Come November, and the skies over Gangtey take on a different hue. The locals run out of their homes as the skies darken with the arrival of flocks of Black Necked Cranes, as they swoop down into the valley to roost for the winter.
With an enormous wing span, black necks, and red crowns, the sight of these birds flying into Probjikha valley in Central Bhutan, is simply breathtaking.
For the Bhutanese, the bird is a sacred symbol of longevity.
To herald their arrival, the locals of the Gangtey Goemba, put on a spectacular display.
Folk dance, music and pantomime creates a lively display, which highlights important issues such as environmental awareness and nature conservation. The Black-necked Crane Festival began in the late 90s, to celebrate the spirit of these sacred birds as they fly into Bhutan from their summer home in the Tibetan plateau. It gives the locals a reason to celebrate their natural heritage, and show off their culture with elaborate masked dance and song.
It’s also an innovative way to attract visitors from across the world, to learn more about this sacred bird while supporting the community that gives it a safe home for the winter.
Bhutan is extremely proactive when it comes to wildlife conservation.
For example, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature was successful in making the government instal an underground power grid, to ensure that the birds did not become victims to overhead power lines. Bhutan has also kickstarted several community development initiatives to not only preserve, but also enhance, wetland habitat to encourage the cranes and other waterfowl.
What we love most about this festival is the perfect balance of nature and culture.
The sustainable development cycle that has evolved out of it, is in perfect keeping with the Bhutanese concept of Gross National Happiness, which emphasises harmony between the material and non-material aspects of one’s wellbeing.