Royal Manas National Park


The Royal Manas National Park covers an area of 1057 kilometer square – 653 kms(2) of core zone and 404 Kms(2) of multiple use zone areas – and falls at the tri-junction of three Dzongkhags: Zhemgang, Sarpang and Pemagatshel as well as on the border with India.  There are about 2000 households living within the Royal Manas National park, and the total population is 8936 (RMNP, 2017).

The Royal Manas National Park, which is in Zhemgang Dzongkhag, falls under two gewogs, Gomphu and Trong. The main entrance to the park in Zhemgang is about 20 minutes’ drive south of Panbang town. A check post marks the entrance to the park, and for approximately 30 minutes, the road then leads through the park towards the Manas River. The main part of the park is located on the other side of the river and is accessible by boats.

The park has 558 species of flora and many different species of fauna living within the protected area. Until 2015, the park recorded 65 mammals’ species, 486 birds’ species, 69 fishes’ species and 181 butterflies’ species. Among the mammals, the park is home to several endangered animals such as Royal Bengal tigers, Golden langurs, Clouded leopards, Asian elephants and others (RMNP, 2017). In addition to the park being a home to 4 elephants (1 female and 3 males), the sanctuary has the largest tiger populations within Bhutan with 22-recorded tigers in 2016.


The Royal Manas National Park is the oldest protected areas in the nation established in the early 1960s. The park, initially established as a Game Sanctuary was taken care of by Indian foresters in its early period. It was formally declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1964 and was later renamed as Royal Manas National Park in 1993.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are the funding partners, and the Department of Forests and Park Services under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) of the Royal government of Bhutan maintains the park.


The main base in the park mainly has residential houses for the staff who work in the park, under the Department of Forests and Park Services, MoAF. There are 15 housing quarters for the staff and 3 guesthouses. Each guesthouse has a hallway and 3 rooms, and each room has 2 beds for visitors.

The main head office, a one-storey house, is near the entrance of the park for administrative work. The park manager’s office is in this building along with allocated office room for forest officers and other staffs. A grade II BHU is there to cater to residents and visitors alike during medical emergencies. The only means of communication within the main base is through wireless.

The park has private residences of HM the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s, which have been built in a restricted part of the park. The two residences are only opened when the kings’ visit.

Two Eco-lodges, one in Gomphu and another in Pantang, have been built as part of the Royal Manas National Park, but they are a little away from the main park. The Eco-lodges built in a hut style, have a traditional thatched roof with modern facilities such as bathroom, a shower and a dinning area. A single hut can accommodate two beds for visitors wishing to spend the night.

The Eco-lodges was, initially, built with funding provided by the park, and was managed by the park. However, the daily functions of the two eco-lodges have now been outsourced to the community people, and are now overseen by a committee.

Human Resources and Park Management

The park has 13 regular staff working on a daily basis: 10 staffs operate in the main base, 2 staffs in Panbang and 1 personnel guards the check post. Apart from the regular staffs, the park also has 10 elephant caretakers, hired from local and nearby bordering areas.

The majority of the staff and ranger’s family do not live in the main base, they live nearby in Panbang, or in some cases, Gelephu, which is a 4-hour drive from the park. The staff and people working at the sanctuary go to the nearby border town called Barbetal in the Indian state of Assam for major shopping. And small items are purchased from Panbang town.

When the river swells during summers, it becomes difficult for the staff to cross the river to go for their daily/weekly shopping. The staff, then, has to wait for the river to subside. Therefore, the people working at the park has to be prepared and well stocked in case of such events. During such times, the staff in the main base has to depend on each other.

The number of guest – Foreigners, Indians and Bhutanese visiting Manas National Park has been increasing yearly. Although, there is a large number of daily visitors from India, the park does not keep record of these visits. However, visitors wanting to stay the night in the main base have to register in the guesthouse. Bhutanese visitors need to get permission from the park manager to stay the night, whereas foreigners need to gain permission from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the park manager before their visit. There is no limit to a visitor’s stay in the park. However, the lack of immigration office still hinders tourism growth in the Park as most of the tourists are Indians, but they cannot stay the night in the Manas Park.

Best times to visit —The park rangers say that the best time to visit the sanctuary is from October to April.

The Manas River

The Manas River (Drangme Chhu – Bhutan), named after the serpent god in Hindu mythology, Manasa, is the largest river system in Bhutan. It has four major tributaries in Bhutan: Mangde Chhu, Chamkar Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Drangme Chhu in eastern and central Bhutan.  Other perennial rivers such as Udigang, Kukulung and Kanamakura River also form some of the important watersheds of the Royal Manas National Park (Department of Forests and Park Services, 2018). The 376 Kilometers river flows through Bhutan for 272 kilometers, and 104 kilometers in Assam before joining the Brahmaputra River at Jogighopa in Assam.

Leisure Activities and Social Functions

The Royal Manas Park offers a number of excursions that visitors can participate in.

Another popular activity offered in the park is rafting. Visitors can decide to raft on the Manas river with 2 guides. The rafting usually starts from the check post, and continues till the main base taking about 30 minutes depending on the condition of the river. This activity is only offered depending on the size of the river, and extra precaution is taken during summer seasons when the river swells. The most popular rafting company, the River Guides of Panbang is a community based white-water rafting company. Formed in 2015 and partially funded by the Bhutan Foundation US and Loden Foundation, it promotes eco-tourism and provides employment opportunities for the local people.

Elephant safari is available for visitors after 5 PM every day. The elephants are usually engaged in research and other activities throughout the day, and thus only open for safari towards the evening. Staffs regularly use elephants to patrol for illegal logging and poaching, and also for border patrolling.

The park also has numerous trails for walking as well as a mountain biking trail. At present, visitors are expected to bring their own bikes. However, the park has plans to purchase bikes for future use.  Plans for the introduction of mountain biking and jeep safari has not been executed because of certain circumstances.

Other than the regular activities offered within the park, the staff also organizes sensitization programme such as ‘Small Cats Day’ in Norbugang School and nearby schools. The Small Cats Day, which is similar to World’s Tiger Day, is celebrated as a way to orient students on the importance of small cats and how children can help protect them.

Routes to Royal Manas National Park

Royal Manas National Park has one main access point open for both Bhutanese and tourist alike, and a secondary route through India. This narrow unpaved road, parallel to Manas River, leads south from the main base, towards the border with India.

  • The first route to the park is by road. Visitors can take one of the four options available to reach their destination:
    • Route 1: Gelephu to Manas via Tingtibi, Gomphu, Tanthang and Panbang – 200 kms
    • Route 2: Gelelphu to Manas via Barbeta road, India – 152 kms
    • Route 3: Zhemgang to Manas via Tingtibi and Panbang – 150 kms
    • Route 4: Nanglam to Manas via Panbang – 68 kms
  • Visitors approaching the park from Panbang town have to park their car on the other side of the river, and ride a riverboat that operates daily. The park’s two rubber boats take turns to transport the visitor to the main base and office. A team of 10 personnel from the park runs the boat on a shift system. The Senior Forester reported that the park tried to schedule specific timing for the boat rides due to the high fuel consumption; however, the different timings of visitors made it difficult for the park to keep to the schedule. Currently, the boats ferry visitors back and forth multiple times a day.
  • The second route is through Panbari range, where a temporary forest route has opened. This route is, however, not popular and is only used to cater to a limited number of people.

This write-up is partly based on a field trip, partly based on the following references:


Department of Forests and Park Services. (2018). Royal Manas National Park. Retrieved on October 10, 2018, from:

Manas River. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved on October 10, 2018, from:

RMNP. (2017). Population Status and density of tigers in the Southern belt of Royal Manas National Park (2015-2016). Technical Report.

RMNP. (n.d.). Royal Manas National Park: The first national park of Bhutan. [brochure].


Sangay Dorji, Senior Forest Officer – 17813023

Leki Tshedup, Senior Forest Officer I – 17317500


Tshering Om Tamang, Associate Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktese, Trongsa, Royal University of Bhutan, 2018

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