Welcome to Manas.
Also known as Bhutan’s crown jewel, Manas represents the largest tropical and subtropical ecosystems in Bhutan. Located in the south central region of Bhutan, Manas region falls under the districts of Sarpand, Zhemgang and Pema Gatshel.
Things to do
1. Elephant Rides at Manas Park
The Royal National Manas park is rich in wildlife species, including the highly endangered Royal Bengol Tiger. WWF and Bhutan’s Nature Conservation Division jointly developed a 5 year conservation management plan which includes training park staff, supporting biological and social economy services, and park monitoring programs. The Park also offers the elephant rides at Nu. 100 along the “Specialthang Nature Trail”. As you ride deeper into the trail, the path takes you into the thicker jungles of Manas and into the tropical wilderness.
2. Bird Watching
Designated as a wildlife sanctuary, The Royal Manas National Park has the country’s most exquisite birds, plants and animal species. One of the most distinct bird species you’ll notice as you enter the Manas region are woodpeckers, Oriental Cuckoos and the magnificent hornbill. These unique birds are characterized by a long, down-curved bill which is brightly coloured in yellow. The best time to spot these exotic birds are along the Specialthang Nature Trail at the park where the park staff has also allocated bird-watching areas with park benches along the trail.
3. River Rafting with the River Guides of Panbang
In your travel itinerary, you must include rafting to Manas Park arranged by the river guides of panbang at Nu. 500 per head (local rates). The trip takes you on an hour-long rafting experience that leads you straight to the river bank opening to the Royal Manas National Park. Be sure to wear lots of sunscreen as the one hour on the open water can get you a bad sunburn. There aren’t a lot of rapids but the smooth ride on the water is ideal for family rafting adventures.
(On a boat)
4. Cook in a Khengpa Kitchen
The kheng region in Zhemgang has its own unique flavors and we were excited to try it directly from a Khengpa kitchen. With the abundant banana palm trees in the region, banana blossoms (also known as Mochela in khengkha) are a local delicacy.
The banana flower is peeled to extract the blossoms which are soaked and then fried with onion, garlic and tomatoes. Add some cottage cheese and the khengpa Mochela dish is done. Stirring a pot on an open fire in a small elevated bamboo hut with a dim lamp lighting the dark room – cooking in a Khengpa kitchen is definitely a unique experience in itself.
(Cooking in a Khengpa kitchen)
5. Stay at Eco Camps
The Jungle Eco Lodge isn’t the only accommodation available in Manas. If you’re looking for cheaper lodges, there are many smaller Eco Camps that offer cheaper rooms at Nu. 300 and Nu. 500 per night. There are several Eco Camps you can visit in Gomphu, Pantang and Shillingtoe communities. Try the Gomphu-Manas-Norbugang Eco Trail for more unique experiences in Manas.
(Lodge in Manas)
6. Swim with tiny fish
If you’re visiting Manas in early spring, you’ll enjoy swimming in the freshwater creek right in front of the Jungle Eco Lodge. The crystal clear water and the warm weather is perfect for a nice sunny day dip but the best part is swimming with the tiny fishes in the water. You’ll be surprised to see the fishes swim towards you and curiously nibble on your feet. It might be the best swimming experience you will ever have.
7. Visit the Twin Waterfall
Before you enter Panbang you are welcomed by a beautiful sight of the twin waterfall near Changazam. The long straight highway right next to the viewpoint of the waterfall is also ideal for a bike ride from Panbang.
8. Wash Elephants
If you don’t want to ride the elephants, the best way to interact with the beautiful animals is by helping the park staff wash the elephants in the river when they return from grazing in the late afternoons. Be sure to inform the park before you make the trip there.
(Elephant in the water)
9. Go Biking in Panbang
The small town of Panbang is quiet and beautiful so explore the place on a bike. The jungle lodge arranges the bike rides for interested guests. The pleasant warm breeze and stunning eco trail create an enjoyable, unforgettable ride.
Be prepared for the subtropical heat if you’re planning to go in summer. The spring and autumn months are ideal for a holiday. Be sure to pack enough sunscreen and mosquito repellents.
How to Get There
To get to Manas, you have to take a five hour road trip to Gelephu via Tsirang. Before you reach Tsirang you’ll come across the famous pickle market of Burichhu. Shopping for local homemade pickles by the women of Burichhu is a must, if you find yourself along that highway.
The pickles are made from a range of local ingredients like bamboo shoot, dalley, tomatoes, lime and red chillies which are all dried and pickled in the village homes of the dozens of women selling the delicious pickles in the market. You’ll also find fruits, local honey, tamarind and much more on display.
Accommodation in Manas
If you’re looking for a unique accommodation, the Jungle Eco Lodge in Panbang is just for you. Initiated by the river guides of Panbang in 2016, the lodge has a unique blend of a Jungle safari and a traditional Khengpa aesthetic. The river guides of Panbang is a community-based river-rafting company that specializes in ecotourism in Panbang.
The elevated hut-inspired lodges are cozy, comfortable and can accommodate two people in each room. You can also enjoy the food served at the lodge, like traditional bamboo soup, local fried chicken, and a steamed pomfret surprise with local herbs.
Supported by The Tourism Council of Bhutan