and other birds, and to eat lunch. Around 4.00 pm, arrival at our hotel, the Lumbini Buddha Garden (LBG), and check-in. 5.00-6.00 pm, bird around the hotel. Raptors here include Black-winged Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, and Common Kestrel. 7.00 pm, dinner. Overnight at the LBG.
7.30 am, breakfast. 8.15 am, leave to visit a local vulture restaurant. We will target Black-winged Kite, Egyptian Vulture (EN), White-backed Vulture (CR), Himalayan Vulture (NT), Griffon Vulture, Western Marsh Harrier, and White-eyed Buzzard. Lunch at the hotel. Visit the birth place of Buddha in the afternoon, and bird the lagoon and reed beds nearby. 7.00 pm, dinner. Optional evening raptor talk. Overnight at LBG.
7.30 am, breakfast. 8.15 am, leave to look for raptors around Lumbini. We will target Indian Spotted Eagle (VU) and Pied Harrier. We may visit another vulture restaurant depending on yesterday’s results. Lunch, dinner, and overnight at the LBG.
7.00 am, breakfast and checkout. Drive to Chitwan National Park. Check-in at the Tigerland Safari Resort (TSR). Lunch around noon. Bird the lagoon behind the hotel. 4.00 pm, walk in the park and float the Rapti River looking for Gray-headed Fish Eagle (NT) and other birds. This is our best chance to see a Gharial (EN). Dinner and overnight in TSR.
7.00 am, breakfast. 7.45 am, leave on AWD vehicles to spend all day in Chitwan NP targeting raptors, birds, and mammals. We should see many species of raptors and other birds. Mammals likely to be seen include Dusky Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Hog Deer, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, and One-horned Rhino. Sloth Bear and Tiger, if we are lucky! Picnic lunch in the park. Dinner and overnight at the TSR.
7.00 am, breakfast. 7.45-10.00 am, walk in the community forest. 10.45 am, check-out. Drive to the airport in Bharatpur. Fly back to Kathmandu (KTM) where the tour ends. Flight schedules change frequently. Plan your international return flight for the next day. Extra nights in Kathmandu can be arranged upon request at additional cost.
Day-by-Day Itinerary | Western Terai Extension
Fly to Dhangadhi. Drive to Mahendranagar. Check-in at African style Suklaphanta Wildlife Camp (SWC). Relax or bird the surrounding village and camp garden. 7.00 pm, dinner. Overnight at the SWC.
6.00 am, breakfast. 6.45 am, leave for Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve on AWD vehicles. Our main raptor target here is Slender-billed Vulture (CR), of which we should see several every day. Of course we will spend much time tracking Tigers and Leopards in the hopes of seeing one. Swamp Deer, Sambur, Spotted Deer, and Jackal can be seen too. Box lunch in the reserve. Then a short nap and back to searching for game. 6.00 pm, arrive at SWC. 7.00 pm, dinner. Overnight in SWC.
Breakfast and checkout. Drive back to Dhangadhi, and catch our early afternoon flight to Kathmandu, where the tour ends. Flight schedules change frequently. Plan your international return flight for the next day. Extra nights in Kathmandu can be arranged upon request.
- Osprey (LC)
- Black-winged Kite (LC)
- Bearded Vulture (NT)
- Egyptian Vulture (EN)
- Crested Honey Buzzard (LC)
- White-rumped Vulture (CR)
- Slender-billed Vulture (CR)
- Himalayan Vulture (NT)
- Griffon Vulture (LC)
- Red-headed Vulture (CR)
- Cinereous Vulture (NT)
- Crested Serpent Eagle (LC)
- Changeable Hawk-Eagle (LC)
- Mountain Hawk-Eagle (LC)
- Black Eagle (LC)
- Indian Spotted Eagle (VU)
- Greater Spotted Eagle (VU)
- Booted Eagle (LC)
- Steppe Eagle (EN)
- Bonelli’s Eagle (LC)
- Shikra (LC)
- Besra (LC)
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk (LC)
- Northern Goshawk (LC)
- Western Marsh Harrier (LC)
- Hen Harrier (LC)
- Pallid Harrier (NT)
- Pied Harrier (LC)
- Black Kite (LC)
- Grey-headed Fish Eagle (NT)
- White-eyed Buzzard (LC)
- Himalayan Buzzard (LC)
- Collared Falconet (LC)
- Common Kestrel (LC)
- Amur Falcon (LC)
- Eurasian Hobby (LC)
- Peregrine Falcon (LC)
- Pandion haliaetus
- Elanus caeruleus
- Gypaetus barbatus
- Neophron percnopterus
- Pernis ptilorhynchus
- Gyps bengalensis
- Gyps tenuirostris
- Gyps himalayensis
- Gyps fulvus
- Sarcogyps calvus
- Aegypius monachus
- Spilornis cheela
- Nisaetus cirrhatus
- Nisaetus nipalensis
- Ictinaetus malaiensis
- Clanga hastata
- Clanga clanga
- Hieraaetus pennatus
- Aquila nipalensis
- Aquila fasciata
- Accipiter badius
- Accipiter virgatus
- Accipiter nisus
- Accipiter gentilis
- Circus aeruginosus
- Circus cyaneus
- Circus macrourus
- Circus melanoleucos
- Milvus migrans
- Haliaeetus ichthyaetus
- Butastur teesa
- Buteo burmanicus
- Microhierax caerulescens
- Falco tinnunculus
- Falco amurensis
- Falco subbuteo
- Falco peregrinus
Suggested Field Guides
Grimmett, R., T. Inskipp, and C. Inskipp. 2000. Birds of Nepal. Helm Field Guides.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2005. Raptors of the World. Paperback Edition. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
2018 Tour Co-Host
Former Montana Audubon Executive Director and HawkWatch International founder Steve Hoffman has teamed up with Raptours since 2017 to co-lead a series of raptor-watching trips to selected destinations around the world. Welcome Steve!
In the past 20 years Steve has led many birding tours to Veracruz, Mexico to help support the Veracruz River of Raptors, a project he co-founded as well. In 2017 Steve started his own birding tour company, Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC.
Raptours, L.L.C. reserves the right to alter this itinerary as necessary, or to cancel the tour prior to departure, with full refund to participants.
Raptours, L.L.C. or its agents may decline to accept or retain any person as a member of this tour at any time.
No smoking will be permitted while with the group, either when indoors or in the field.
Travel medical insurance is strongly recommended.
All passengers will be required to sign a hard copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form upon meeting with the tour leader in Kathmandu.
No participants will be allowed in the group without a signed copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form.