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Nomad Merak Sakteng Trek

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Bhutan Jewel Travel organizes treks to the Merak and Sakteng nomadic communities. Here below we give some insight into the trek that you will be doing along with the Trek Itinerary.

Nomads Merak  Sakteng Trek

Late 2010,the Royal Government of Bhutan, finally for the FIRST TIME opened the Isolated nomadic community of Merak and Sakteng  for Tourism .

Environment:

Merak and Sakteng fall under the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. It is one of nine protected areas in Bhutan. It also forms part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex. The Sanctuary protects the easternmost temperate forest ecosystems in the country with endemic species like eastern blue pine, black-rumped magpie and many others found only in the east. The Sanctuary was set up to protect the elusive Migoi, or yeti. Other wildlife includes snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, barking deer and Himalayan red fox. Aerial fauna and birds include the hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrel, Assamese macaque, blood pheasant, grey backed shrike, grey-headed woodpecker, common hoopoe, rufous-vented tit and dark breasted rosefinch. The Sanctuary is typical of the diversity of Himalayan terrestrial ecosystems, combing alpine meadow, temperate forest and warm broad leaf forest. According to the surveys conducted by the World Wildlife Fund some 203 species of plants, 119 species of birds and 18 species of mammals have been confirmed. The snow leopard and red panda have been classified internationally as “highly endangered” species.

In the case of Merak and Sakteng, isolation has led to preservation. Increased human activity will always have an impact on the environment. Visitors have to be fully responsible enough so that the trials and the campsites are not disturbed. It is of utmost importance that animals are not driven away from their natural habitat. This would change the balance of the ecosystem. All wildlife should be monitored and protected – plants included. This is another reason to have tourism activities only during the recommended months, so that the ecosystem is not thrown out of sync.

Having tourism activities take place only during the tourism feasible months will also lessen the impacts on the environment. This will save the trails and campsites from wear and tear, as well as allow time for rejuvenation during the off season.

Cultural

One of the disadvantages of tourism is the commodification of cultures and traditions. The people of Merak and Sakteng have not been exposed to large numbers of foreigners visiting the region. Therefore, it is important to NOT to disturb their daily life and to respect their privacy.

Tour operators and their clients will be have to follow a strict Code of Conduct regarding Environmental and Cultural concerns.

Code of Conduct for Tour Operators and their Clients

Environmental

  1. Try to avoid using mineral water bottles. Merak-Sakteng has proper drinking water supply. We suggest you to bring iodine tablets or iodine solution to purify water while drinking.
  2. Avoid generating wastes while trekking
  3. Do not litter along the trail and at campsites/villages. Bring back all solid waste generated during the trek.
  4. Do not throw away batteries. Collect all types of batteries and clients are requested to take them back home because there is no battery recycling plant in Bhutan
  5. Stick to the main trail. It helps reduce erosion and the destruction of plant life. Always go with your guide
  6. Don’t make camp fire. It consumes a lot of firewood to warm you for a couple of hours, instead wear sufficient clothes while trekking in high mountain region.
  7. Collection of flora (including firewood) and fauna (or parts of wildlife) is strictly prohibited.
  8. Shoot photos, NOT animals! Don’t tease or disturb wildlife, take photos of wildlife in their natural habitat, but please don’t take photos during night time.
  9. Filming and sound recording of wildlife is not permitted without prior permission from the Royal Government of Bhutan.

Cultural

  1. Respect the local culture and traditions.
  2. Dress modestly; wear cloths which will cover the body at least from the chest to knee while hiking.
  3. Take off your shoes while visiting religious places such as temples of monasteries. If you want to enter a temple (lhakhang) or monasteries, wear long sleeves, long pants or a skirt and remove your hat.
  4. Always walk in a clockwise direction while visiting religious places such as temples or monasteries, or around prayer flags
  5. Don’t drink alcohol and don’t smoke while visiting religious places (lhakhangs, chortens, etc)
  6. Photography and filming inside a temple is not allowed.
  7. Ask permission before taking pictures of local people or places.
  8. Discourage begging. Don’t give money or candies to local children. It will encourage them to beg whenever they see foreigners. Instead you may leave small donations to schools or the village so that the money can be used to benefit the whole community.
  9. Give necessary comments and good suggestions to the local people/committees to improve the facilities and other services.

Itinerary

Before following the Trek Route below, trekkers will require at least 3 to 4 days before start of the Trek as you will be entering via the Paro International Airport which is 2 days drive from Trashigang(which is the start point of this Trek). Also these 3 to 3 days is required to acclimatize with the high altitude Bhutan climate.

The following is the proposed itinerary which is mainly used by the residents of Merak and Sakteng. The proposed itinerary starts from the end of road point. It is recommended to start from Chaling entering Merak first because of the steep climb to Nagchungla pass if it starts from Sakteng. The following trail is recommendation. (However reverse trekking can be done too…starting from Phongmay and entering Sakteng first)

Day 1: Trashigang – Chaling (7050ft) – 7hrs – Damnongchu (10131ft)

The trek to Merak will start from Chaling and the feeder road goes up to Chaling from Rangjung. The feeder road from Rangjung to Chaling is about 15 kms which takes about 1 hour by car. The first halt will be at Damnongchu. Damnongchu camping area is located after Mindrula which lies about 10,880ft above sea level.

Day 2: Damnongchu – 5 hrs – Merak (11480ft)

The trail from Damnongchu to Merak goes along the river bank with gradual ups and downs. The final stretch is a very gentle incline after which you enter Merak village. The campsite, located before the village, has spectacular views of the nearby mountains and the village. There is also a guesthouse where tourists can stay if they choose not to camp.

Day 3: Merak – 7.5 hrs – Miksa Teng (9400ft)

The trek from Merak to Miksa Teng is of medium difficulty. It will pass through the beautiful Nagchungla pass. Right after the Nagchungla pass descend, the trek is mostly along the river and there is a small climb before reaching the village of Sakteng. The campsite is located in a clearing surrounded by rhododendron trees. It is beautiful when the flowers are in full bloom.

Day 4: Miksa Teng – 3.5 hrs – Sakteng (9850ft)

Trek to Sakteng from Miksa Teng is easy making your way through beautiful woods with a short climb before reaching Sakteng but it is not very difficult. If lucky, trekkers may be able to spot a red panda among the trees. The Sakteng campsite is located on the outskirts of the village. Sakteng also offers trekkers the option of spending the night in a guesthouse instead of camping.

Day 5: Sakteng – 6.5hrs – JyonkharTeng (6100ft)

Sakteng to Jyonkhar Teng trek is an easy trek compared to the previous treks. It is mostly downhill and walking on a plain path. Some trekkers can also make it to Phongmay or Radhi but a halt in Jyonkhar Teng is recommended. Jyonkhar village is located few minutes walk from the campsite. Jyonkhar also has a community school. Jyonkhar Teng campsite is located near a river.

Day 6: Jyonkhar – 5hrs – Phongmay/Radhi(6500ft)/Trashigang

The trekkers are highly recommended to either stay in Phongmay or Radhi. This is because of many attractions and beautiful villages in these two places. Radhi, popularly known as the ‘Rice Bowl” of the east is also popular for wool textiles called Bura weaving.

Optional Halts

One day in Merak:

A day in Merak recommended as a relaxation day. This will give visitors an opportunity to visit attractions of Merak village. There are many interesting local sites that the visitors can explore in Merak and Ganggu (a neighbouring village).

One day in Sakteng:

Also a day is recommended to explore Sakteng village. Just like in Merak, Sakteng also has interesting myths surrounding its village. The Sakteng valley is little bigger than that of Merak and it has more adjacent villages then Merak.

Merak – Jomo Kumkhar – Merak

The visit or trek to palace of Aum Jomo is an interesting journey. It will be even more interesting if your trek coincides with their annual ceremony held just in front of Aum Jomo’s palace near a beautiful lake. The trek is for two days and one night. So this trek is recommended after one day relaxation in Merak as it is an uphill trek.

Departing after This TREK:

A visitor can either choose to stay in Trashigang or make their way to Mongar if they are planning to visit central or western Bhutan or if they are to depart from Paro.

Also if visitors are exiting from Samdrup Jongkhar, they can choose to do so. However, a day in Trashigang is highly recommended as direct drive from Radhi or Phongmay may be possible but it will be very tiring.