At relatively short notice, three of us from the North East Lincs (UK) bird group, settled on a trip to Eastern Nepal in February / March 1999, after briefly considering a trip to the USA.
BIRDS & BIRDING
Choosing a 17 day period from the middle of February through to the first week of March enabled us to see both resident and over wintering birds. Though the total numbers of birds seen, was low and at times very difficult, we managed to see over 300 species. We actually saw 100% of the parakeets, hornbills, larks, cuckoo-shrikes, prinias, fulvettas, nuthatches and starlings, 80% of the herons / egrets, kingfishers, laughingthrushes and shrikes, 75% of the ducks, waders, raptors, water birds, bulbuls and mynas, 70% of the warblers, chats and drongos, 65% of the owls, tits, sunbirds, flowerpeckers and orioles, 60% of the woodpeckers, minivets, thrushes and flycatchers, 50% of the forktails, babblers, minlas and yuhinas, we had hoped to see.
Unfortunately we managed to see only 15% of the finches, bush warblers and cuckoos and 20% of the barbets we had hoped to see.
The group saw and identified 308 species. I personally saw 299 species of birds of which 202 were new to me.
The following common birds were seen in all suitable habitats.
Little, Great and Cattle Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Asian Openbill, Black Ibis, Ruddy Shelduck, Black Kite, Little Ringed Plover, Feral Pigeon, House Swift, Common, White-throated and Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Plain Martin, White Wagtail, Red-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo, House and Large-billed Crow, Common Myna and House Sparrow.
Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (£55.00) by Richard Grimmett, Carol & Tom Inskipp, published by Helm. An excellent though very large and heavy work to take into the field but with mostly first rate art work.
Road map of Nepal (75NR) by Mandala Maps. Overall a good map but surprisingly (or maybe not ?) does not show any road numbers. I am still not sure if the roads are actually numbered.
TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, FOOD, FORMALITIES
All flights were arranged by Airline Network, Tel No 01772 727 272 and cost £504 including UK departure tax. Had we waited until four to five weeks before departure we could have bought the tickets for £400 as quoted on the Internet. In the event all four flights had spare seats and the return flights were only 40% and 60% full. The service was both friendly, efficient and faultless. Leaving on the first outward leg only 30 mins late. Insurance cover for two adults to travel independently anywhere in the world for a year cost £110.83 from the Bradford & Bingley Building Society and placed with the Guardian Insurance. The departure tax from Nepal cost £10 or 1000NR payable at the airport before checking in.
The UK transport was supplied by NC Cars of Grimsby, Tel No 01472 276767. The return trip between Humberside and Heathrow Airport cost £185 for the three of us, good door to door service.
The 6.5hr flight from " Heathrow to Doha " and the 5hr flight from Doha to Kathmandu was by Qatar Airways using an Airbus A300. The outward flight left at 2025hrs and arrived in Doha at 0600hrs, where we had a two hour stopover. The second leg took off at 0800hrs and arrived in Kathmandu at 1455hrs. The return flights left at 0845hrs and arrived in Doha at 1150hrs, again with a two hour stopover. The second leg left at 1250hrs and arrived in Heathrow at 1750hrs. All times stated where local times.
A local taxi was hired from the Kathmandu Guest House for two separate days to take us to Phulchoki and back, at a cost of £16 per day. We then used the same taxi and driver for a 12 day hire, to drive us south to Chitawan NP and then east to Koshi Tappu NWR and back, at a cost of $400 plus 1000NR. The driver stopped with us for most of the time and mainly did the bear minimum he could get away with. We at times perceived the service to be poor in light of the high costs. That said, the driver needs praise for being extremely safe and the vehicle proved to be reliable over some pretty awful roads.
Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel, Kathmandu : A reasonable hotel costing $25 per night for a triple room, good reasonably priced food was available.
Hotel Star, Thamel, Kathmandu : An adequate hotel costing 300NR per night for a twin room. Beware that both the hot and cold water was from rusty iron pipes.
Chital Lodge, Meghauli : An basic group of wooden huts on stilts costing 1600NR for three people in two huts for four nights. Complete with electricity, a luke warm shower and on site good quality and reasonably priced food. Owned by our guide Gib.
Motel Avacado, Hetauda : A good motel costing 500NR per night for a twin room, with a good selection of cheap food.
Aqua Birds Unlimited Camp, Koshi Tappu : A good but expensive tented site costing $25 per person per night, which included the services of a guide Denish. The site comes complete with electricity, good toilet and washing facilities, excellent but pricey food and is conveniently situated just outside the Koshi Tappu NWR boundary.
Food was readily available from hotels, lodges, tented sites, restaurants, shops and roadside stalls. We ate in a variety of places and by sticking to the golden rule of only frequenting places that were busy and by drinking bottled water / beer / coke, we were able to eat Nepalese, Chinese, Thai, Italian meals without any ill effects at all. We found that western food stuffs and confectionery was readily available and a lot cheaper than at home in the UK, but the quality was significantly different.
The local currency is the Nepal Rupee ( NR ) with an exchange rate of 106NR to £1 or 67NR to US$1 on the 16th February 1999. The exchange rate between GBP and US$ was £1 to $1.6 on the 1st February. Some prices were quoted in US$ but payment was invariably requested in NR, a mixture of currencies was usually accepted.
A full passport is needed with at least six months before expiry, the visa cost £20 and was valid for a single entry up to a maximum stay of 30 days, from the Royal Nepalese Embassy, 12A Kensington Palace Gardens, London.
Health care ranged from having current vaccinations for Tetanus, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. Meningococcal A&C or Anti Malarial treatment was not required. A comprehensive first aid kit including syringes and needles, rehydration salts, hay fever pills, bite creams, down to the basic sun tan lotion was taken.