10 days from £4495pp plus international flights.
The red panda is classified as endangered and a shy, solitary creature that lives in remote high-altitude forest in Asia. It is much smaller that the better known giant panda, just larger than a domestic cat, and is arboreal, even sleeping in trees, and mainly active at dawn and dusk. All this makes the red panda hard to see, but on this holiday you spend several days in Singalilia National Park in northeast India, a known red panda hotspot, so your chances of spotting this 'firefox' among the trees are good.
Singalila is a beautiful park with a mixture of temperate and alpine vegetation including orchids, magnolias and rhododendrons. It's a beautiful backdrop for daily treks in search of not just the red panda but other mammals such as Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard, barking deer, pangolin and wild boar, plus a wide range of birds many of which are rare. All in all, this is a nature lover's dream destination.
You are based at Habre's Nest, aptly the Nepalese name for the red panda, a small guesthouse on the Singalila Ridge with great views of the forest. It has just 4 guest rooms, all with en-suite facilities with hot and cold water, and private balconies ideal for watching the sunset. There's a comfy lounge with a bar, TV and open fire, and a library. The lodge donates a proportion of its profits towards red panda conservation, so you can be assured that your stay is benefitting these creatures, which makes this holiday even more special.
You arrive at Delhi international airport where you are met by a local representative and escorted to the Lemon Tree Premier Hotel, just 4kms from the airport. Settle in and rest after your flight. If you're feeling peckish there is a 24-hour cafe serving local and international food as well as the main restaurant which specialises in Pan-Asian cuisine. The lounge bar offers light bites and drinks. Recreational facilities include a spa, gym and outdoor swimming pool.
After breakfast you are collected for the transfer to the domestic airport and the morning flight to Bagdogra in northeast India, arriving around 1pm. On arrival you are shown to the transfer vehicle for the journey to Siliguri, a drive of around half an hour, where you spend the night at a hotel in the city. The rest of the day has been left free so you can relax after the journey. Breakfast
This morning you continue the journey to Singalila National Park. The first part of the drive takes you to Manebhanjan, a journey of around 3 hours. Here you transfer to a 4x4 vehicle for the ride through rugged Himalayan scenery to Habre's Nest in Singalila National Park, near the Nepalese border. You are based here for the next few days as you explore the park. Lunch will be ready for your arrival. Prior to your arrival trackers have been searching for red pandas and noting their locations, so this afternoon you can set off for your first expedition into the national park, a good chance to adjust to your new surroundings and to get to know your naturalist guide. Return to the lodge in time for dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Your first day exploring Singalila National Park starts with an early breakfast so you can make the most of your time. The group is led by a naturalist guide and accompanied by porters, and you travel by 4x4 and on foot as you search for red pandas, preceded by trackers who advise the guide of sightings. The red panda, also known as a 'firefox', spends most of its time among the trees feeding on bamboo, and is a solitary creature most active at dawn (hence the early start) and dusk, so these are the best time to spot them. Red pandas are slightly larger than a domestic cat and have reddish-brown fur and a long tail. They are classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and there are thought to be fewer than 10,000 in the wild, which makes seeing one all the more special. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
It's another early start at Habre's Nest. You leave the lodge around 8am with the guide as you go in search of wildlife. Although the red panda is the star, there are plenty of other animals to look out for. Your guide will help you spot and identify different species such as Himalayan black bear, black panther, clouded leopard, yellow-throated marten, barking deer, pangolin and wild boar. Bird lovers will delight at their diversity here, with tragopan, blood pheasant, red-billed leothrix, chestnut-headed tesia, nuthatches, bull finches, treecreepers and satyr often seen. You can expect to spend all day out in the park, stopping for a picnic lunch, and arriving back to a hot dinner in the evening. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
You can choose to start your day watching birds from the lodge's hide as you sip a mug of hot tea or coffee before heading out on to the park's nature trails. By now you'll be accustomed to the surroundings and can take time to admire the varied flora which includes several species of orchids, magnolias and rhododendrons. It's a pristine environment and one where you feel at one with nature. Add to this the chance of seeing red pandas in the wild and you have a nature lover's dream. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
It's time to leave Habre's Nest, Singalila and the red pandas behind as you depart for Bagdogra airport and the mid-afternoon flight to Delhi. On arrival you are transferred to Lemon Tree Premier Hotel where you can make yourself at home as you think back over all that has happened since you were last here. Breakfast
Today you will be collected from the hotel for the short drive to the international airport, arriving in time to check in for your flight home. Breakfast
Guide price from (pp sharing): £4495 (ex. international flights)
9 nights twin-share accommodation; transfers as per the itinerary by private vehicle and 4x4; return flights Delhi-Bagdogra; red panda tracking; porters; naturalist guide; permit; camera permit; botted water during treks; direct contribution to the red panda conservation project
International flights and taxes; travel insurance; visas - Indian and Nepalese are required; meals not listed as included; drinks; optional activities; laundry; personal expenditure; tips
Getting there: This holiday starts and ends in Delhi. Return flights from the UK cost from around £600, depending on availability. We usually book these flights for you.
Departure dates: This a small group tour with a minimum group size of 4 and maximum of 8, and is offered subject to availability and reaching minimum numbers. The price is based on the best fare currently available for the domestic flights, and may vary according availability.
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Time: GMT +5½ hours
Flight time: Flight time from London to Delhi is 8 hours 30 minutes and to Mumbai is about 8 hours.
Language: The official language is Hindi, which about 30% of the population speaks. English is very widely spoken and is used for official and commercial purposes.
Visas: Required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.
Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations.