80 kms from Bagdogra Airport and 51 kms from Darjeeling town lies the hill resort of Kalimpong. Located at an altitude of 4,000 feet in the mid hills of the Himalaya, this well populated town commands a panoramic view of the snow clad ranges and is the gateway to the Lava and Neora Valley region.
Kalimpong is the preferred halt if you want to bird the Lava area in some comfort. The accommodation available at Lava and Loylegaon is very basic and may even be unsatisfactory for some. Kalimpong provides a variety of quality resorts to suit all budgets and is an hour's drive from Lava.
I have used most up-market hotels in Kalimpong and decided to stay at the Orchid Retreat this time. Orchid Retreat is a 20 bed property located amidst a 2.5 acre flower nursery surrounded by mixed forest. It is 4kms east of Kalimpong on the road to Lava and is a convenient halting point for those interested in visiting the Lava/Neora area. Surrounded by birds, flowers and butterflies, the resorts spotless rooms, personalised service and great food are an added bonus to the Kalimpong
On this visit to Kalimpong I decided to explore the Pradhan's property and skipped the planned visit to Lava. This seemed like a good decision as there was hectic bird activity all around through the day, and you could watch it from your cottage. The species observed at this altitude is a mix of the higher altitude and plains. Great and Blue-throated Barbets share the space together with Himalayan and Red-vented Bulbuls. The undisturbed private property can be a useful place to
closely observe some of these species on a visit to the area.
Scarlet Minivet, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch were the most attractive subjects for photography. Various warbler species, a Speckled Piculet and a Racket-tailed Drongo all added variety. The resident Asian Barred Owlet is a bonus and Mr. Pradhan mentions that Common Green Magpie is indeed common on the property (I dipped). Raptors included Steppe Eagles and a magnificent Mountain Hawk Eagle. But the area holds
more potential than the 30+ species I observed, and rarities cannot be ruled out.
Blue Whistling Thrush
Blyth's Leaf Warbler
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
Scarlet Minivet (f)
Rufous-bellied Niltava (f)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
How to reach
Kalimpong is 80 kms from Bagdogra ( 3 hrs.) off the road to Gangtok and is 51 kms from Darjeeling ( 3 hrs). The nearest railhead is New Jalpaiguri (80kms). The town is well connected by surface transport from all major towns in the area
Where to stay
* Orchid Retreat;"Ganesh Villa", Kalimpong. Ph# 91-3552-74517
* Himalayan Hotel, Kalimpong
(Note: There are many other places you can stay in but the comforts may not be significantly better than what is available at location in Lava
Best time to visit
November to April.
The Orchid Retreat