Even if your visit to Sikkim promises a delightful experience of being close to nature with perpetual views of lush vegetation that accommodates an immense variety of life forms both animate and inanimate, a more dedicated approach towards your objective is bound to produce better results. Simple yet critical factors such as being in the right place at the right season and time is most important for the naturalist with an aspiration for close encounters with wildlife. For this, we can arrange for you the specialist guides, qualified and experienced botanists and naturalists.
Sikkim’s location encompasses two major zoological regions, the Oriental and the Palaearctic, hence the prolific abundance of floral and faunal representation in a magnitude hard to evince for so tiny an area, but evidently true. The figures quoted below are from research undertaken by eminent naturalists past and present. Birds and butterflies number well above the 500 mark, and the variety in moths may run close to 2,000. The list for orchids stands at an impressive count of 450, and at least 36 species of rhododendron have been recorded in the higher climes.
Some of the world’s most endangered animal species such as the Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Kiang, Shapi and the Musk Deer are found in the alpine highlands. At lower elevations more prolific in vegetation, there are the Himalayan Black Bear, the Red Panda, the Clouded Leopard, the Common Leopard, Serow, Goral, Barking Deer, Wild Boar and a host of other lesser mammals. Not so long ago there was an incident when a Bengal tigress had strayed into the hills of Sikkim with her cubs for several months.
Of the 550 species of birds that range the Sikkim Himalayan skies, there is none more formidable than the magnificent Himalayan Griffon or the Bearded Vulture with its incredible wingspan which can be over 10 feet, and perhaps none more gorgeous than the elegant Impeyan Pheasant with its flamboyant electric-blue plumage. The more common birds seen are kingfishers, woodpeckers, cuckoos, sunbirds, thrushes, babblers, bulbuls, finches, eagles, hawks, owls, pigeons, doves, jungle fowls and pheasants. Seasonal visitors include migratory species such as Bar Headed Geese, Demoiselle Cranes, Ruddy Shell Ducks and Cormorants.
J. D. Hooker, the 19th Century English botanist catalogued 2,929 plant species in his 1849 expedition to Sikkim. Botanists today estimate there to be anywhere from 4,000 – 6,000 species in plant life. Now asides superlatives, avid nature lovers have the benefit of viewing an immense variety in vegetation from the tropical to the alpine kind. The jungles at lower elevations are lush with creepers and crawlers that lie beneath canopies of tree ferns, plantain, bamboo, and several species of tall trees that includes the gigantic Sal, which is said to take a hundred years to grow, a hundred years to season, and a hundred years of use before it decays. The temperate region is arrayed with yet some more interesting timberland and include oak, chestnuts, maple, birch, magnolia and rhododendron to name a few. And up in the cool temperate reaches where the earth begins to give way to granite, you will find larch, fir, juniper and more rhododendrons.
From two species of the rare Himalayan Blue Poppy to the hordes of variety in wild orchids, the wilderness of Sikkim is a Garden of Eden. Beginning in spring, flowering plants bloom all the way till late summer depending on the altitude. In urban areas many Sikkimese have taken to gardening, with an affinity especially for growing wild flowers. A visit to year-round flower festivals in Gangtok may likely surprise you with potted wild flowers in exhibition!
Sikkim ’s rich biodiversity will indeed be a delight to nature lovers and wildlife aficionados
Sites for Nature and Wildlife
Musk Deer, Blue Sheep, Snow Leopard (rare), Impeyan Pheasant
Getting there: Drive to Yuksam and trek
Gurudongmar-Tso Lhamu Trek
Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass), Marco Polo Sheep
Getting there: Drive to the vicinity via Lachen
Green Lake Trek
Shapi (Himalayan Tahr), Blue Sheep, Marco Polo Sheep, Serow, Goral,
Otter, Himalayan Marmot
Getting there: Drive to Lachen and trek
Khangchendzonga National Park
Wild Dog, Himalayan Black Bear, Yellow-throated Marten, Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, Tibetan Wild, Himalayan Musk Deer and Tibetan Argali, Common Langur, Red Fox, Large Indian Civet, Binturong, Indian Muntjac, Goral, Serow, Himalayan Tahr, Bharal (Blue Sheep) and Takin.
Getting there: Drive to Lingzya and trek
Neora National Park
Clouded Leopard, Red Panda, Musk Deer, Common Leopard, five species of Civets, Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Golden Cat, Wild Boar, Leopard Cat, Goral, Serow, Barking Deer, Sambar, Flying Squirrel and Tahr. Ocassional visitors to the park include the Gaur (Indian Bison), Wild Elephants, and Royal Bengal Tiger
Getting there: Drive to Lava from Kalimpong - 32 km
North Sikkim Tour/Yumthang
Rhododendron, primulae, and other alpine flora, Red Panda
Getting there: Drive from Gangtok - 142 km
Rhododendron, magnolia, orchids
Getting there: Drive to Hilley and trek
Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary
Rhododendron, Orchids, Red Panda and other lesser mammalia such as the Leopard Cat, Marbled Cat, Civet Cat.
Getting there: Drive from Gangtok to Rabongla - 70 km
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary
Getting there: 20 km drive from Gangtok