The elusive Red Panda is a charming animal that is found in North of West Bengal in India. An endangered species, this solitary Himalayan animal is one of the most sought after sightings in the wild. The Singalila National Park (most common for its beautiful trekking trails to Sandakphu and beyond), with a total area of 78.60sq kms at an altitude of more than 7000ft, lies in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, bordering Nepal, and is one of the most populated red panda habitats in India. As such, it is an ideal location to spot the Red Panda in its natural habitat.
Team GroupOuting™ conducts the Red Panda Search Expedition with its team of experts in March – April each year in small teams. Our expeditions have been a great success. Not only do the guests spot the Red Panda, but the team also spots several other rare birds during their weeklong expedition.
The unique part about GroupOuting™ Red Panda expedition is that our experts do not just track one location to spot a panda, which is what the majority of companies do – they bring guests and put them up at a luxury resort for the entire duration of stay, where they can spot the animal with very little hard work in the backyard of the resort. That is a different kind of tour, which offers a great amount of ease and comfort, and could a good choice depending on what you want in your trip, but not something that is offered in GroupOuting’s expedition. Similarly, you pay a fraction of the cost with us. For all the participants who plan on signing up for a Red Panda Expedition, this is an important aspect that you should take into consideration, so you know what you are in for before you decide to participate in the Expedition.
With GroupOuting, it is an actual expedition that requires a fair amount of hard work, physical stamina, long treks through the woods and forests, long days of outdoor search and changing basecamp up to three times during the expedition to cover multiple territories that are known for their Red Panda population. This ensures that your entire trip is always exciting, covering new landscapes, and offers a more authentic experience in the woods. As a participant, you are more active and involved during the expedition, trekking to different parts of the forest unreachable by a vehicle.
All through the weeklong search operation, GroupOuting’s ground staff take care of everything right from airport transfers to comfortable lodging, fresh hot meals through the expedition, packaged drinking water, warm beverages and ample supplies of quick bites during treks. The accommodation is offered in neat and hygienic private rooms with attached western toilets. There is little luxury but comfortable stay for those who prioritise the experience of an outdoor adventure in the hills and woods. The team is well manned with an expert Naturalist who guides the entire team, GroupOuting members and staff who accompany guests through the entire tour, along with porters for additional assistance. Every direction the team moves during their search operation is based on inputs by forest dwellers and locals on the movement of the Panda or signs of its presence. So the search operation is very real, thrilling and well worth the hard work.
When opting for the Red Panda Search Expedition, the physical fitness of the participants need to be moderately high, so as to undertake all the treks involved. All transfers from airport to basecamp outside the National Park is done through well maintained SUVs, and within the National Park, all transfers are on the vintage Land Rovers as per the guidelines of the Highlanders Association in Manebhanjan.
The trip is thoroughly guided by a GroupOuting staff at all times, and is safe for all participants who are physically fit to undergo a strenuous activity of such demanding nature in such hostile weather conditions. So anyone interested in joining, apprehensive of what it would be like to join an unknown group of wildlife enthusiasts, it is totally safe for you. Group of women, solo travelers of any gender, young teens as well as guests visiting India for the first time, all can freely take part in the Expedition. Wifi and phone connectivity during the trek can be very limited to none at all, and yet, you may be able to make calls using the cell phones of the hosts by paying for the services. Whatever the case, safety of the guests are always prioritized.
The best time to spot a Red Panda in India is mid of March until late April. A minimum of two heads can start the expedition privately, or may take part in an ongoing group departure. The weather conditions during the months of March to April is pretty wide, ranging from 0 degrees celcius at night to 8 to 10 degrees at noon. It is uncommon, however, the area has experienced occasional snow during this time of the year as well, when the temperature drops by several degrees. It is best to be well packed in layers, so that you are covered. During the day, it is warm, and especially so during the expedition, when you will be walking a lot. Sudden short spell of showers are very common, so a poncho or rain cover is a recommended. A good waterproof trekking shoe will be a great asset during the expedition. Remember to carry another pair of walking shoes as a back up.
GroupOuting encourages expeditions in smaller groups of not more than six participants in one group. This ensures less noise, quick movement and better managed expeditions.
The most rewarding Expeditions are those where you are awarded with a view of the elusive panda. However, as with any natural sighting, it can never be guaranteed. It is because we carry out red panda search operations out in the wild and not in an enclosed area, and it is absurd and impossible to guarantee a sighting in the wild. We can only increase our chances by taking on board the very best team and Guides, and by following their instructions at all times, and also by keeping flexible itineraries based on how each expedition turns out. That aside, you may trust that the GroupOuting team will do everything out of our way to make sure you have a memorable and pleasant time. Because of our small teams, we always get to know our guests beforehand and take all necessary precautions for a safe and comfortable Expedition each time.
Scroll through the gallery to get an idea of the views you will come across, the accommodation standard we provided, the guest reviews and don’t miss out on the Red Panda images and other rare bird species spotted from our last expeditions. Also stay hooked for the upcoming Red Panda video that we will upload soon.
If you have any questions, talk to us. If nothing, we would love connecting with a nature lover and a wildlife enthusiast from another part of the Globe. 🙂