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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 2011 in Sikkim!

I began 2011 with an exiting trip to Sikkim. It was an intense birding trip and I was able to add some 40 images to "INDIABIRDS"! I found that "Sikkim" was indeed one of the most peaceful of places I have visited in India.

Route map showing the places we visited...


After reading a couple of interesting reviews about the “Bon Farmhouse” in Sikkim, we contacted “Chewang Bonpo” during the second week of December 2010 and finalized our plan for a ten day trip to Sikkim. Accordingly, we booked our air tickets well in advance and obtained the required permits…

A couple of days before our scheduled departure we got the following mails from Chewang…

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Dear Sir,

I am very disappointed to mention about the following obstacle about our tour program:
1. There has been a strike called by Darjeeling local party GJMM int he hills of Darjeeling due which the movement of traffic across the highway 31 connecting Sikkim with Siliguri has been affected, only the State bus of Sikkim is moving as other taxi as well as private vehicles form Sikkim has been targeted by the people across the highway.
2. The weather in Sikkim is worst for the last 3 Days with hail stone, snow and fog I would suggest if you could postpone your program for about a week if it is possible.
Please do give me call as soon as you receive the message
Chewang Bonpo

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Dear Sir,

Sorry to bother you again , good news is that there are movements of vehicle across the border as Govt of India has deployed security forces in the highway and the local leader has appealed not to disrupt the Sikkim vehicles but the weather is still bad hope it will clear by 21st Jan 2011. So we may stick to the plan as I think is impossible to change the program at the last minute..

I will be there to pick u guys up in the airport.
Chewang Bonpo


As per plan, on the 21st January, 2011, Rangnath Badri and myself took the 06.20 am flight from Bangalore and reached Bagdogra around noon hopping via Hyderabad and changing flights at Kolkata. Chewang was there to greet us. After a quick meal at Siliguri we were on our way into Sikkim!

From the bird photography point of view, our trip was more or less like the above two mails. Unsure beginnings and happy endings – that indeed is the beauty of India!


Chewang took good care of us from the 21st January, 2011 noon to the 31st January, 2011 noon. He is an expert birder and simply loves the hill birds. For a whole week he led us to several birding hotspots in East, South and West Sikkim. Everyday we would come across and photograph several rare species of birds found only in the Himalayas and the North-East Indian Hills.

Our Homestay near Lingtam...

On the 21st and 22nd Night we stayed at a home-stay near Lingtam (East Sikkim) and explored the road leading to Zuluk (at about 10000 ft). It was very cold and the road from Zuluk upwards was covered with snow. Hence, we could not reach the area known for Monals. However, that one climbing road leading from Lingtam to Zuluk was quite satisfying and yielded some excellent opportunities to photograph some rare birds like the “Alti Accentor” and the “Grey-throated Babbler”!

We could not go any further...

On the 23rd evening we reached Chewang’s dream home The “Bon Farmhouse”"! at Kewzing Village near Ravangla (South Sikkim). Chewang has built a fine cottage in their property and the entire Bonpo Family involved themselves in making our stay very comfortable. The food was unique and unforgettable!

A fine new Cottage at the "Bon Farmhouse"!

We stayed at the “Bon Farmhouse” on the 23rd, 24th and 25th nights. Plenty of birding indeed! The trek to the hilltop inside the “Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary” not too far away from the farm yielded the “Fire-tailed Myzornis” as expected! We came across many other species like the “Red-headed Bullfinch” and the “Plain-backed Thrush”!

We drove around in the area for a couple of days and were able to photograph several rare birds like the “Wallcreeper” and the “Slaty-backed Forktail”

Our Hotel at Yuksum...

On the 26th evening we reached Yuksum in West Sikkim and spent two nights there. Yuksum is the first capital of Sikkim established in 1642 AD. In May 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union and the monarchy was abolished!

A very popular guy known at "Red Panda" helps organise treks from Yuksum ...

Yuksum is one of the gateways for a trek into the Himalayas. People just land up at Yuksom and start walking – its is that simple! We did a small trek along the path to Dzongri in the Khangchendzonga National Park. This yielded the wonderful “Yellow-rumped Honeyguide”

Gupta's! The most popular eating place at Yuksum. We had all our meals here!

On the 28th we drove from Yuksum to the “Khechoedpalri Lake” and nabbed the “Black-tailed Crake”! We then drove on to reach Siliguri, West Bengal by night. Thus, ending a most wonderful week of intense birding in Sikkim. Very many thanks Mr. Chewang Bonpo and family! Thanks to Chewang's friend Lakapa from Yuksum who was with us for the entire week helping in all possible ways!

We spent the 28th, 29th and 30th nights at a very comfortable hotel in Siliguri – the “Royal Sarovar Premiere”! On the 29th we drove over to a place called Gazaldoba near Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. Mr “Amit Thakurta” a very knowledgeable birder from Jalpaiguri came over and helped us photograph the “Red-crested Pochard” and the “Common Goldeneye”. Thanks Amit!

The 30th was a rest day for me. I did nothing but laze in the hotel room! On the 31st I made my way back to Bangalore via Kolkata while Ranganath Badri flew back to Dubai via New Delhi.
Another successful birding trip indeed!

Please visit to view bird images...

Go to Sikkim Folks!

Vijay Cavale
January, 2011