The legendary Buddhist guru Padmasambhava considered Sikkim as one of the last Edens on earth. Ranging from plunging mountain valleys and emerald alpine forests in the northern part of this magical state to the lush green terraced paddy fields and flowering rhododendrons in other parts, there’s beauty everywhere you look. Its rich treasure of flora and fauna is actually the surprise this beautiful state offers to the discerning traveler. The dense forests of Sikkim are an ideal habitat to the wide variety of fauna – such as – the snow leopard, wild ass, leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, musk deer and flying squirrel to name a few. In the alpine zones, yaks are reared to provide locals with milk, meat, and wool and also to be used in farms. The cutest animal of the menagerie is, of course, the Red panda – found at altitudes between 6,000 and 12,000 ft. Blue sheep, flying squirrels, binturong, tahrs, marmots and barking deer are also found in the state. The avifauna of Sikkim comprises 30% of the total birds, found in the whole Indian subcontinent and includes Impeyan Pheasant, Crimson Horned Pheasant, Snow Partridge, Snow Cock, Lammergeyer, Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, Quail, Plovers, Woodcock, Sandpipers, Pigeons, Old World Flycatchers, Babblers, and Robins.
Khangchendzonga National Park
The Khangchendzonga National Park is Sikkim’s most popular ‘biosphere reserve’. It is the ideal roaming ground for the musk deer, the snow leopard, and the Himalayan Tahr. Spread across an area of 1784 sq km, this is the largest wildlife reserve in Sikkim. The reserve gets its name from the third highest peak in the world, the Khangchendzonga, that lies on the western boundary of the park. The reserve also includes the vast Zemu Glacier and nestles a luxuriant flora and galaxy of the magnificent fauna of rare varieties.
Best Season to Visit: March to late May and September to mid- December.
A special pass is required and a tourist pass is issued by the Home Department, Government of Sikkim.
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary is located around 25 km from the town of Gangtok. Covering an area of around 51.76 Sq.kms, the sanctuary lies near the well known Rumtek Monastery, which is located on the southeastern side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a trekker’s paradise because various dense forests of katus, oak, champ, Kimbu, ferns, and bamboo beside rhododendrons, mosses, orchids, and lycopodium grow in unhindered abundance. The sanctuary provides shelter to various species of animals like Himalayan Black Bear, Civet cat, Red Panda, Binturong or Bear-Cat etc.
Some of the common birds seen here include Satyr Tragopan, Hill Partridges, Kalij Pheasant, Collared Scops Owl, Collared Broadbill, Black Eagle, Maroon Oriole, Bulbus, Titmice, Green Pigeon, Brown Wood Owl, Nepal Tree Creeper, Orange-bellied Chloropsis, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie and many more
Best Season to Visit is March to late May and September to mid- December. Permission is required from the Forest Department for National as well as Foreign Tourists.
Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary
Located around 31 km from Gangtok, this is quite near the famous Tsomgo Lake. The sanctuary is the perfect place for trekking between the months of October-November – the ideal time for visiting the place. Rich in natural vegetation cover and, the sanctuary is home to many rare species of plants and trees that are hard to find elsewhere. Some of the common species endemic to this region are – tall juniper, rhododendron, silver fir, orchid, primulas, gentians, wild strawberries, rare Panax, irises etc. The sanctuary also has various species of medicinal plants like Nilo Bikh, Kutki, Jatamanasi, etc. The Himalayan Black Bear, Musk Deer, Blood Pheasant, Leopard, Red Panda, Common Langur, Himalayan Marmot, Serow, Yellow-throated Martens Weasel, Lesser Cats, and Satyr Tragopan etc. have also made Kyongnosla home. Some of the commonly seen birds are Monal Pheasant, Laughing Thrushes, Satyr, Snow Partridges, Red-billed Choughs, Redstarts, Rose Finches, Tragopan, Kestrel, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Forktails and many more. Best season to visit is April – August, and October – November.
By:Aarti Kapur Singh