India - Red Pandas

Photographic Expedition

Red Panda – Photographic Expedition

Singalila National Park

Singalila National Park is a reserved forest area located at the Singalila ridge in Darjeeling district. This is a high altitude park spanning between 7,900ft to about 12,000ft covering an area of 78.6 square kms. This is in fact the highest altitude park in the state of West Bengal. It was initially a wild life sanctuary and later made into a national park in 1992. The whole of Singalila range and the national park has long been part of the trekking route to Sandakphu and Phalut.

Singalila is one of the best places for the Exotic Red Panda, Apart from this other mammals found here are: Himalayan Black bear, Clouded Leopard, Black Panther, Leopard, Leopard Cat, Serow, Barking Deer, Yellow-throated Martin, Wild Boar, Pangolin, Pika and many more.

Singalila is a Birding Paradise. More than 300 species of birds found here. It has a huge list of exotic birds: Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Kalij Pheasant, Brown and Fulvous Parrotbills, Rufous-vented Tit, and Old World babblers like the Fire-tailed Myzornis and the Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Rosefinchs, bull finches, Wran Babblers, Laughingthrushes, Nuthatchs, Treecreepers, Yahunas, Minivets, Partriges and many more.

One of the best places to see sunrise and sunsets, Sandakphu top is the highest peak in West Bengal and offers the best view of Kangchenjunga also known as “Sleeping Buddha” or Sleeping Shiva”.

Our main Target Species for this trip will be the beautiful and elusive Red Panda.

The Red Panda

The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called lesser panda, red bear-cat, and red cat-bear, is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs, and is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day.
The red panda has been classified as Endangered by the IUCN because its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression, although red pandas are protected by national laws in their range countries.
The red panda is the only living species of the genus Ailurus and the family Ailuridae. It has been previously placed in the raccoon and bear families, but the results of phylogenetic research provide strong support for its taxonomic classification in its own family Ailuridae, which along with the weasel, raccoon and skunk families is part of the superfamily Musteloidea. It is not closely related to the giant panda.
The head and body length of a red panda measures 50 to 64 cm (20 to 25 in), and its tail is 28 to 59 cm (11 to 23 in). Males weigh 3.7 to 6.2 kg (8.2 to 13.7 lb) and females 3 to 6.0 kg (6.6 to 13.2 lb). They have long, soft, reddish-brown fur on the upper parts, blackish fur on the lower parts, and a light face with tear markings and robust cranio dental features. The light face has white badges similar to those of a raccoon, but each individual can have distinctive markings. Their roundish heads have medium-sized upright ears, black noses, and very dark eyes – almost pitch black. Their long bushy tails with six alternating yellowish red transverse ochre rings provide balance and excellent camouflage against their habitat of moss- and lichen-covered trees. The legs are black and short with thick fur on the soles of the paws. This fur serves as thermal insulation on snow-covered or icy surfaces and conceals scent glands which are also present on the anus.
The red panda is territorial; it is solitary except during mating season. The species is generally quiet except for some twittering, tweeting, and whistling communication sounds. It has been reported to be both nocturnal and crepuscular, sleeping on tree branches or in tree hollows during the day and increasing its activity in the late afternoon and early evening hours. It sleeps stretched out on a branch with legs dangling when it is hot, and curled up with its tail over the face when it is cold. This panda is very heat sensitive, with an optimal “well-being” temperature between 17 and 25 °C (63 and 77 °F), and cannot tolerate temperatures over 25 °C (77 °F).
Shortly after waking, red pandas clean their fur like a cat, licking their front paws and then rubbing their backs, torsos, and sides. They also rub their backs and bellies along the sides of trees or rocks. Then they patrol their territories, marking with urine and a weak musk-smelling secretion from their anal glands. They search for food running along the ground or through the trees. Red pandas may alternately use their fore paws to bring food to their mouths or place food directly into their mouths.

I will be leading a small group tour of 4 photographers for a one off expedition starting on 22nd October. The trip will be for 7 nights and 8 days.


The Singalila Experience

The whole Singalila tour will be an experience of a life time. Four of the five highest peaks in the world can be seen from this park which are Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. And seeing a Red Panda in a place like this is just mind-blowing, A dream for any photographer. We will have a team of porters to help us with our equipment during trekking. Not sure if you can trek? Don’t worry, there will be safari cars going with us. You can hop on any time you want. The safari cars used here are the historic Land Rovers. These cars are alive only here in the world, a heritage indeedWe will be staying in pristine locations, relishing magical sunrise / sunsets.  The location being remote, accommodation and facilities will be basic, clean and hygienic.

Photographing Red Pandas

Very few people have had the privilege of photographing Red Pandas in the wild. They are rare, elusive and don’t usually hang around posing for you. They are an extremely challenging species as they often move around in the tree tops, with the light constantly changing from bright to shade. A lens of 80-400mm, 100-400mm or 200-400mm range is ideal as can be hand held and used easily. A 500-600 mm lens with monopod is also a useful addition. Most of the images I captured were with the 80-400mm lens as I found it easier to handle in the dense vegetation. Porters are available to assist in carrying all equipment.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Pick up will be from Bagdogra Airport at 1:30pm and transfer to Manebhanjan. We will have lunch enroute. Once at Manebhanjan we will stop for evening tea and then will meet the porters, landrovers and all the relevant documents and then make our way to Base Camp at Kaikata. We will check in to the resort and spend the evening relaxing.


Day 2 to 7

The next 6 days will consist of daily trekking for the red pandas, combined with bird photography (including our own hide set up at the resort). Our Trekking Team will go to different known Red Panda territories daily and will notify us of any sightings. If anything is seen we will go to the locations and trek. We will also do our own daily treks to search different areas. Every night we will return to the resort for dinner and overnight.


Day 8:

Check out from the resort after breakfast around 8am. We will reach Bagdogra Airport by 2pm.


Resort & Facilities:

The Habre’s Nest Resort, Kaiakata

  • Double Bedded Rooms with Attached Western Toilets & Balcony
  • Every Balcony is a Sunset Point.
  • Room Heater.
  • Running Water.
  • Hot Water.
  • Room Service.
  • Mini Bar cum sitting area with a fire place.
  • Power supply (Generator) from 5pm to 8am.
  • Perfect Blend of Local Food with a western touch.
  • In house Bird Studio with a hide.

Tour Dates (8 Days & 7 Nights): 21/10/2017 – 28/10/2017

Other Tour Dates can be arranged for February/March or October.

Group Size: 4 Guest

Additional Naturalist & Photography Escort: Shivang Mehta & Shantanu Prasad

The cost of the above safari is £2500 per person for all details as described above or £3000 per person if the Delhi to Bagdogra internal flight and accommodation in Delhi before and after the safari is required.


To book a place on this trip we will require an £800 deposit at time of booking. Places are limited and will fill up extremely quickly.

 Cost Includes:

* Pick up & Drop from Bagdogra

* Your stay & food as mentioned above.

* Naturalist service.

* Porters & Safari Landrover Cost.

* Permit cost.

* Still camera permits.

* Bottled Water.

* Red Panda Tracking.

* Nepal Permission.


Cost Excludes:

* Any other food or beverages other than mentioned above.

* Laundry service.

* Alcohol.

* Anything not mentioned above.


PLEASE NOTE: We may change the above plan according to the sighting but services will remain of the same quality only the places of stay may change. We may also go to adjacent part of Nepal for Red Panda with proper permission.


NEPAL VISA: For every Foreign guest the Nepal Visa is a must. The Required details for the visa application is as follows,

  • Visa Type: Online
  • Visa application Dates: 2 days before the trip starts, guest needs to apply online.
  • Entry point to Nepal: KAKARBHITTA, JHAPA
  • Address in Nepal: The Habre’s Nest Resort, Kaiakata, Ilam District, Nepal.

Red Panda - Photography Expedition

1 + 6 =

Your Touch the Wild Guide:
Paul McDougall

Wildlife Tour dates:

October 21st – October 28th 2017 – Scheduled Photography Tour.

Other dates available for February/March and October 2017