Although no bigger than Great Britain, Nepal holds 10 times the number of butterfly species — 643 at the latest count! On this exciting new tour we will hope to see 150 or more of these, focusing on three of the best and most accessible areas in Nepal for butterflies — the Kathmandu Valley, Chitwan National Park and the foothills around Pokhara. We will be accompanied by Mahendra Limbu, who has been studying the butterfly fauna in Nepal for over 30 years and is now Nepal’s leading field butterfly expert.
On our arrival in the Kathmandu Valley, we will spend two days exploring the habitats that lie between the botanical gardens at Godaveri (4,500 feet) and the temperate oak and rhododendron forests on the 9,000-foot summit of Phulchowki, a sumptuously forested peak on the southern rim of the Kathmandu Valley. Within orchards, flower-filled grasslands, forests and forest clearings we hope to encounter a great variety of species including Popinjay, Blue Admiral, Common Birdwing, several species of jezebel and perhaps 10 or more species of swallowtail, amongst them Great Windmill, Paris Peacock and Blue Peacock. On our tour in 2016, almost a hundred species were recorded over our two days in the Kathmandu Valley, yet there is still much to be learnt about the butterflies here. For example, on our 2016 tour we recorded the first wild sighting to science of an adult Ahlbergia haradai — the only previous record of this Nepalese endemic having been a caterpillar found in the Kathmandu Valley in 1973! This area is also exceptionally rich in birds, with a range of cuckoos, laughing-thrushes, bulbuls, flycatchers, sunbirds, tits and warblers to be expected.
From Godaveri we will head west through the stunning Mahabharat range of the Himalayan foothills before descending into the subtropical lowlands, known as the terai, to Chitwan National Park. Here we will spend three nights at a comfortable and well-equipped safari lodge overlooking the tall grasslands, scrub savannah and swamps at the edge of the national park. Indian Rhinos are frequently seen at close range from the grounds which are filled with a wealth of birds and butterflies. Our focus, though, will be the 932-square-kilometre Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Site and Nepal’s first national park, having been established in 1973. Here we will pay equal attention to butterflies, birds and large mammals, exploring the park and its buffer zone over two full days by boat, jeep and on foot, always in the company of experienced local guides. This is an outstanding area for wildlife, where more than 500 species of bird and 250 species of butterfly have been recorded. It is also home to a very healthy population of Bengal Tigers, as well as Leopards, crocodiles, Wild Boar and several species of deer and monkey. During our stay here we can expect to see 60 or more species of butterfly, with areas of the riverine forest within the park being particularly rich and supporting such species as Large Oakblue, Scarce Slate Flash, Burmese Sailer, Baronet and Little Branded Swift. The butterfly fauna of the park has been little studied and in 2016 we added several new species to the list of those previously recorded in the park. Without doubt, further exciting new discoveries await Naturetrek groups!
Finally, we will drive north-west from Chitwan, through the Himalayan foothills, to Pokhara. There we will stay for three nights at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, which is owned and managed by Marcus Cotton, a passionate conservationist and butterfly enthusiast. Marcus has planted many flowering plants and shrubs to attract butterflies, and has encouraged Nepal’s ‘butterfly guru’, Colin Smith, to train and enthuse the lodge’s naturalist guides, who now diligently record the species they see. These guides, Marcus and perhaps Colin will join us here, to make our stay at the lodge a memorable and a rewarding one.
The lodge itself is not just Nepal’s finest — its enviable ridge-top position blessed with the most special views of the iconic Himalayan giants of the Annapurna range — it also offers superb wildlife and walking opportunities. Here we will hope to see such spectacular species as Common Birdwing, Paris Peacock, Great Mormon, Red Helen and Red-base Jezebel alongside numerous blues, grass yellows, tree-browns, bush-browns, pansies and tigers! We will also explore the surrounding forested slopes, wooded streams, grasslands and paddyfields, looking for such species as Restricted Demon, Ciliate Blue, Burmese Bush Blue, Chapman’s Cupid, Orchard Tit, Indian Purple Sapphire and Bamboo Forester. This is a superb area for butterflies and 80 or more species may be encountered here. A rich variety of hill birds is also to be enjoyed, whilst mammals seen from time to time include Yellow-throated Marten, Orange-bellied Squirrel, Hanuman Monkey and even Leopard. There can be few more memorable places to conclude a holiday!