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Bhutans Royal Manas National Park

The Royal Manas National Park is a community based Eco trail going for 4 nights through many forest cover experiencing rich flora and fauna.

Royal Manas National Park- Bhutans Biological Treasure

Community based Ecotourism – Gomphu-Manas-Norbugang Eco-trail

Department of Forests and Park Services Ministry of Agriculture and Forests Royal Government of Bhutan Thimphu March 2012

Royal Manas National Park-Bhutans Biological Treasure Introduction

An unparalleled biological treasure in the Eastern Himalayas, Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) represents the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan. With hundreds of wildlife, birds and plant species, several globally endangered, Royal Manas is not only the most diverse protected area in the Kingdom but also one of the world’s biologically outstanding conservation sites. The park is the fourth largest national park in Bhutan with an area of 1057 km2 and covers the three districts of Sarpang, Zhemgang and Pemagatsel. The park area begins from the plains of Manas River in Bhramaputra basin at 108 meters and extends up to 2600 meters above sea level.

After being maintained as a forest reserve by the Royal Government of Bhutan for many years, Royal Manas was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in 1964, making this park, the nation’s oldest protected area. In 1993 the area was upgraded to a national park. Now, it forms part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex, an extensive system of protected areas and biological corridors covering over 50 percent of the country.

Royal Manas is linked to Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park to the north and India’s Manas Tiger Reserve in the south. The park is also linked to Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Thrumshingla National Park through biological corridors.

The principal reason for this linkage is to provide a continuous gradation of protected natural habitats from tropical duars all the way to alpine Himalayan highlands. This initiative is without doubt a unique conservation achievement in the Himalayas. Today this largely unexplored treasure is opened to tourists to promote community based ecotourism in the park.

Royal Manas National Park-Gomphu-Manas-Norbugang Eco-trail

Eco-trail Itinerary

Day 01: Gomphu – Pangtang

Gomphu is the first eco-camp located at an altitude of 1457 meters above sea level. Gomphu can be reached from either Zhemgang or Gelephu. From Zhemgang, it takes 3 hrs to reach Gomphu and from Gelephu it takes about 5 hours. The eco-camp at Gomphu is located in the forest just above Gomphu Park Range Office. The facilities include two eco-lodges, two bathroom and toilets, dinning, kitchen, water supply and camping facilities. The facilities are built using local materials such as wood and stone.

The hike from Gomphu to Pangtang can be either along the traditional route which takes approximately four and half hours or along the motorable road, which takes about an hour. The eco-trail passes through mixed broadleaf forests and thick undergrowths with numerous birds such as barbets, hornbills, bulbuls, doves, wood pecker and cuckoos, see Annexure 4.

The traditional route starts with a descent for about an hour and half and ascents for another hour before gentle descent again. The road has well maintained slope and is much easier than the traditional route. One can even ride a bike from Gomphu to Pangtang.

Mamung is the spot where people usually stop for lunch. It is approximately half way to Pangtang. With small settlements in Mamung, fresh oranges are available during winter. The trekking trail actually descents further until Pangtang which is at the level of Mangdi chhu. It is a beautiful valley with settlements and government offices.

Day 02: Pangtang – Shilingtoe

Pangtang lies at an altitude of 239 meters above sea level. The camp is located on the right bank of Mangdi chhu while trekking towards Shilingtoe thus, overlooking Pangtang settlements and the river itself. The trail starts with gentle descent and occasional short climbs. The entire trek will take about four hours and the last leg before reaching Shilingtoe ecocamp is a climb for over half an hour. The trail is very rich for bird watching with many birds such as thrushes, drongos, hornbills, partridges, pheasants, bulbuls, tree pies, barbets, eagles, fowls and many other species.

Day 03: Shilingtoe to Pangbang

Shilingtoe is located at an altitude of 420 meters above sea level. The camp is on the way to a village and provides a good view of the area due to its location at a higher alleviation. Birds such as bulbuls, barbets, thrushes, hornbills, kingfisher, cormorant, wagtails, trogons and many other species can be seen along the trail between Shilingtoe to Pangbang. The hike from Shilingtoe to Changazam suspension bridge takes about 3 hours and on the way one can see religious cave, bat cave and a twin waterfall (Lelang). From Changazam, there is a motorable road to Panbang which connects to Indian Manas Tiger Reserve.

Besides the services and products mentioned in the Annexure 3, the Powgi lodue which is celebrated by Pangtang community is also celebrated by the Shilingtoe community. Tashibi village which is about an hour walk from Shilingtoe celebrates an annual tsechu on the 14th and 15th day of the 10th Bhutanese month.

Shilingtoe eco-camp Shilingtoe village

After reaching Panbang, one could also exit via Indian Manas to Phuntsholing or Gelephu or Samdrupjongkhar.

Day 04: Pangbang to Norbugang

The camp site at Pangbang is located at a place called Anilademba at the junction of Mangdi Chhu and Dangme Chhu at an altitude of 160 meters above sea level. It is now connected with motorable road to Panbang which connects to Indian Manas Tiger Reserve.

Twin waterfall near Changazam Panbang eco-camp

The same road is also one of the entry and exit points into Royal Manas National Park from the Indian Manas. Panbang communities celebrate annual tsechu from 8th to 10th day of 11th Bhutanese month. Various mask dances are performed at the Sonam Choeling Dratsang.

The other attractions at Panbang and Bhutan Manas include boating, river rafting, elephant rides and wildlife watching. The Park Range Office at Manas coordinates these services. While boating and river rafting along the Manas river, one can see goral, capped langurs, cormorants and many other bird species besides the beautiful landscape.

Golden langur in Manas Boating in Manas river

Norbugang can be reached either from Bhutan Manas or from Nanglam under Pemagatsel Dzongkhag. The trek between Pangbang- Norbugang will take approximately six hours and is the longest trek of all. Most of the birds sighted along the Shilingtoe-Pangbang eco-trail are also found along Pangbang-Norbugang eco-trail. The eco-camp at Norbugang is located at a place called Dorji Jadram. The road from Nanglam to Pangbang has reached till Tsheshengzor, with another two and half hours walk to the camp.

This road is also one of the entry and exit points to reach Royal Manas National Park. The five villages along the trail from Nanglam to Norbugang conduct Tsechus and among them the Tsechu at Nimshongborang village is unique and entertaining. It is held annually from 8 to 10th day of 5th Bhutanese month and from 9 to 10 day of 8th Bhutanese month.

After Norbugang, one could also exit via Nanglam and Samdrupjongkhar.