Singalila Ranges

Summary:
This trip was a combination of trekking and birding. We trekked for five days in the Singalila National Park followed by a few days at Borong, Sikkim. While in Borong, we explored the dense forests of the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Tendong Hills and Bhanjang Valley.
During the course of 10 days, we trekked for over 100 kms and reached a maximum altitude of approx. 3,600 meters.

Travel Dates: 31 March 2014 – 14 April 2014

Location covered:
Singalila Ranges
Borong/Ravangla
Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

Interstate Travel:
Delhi – Bagdogra : By Air
Bagdogra – Delhi : By Air

Accommodation:
Singalila National Park: Combination of Home stays and Trekkers hut. Basic with or without attached toilets. Some home stays offer hot water for a face wash. Shikhar Lodge at Tumbling and Riverview Lodge at Srikhola were better than the rest.

Borong: The Wildflower Retreat:  Calm, peaceful property surrounded by greenery. Birding is great around the place.
Jagan Sharma = 097 330 44 397
Madhusudan = 098 307 05 512

Hilley: Sherpa Lodge: Basic accommodation
Sherpa = 095 93 77 39 62

Other Key Contact Details:
Singalila National Park trek:
Society for Highlander Guides & Porters Welfare Association, Maneybhanjang,
Mr. Dendup Bhutia, +91-9734056944. www.highlanderguidesandporters.com

Borong Taxi Service:
Shenga Tours and Travels: 973 328 5124, 787 288 9457, 876 897 0279

Rimbik to Jorethang:
Rimbik Tours and Travels: 097 33 177 809

Sanctuary Details:
Singalila National Park Trek:
Guide Cost = Rs. 800 per Day
Porter Cost = Rs. 500 per day

Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary:
Entry Fee: INR’ 50 per person
Camera Fee: INR’ 20 per person

Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary:
Entry Fee: INR’ 50 per person
Camera Fee: INR’ 20 per person

Tips:
1. We did not employ a dedicated Bird guide for this trip. The Singalila Trek guide doubled up as a good bird guide as well. Just let the Highlander team know that you are interested in birding and they shall select a guide accordingly.
2. Stay options are limited inside the Singalila National Park. Do not expect clean towels and bed sheets. You may bring your own sleeping bags and disposable towels if you are fussy.
3. While taking a shared taxi from Rimbik, we paid for four seats are shared the space among the two of us.
4. Being an easy trek, the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is swarmed by picnic goers during weekends. As such, it is better to plan a trip during weekdays, especially for birding.
5. Birding in the North-East is usually tricky due to thick canopy and shy birds. A good quality binocular and a fast lens is highly recommended.

Conservation Issues:
1. There is a road that runs through the Singalila National park and old Land rovers ply on this route.  These old Land rovers cause a great deal of air and noise pollution.  While on the trek, we simply could not breathe whenever a Land rover crossed us.
2. More and more accommodation is springing up at Sandakphu and it is gradually becoming a picnic spot. Tourists who cannot trek use the Land rovers to reach Sandakphu putting even higher stress on the fragile ecosystem. Some just visit to enjoy 4X4 sport.

31st March 2014 : Day 1
We reached Bagdogra by afternoon and took a taxi from the Airport to Maneybhanjang. On the way, we took a slight detour and went via some of the tea gardens. Other than the Tea gardens, the drive was uneventful.
We met Mr. Bhutia in the evening and he introduced us to our guide and the porters who would accompany us on the trek. The trek guide doubled as a bird guide and did a good job at it.

We trekked for the next five days in the Singalila National park and were rewarded by some amazing bird sightings. Garibas was an excellent location for birding and during our stay there, the entire forest kept reverberating with the calls of the Satyr Tragopan. Alas, we could not see it. Nevertheless, the birding was amazing.
We took the following trail during our trek:

1st April 2014 : Day 2 – Trek: Maneybhanjang (2,134 m) to Tumbling (2,970 m), 11 km
2nd April 2014 : Day 3 – Trek: Tumbling (2,970 m) to Garibas (2,621 m), 7 km
3rd April 2014 : Day 4 – Trek: Garibas (2,621 m) to Sandakphu (3,636 m), 12 km
4th April 2014 : Day 5 – Trek: Sandakphu (3,636 m) to Srikhola, 16 km
5th April 2014 : Day 6 – Trek: Srikhola – Rimbik (2,286 m), 7 km

6th April 2014 : Day 7 – Borong, Sikkim
The original plan was to trek to Hilley, but due to the state elections, we were advised against it. So, it was decided to travel to Borong.
We took a shared taxi from Rimbik Bazaar and reached Jorethang. From Jorethang, we hired a taxi to take us to Borong.
We reached Borong by afternoon and the rest of the day was spent within the resort.

7th April 2014 : Day 8
The day was spent exploring the dense forests in the vicinity of the resort.

8th April 2014 : Day 9 – Trek: Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary (3,235 m)
Today we hiked to the Maenam Peak that lies within the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary. We started the climb at around nine in the morning, reaching the peak by two in the afternoon.
This is a strenuous trail that passes through dense forests and thick undergrowth, but equally rewarding. The bird life is splendid and so are the views of the mighty Mount Kanchenjunga and Mount Pandim.

9th April 2014 : Day 10
After the Maenam hike, we took it easy today. Apart from spending a lot of time at the property, we undertook a short hike to the nearby hot water springs. As usual, bird activity was good.

10th April 2014 : Day 11
The plan was to explore Bhanjang Valley today, however, it rained the entire day and birding was restricted within the retreat premises.

11th April 2014 : Day 12 – Trek: Bhanjang Valley
Today, we ventured into the Bhanjang Valley. Since, there were no trekking trails and it had rained the previous day, Jagan ji happily accompanied us to show the forests where he has lived all his life.
It was a challenging excursion, Jagan ji and his kukri had to constantly carve out a way for us to walk through the undergrowth. But at the same time, we were mesmerized by the pristine wilderness.
Bird activity was great, but conditions were not the best to take pictures. The sunlight could hardly penetrate the thick canopy and birds preferred to stay hidden.

12th April 2014 : Day 13 – Trek: Tendong Hills (2,640 m)
Today, we undertook a day trek to Tendong Hills. It was an easy trek, bursting with bird activity.
However, as usual, birds were very shy and the thick canopy restricted sunlight. Still, this trek is highly recommended.
The elections were over by now and on contacting Sherpa, we were told that accommodation is available. So, we decided to squeeze in Hilley en-route to Bagdogra.

13th April 2014 : Day 14 – Trek: Hilley (2,744 m) – Barsey (3,049 m)
We left Borong early morning and knowing we had little time, the moment we reached Hilley, dumped our stuff at the Sherpa Lodge and commenced our trek to Barsey.
Barsey Rhododendrons Sanctuary is a part of the Singalila ranges, but falls under Sikkim. This is an important corridor that connects the Khangchandzonga Biosphere Reserve and the Singalila National Park.
The trek was an easy flat one and had enough opportunities to spot birds. We remained inside the Barsey Rhododendrons Sanctuary till sunset and then doubled-up our pace to get back to Hilley before anyone got concerned.

14th April 2014 : Day 15
Next morning, we left for Bagdogra after birding for a few hours at Hilley.

For a list of birds and mammals spotted during this trip, please check out our birdlist and mammal list.
Please feel free to ask us any question that you may have on the locations mentioned on this blog.

Travel safe..

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