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  • Photograph of Golden-breasted Fulvetta

    The superb Golden-breasted Fulvetta by Francesco Veronesi.

    YUNNAN

    Best Wildlife in Yunnan

    Mammals
    A chance of Western Black-crested and Eastern Hoolock Gibbons, Phayre’s Leaf Monkey (Langur), Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey, Indian, Chinese Giant, Red Giant and Spotted Giant Flying Squirrels, and Giant Black Squirrel. Also an outside chance of Red Panda (at Xia Geza, about 50 km from Shangri La, for example, and in Bingzhongluo NP in the far northwest).

    Birds
    The lists below are for the northern winter, especially December-January.

    Specialities
    Black-necked Crane, Collared Treepie, Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Slender-billed Oriole, Black-bibbed and Black-browed Tits, Yunnan Nuthatch, Crested Finchbill, Black-breasted and Chinese Thrushes, Rosy Minivet, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Chinese Babax, Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler, Spotted Elachura (formerly Wren Babbler, now in a family of its own), Long-tailed Wren-Babbler, Rufous-tailed Babbler (Moupinia), Grey Sibia, Himalayan Cutia, Golden-breasted, Rusty-capped, Spectacled, Yellow-throated and Yunnan (Grey-cheeked) Fulvettas, Brown-winged, Grey-headed and Pale-billed (Lesser Rufous-headed) Parrotbills, Collared Myna, and Fire-tailed and Gould’s Sunbirds. Also a chance of Hume's, Lady Amherst's, White Eared and other pheasants, several partridges, Solitary Snipe, Derbyan Parakeet, Ward's Trogon, Ruddy Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Hooded Pitta, Giant Nuthatch, Green and Purple Cochoas, White-speckled (Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Fire-tailed Myzornis and Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, and an outside chance of Gould's Shortwing.

    Others
    Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Falcated Duck, Black Stork, (Eurasian) Black and Himalayan Griffon Vultures, Black and White-tailed Eagles, Common Crane, Ibisbill, Himalayan Swiftlet, Red-headed Trogon, Crested Kingfisher, (Eurasian) Hoopoe, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Blue-throated, Golden-throated and Great Barbets, Greater Yellownape, Long-tailed Broadbill, Ashy Woodswallow, minivets, Red-billed Blue Magpie, tits, bulbuls, Chestnut-headed, Grey-bellied and Slaty-bellied Tesias, warblers including Black-faced and Broad-billed, parrotbills, Large Niltava, Black-backed, Little, Slaty-backed, Spotted and White-crowned Forktails, White-tailed Robin, Golden Bush Robin, Himalayan Bluetail, redstarts, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, thrushes, many laughingthrushes including Blue-winged, Rufous-necked, Spot-breasted and White-crested, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Silver-eared Mesia, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minlas, Beautiful and Black-headed Sibias, scimitar-babblers, Black-eared, Black-headed, Blyth’s (White-browed) and Green Shrike Babblers, wren-babblers, Chevron-breasted (Wedge-billed Wren) Babbler, yuhinas, Golden-fronted and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Maroon-backed Accentor, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, buntings, rosefinches, Black-headed Greenfinch, Tibetan Serin and Plain Mountain Finch. Also a chance of Smew, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great, Oriental Pied and Wreathed Hornbills, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Common Green and Yellow-billed (Blue) Magpies, Wallcreeper, and Crimson-browed and Gold-naped Finches.

    Plants
    There are over fifteen thousand species of plants in Yunnan, including 1400 species of higher plant in the Gaoligongshan mountain range alone, a paradise for plant hunters, as famous Victorian ones like George Forrest, Frank Kingdon-Ward and Ernest Wilson found out a long time ago. Many familiar garden plants originate from this region where rhododendrons especially cover many slopes.

    Other Natural Wonders in Yunnan

    Jade Dragon Snow Mountains
    Thirteen peaks, many with permanent snow, reminiscent of a dragon’s back, rising to 5596 m (18,360 ft) at Shanzidou.

    Tiger Leaping Gorge
    This scenic canyon, which may be the world’s deepest at about 2000m (6600 ft), is about 17 km (10 miles) long and just 25-30 m (80-100 ft) wide at its narrowest point, where, local legend has it a Tiger was once seen leaping across. Carved by the Jinsha (Golden) River it has some of the roughest rapids on Earth.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Yunnan

    Best Times for Wildlife in Yunnan

    The best time for birds in Yunnan is during the northern winter, especially December-January, when migrant species from further north are present, including Black-necked Crane, and late April-early May for many forest species. Because of the wide range of altitudes weather conditions during the winter are very variable, from cold and damp, including snow, to hot and sunny. High up, gloves and warm clothes are essential. Also during this time it is best not to travel during the Chinese New Year holidays which usually last two weeks at the end of January and/or beginning of February. The best time for the widest variety of flowering plants is late May through June.

    Recommended Books etc. for Yunnan

    Mammals of China (Pocket Edition) edited by A Smith and Y Xie. PUP, 2013.

    A Guide to the Mammals of China by A Smith, Y Xie et al. PUP, 2008.

    The Mammals of China by Sheng Helin et al. China Forestry Publishing House, 1999.

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia by C M Francis. New Holland Publishers, 2008.

    Birds of South-East Asia by C Robson. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).

    Birds of South-East Asia Concise Edition by C Robson. Helm, 2015.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of China by J MacKinnon and K Phillipps. OUP, 2000.

    Bradt Travel Guide: Yunnan by S Mansfield. Bradt, 2007 (Second Edition).

    Bradt Travel Guide: Chinese Wildlife by M Walters. Bradt, 2008.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Yunnan

    Many trip reports, some for Yunnan, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Yunnan. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Yunnan' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Yunnan

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Yunnan

    Some Organized Tours to Yunnan

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Yunnan in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.