The essence of the experience
The rare black-necked crane is highly honoured in the Himalaya region. These majestic birds migrate from Tibet to Bhutan in late autumn each year, foreshadowing the close of harvesting season and the onset of farmer relocations to the warmer, lower valley. The Bhutanese fondly call the stately bird, Thrung Thrung Keh Narp, literally translating to thin, tall and black necked. Over 300 of these avian wonders soar to the warmer Phobjikha valley in the winter months, without fail and enigmatically looping over the Gangtey Goempa Monastery three full times, both when they arrive and when they leave. Bhutanese folklore attributes this mystifying and perplexing behaviour to the birds paying reverence to the three sacred jewels of Buddhism, as well as entreating for protection throughout their stay. Traditional stories tell the tale of a pair of cranes that choose to stay behind each year, offering themselves to the valley in thankfulness for the fare and wellbeing of their kin. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature is also known as The Crane Centre. It exhibits important material on the cranes and their environment, as well as guiding conservation awareness operations on this threatened bird. A great time to visit Gangtey is in the winter months, especially November, when the black-necked crane festival occurs, colourfully observed in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, with local songs, dramas, and masked dances, welcoming the endangered avian miracle in fine Bhutanese fashion.