The golden land of Myanmar

Oversea tours
The ultimate Burma birding spots
24 days
comfortable hotels of good standard
Main-tour 4,800 $US; Pre-tour extension TBA

The ultimate Burma experience seeking out its special birds, scenery and culture

Burma (now formally re-named Myanmar) has had a turbulent history and remains firmly in the minds of westerners for many of the wrong reasons. This tour will, however, focus on the extraordinary wealth of bird and animal life in this country that is now open for discovery. Stretching from high Himalayan peaks in the north some 2000 km to tropical rain forest in the south, this ancient land also encompasses the foothills of the north and east and the dry plains alongside the mighty Irrawaddy River.
We first fly from the capital, Yangon (Rangoon), north to historic Mandalay to make an extended visit to the World Heritage site there and see breathtaking ruins of Bagan (Pagan), where in the dry, bush-dotted plains along the banks of Irrawaddy River, we will seek the endemic trio of Burmese Bush-Lark, Jerdon’s (White-bellied)  Minivet and White-throated Babbler, along with a huge supporting cast of other bird species. The road to Mt. Victoria in the Chin Hills is next and we will search for the endemic Hooded Treepie en route. Amongst these forested slopes are the be found the endemic White-browed Nuthatch, as well as other endemics or range-restricted species, including a large collection of rarely-encountered Babblers. We then fly east to Heho and Kalaw and a mosaic of valleys, lakes and forests, including legendary Lake Inle, to look for birds such as Jerdon’s Bushchat, Burmese Yuhina, Collared Myna and 

Finally, we embark on a special expedition to remote Kachin state, where the recent opening of Mt. Emawbon allows us 4-wheel-drive access to the realms of such legendary birds as Sclater’s Monal, Blyth’s Tragopan, Chevron-breasted (formerly Wedge-billed Wren) Babbler and Fire-Tailed Myzornis.

Glorious though the birding opportunities are, this tour also provides a superb cultural extravaganza from the golden Shwedagon Temple in Yangon, the palaces and temples of Mandalay, the almost unbelievable 4000 pagodas of Bagan and the unique leg rowers of Lake Inle. And this is not all, for the Buddhist culture of Myanmar ensures that the land remains dotted with numerous other temples and relics that the resolute and astonishingly friendly Burmese people still lovingly maintain.

On the pre-tour extension, we will fly from Yangon to Mergui on the Tenessarim Peninsula, where we will seek the threatened Gurney’s Pitta in its principal breeding area. The avifauna here is largely Malay in character and we will also seek out the ultra-elusive and crepuscular Long-billed Partridge and flocks of the range-restricted Plain-pouched Hornbill.

Pre-tour extension

Day 1

Arrival in Yangon (Rangoon). City tour and visit to the famous gold-domed Shwedagon Temple

Overnight in Yangon.

Day 2

Fly Yangon – Mergui in Tenessarim. Afternoon drive to the Gurney’s Pitta site and overnight (2 nights).

Day 3

All-day search for the Plain-pouched Hornbill and Gurney’s Pitta. Other birds abound here and are mostly species found on the Malay Peninsula. They include the elusive Long-billed Partridge, a crepuscular species much easier to hear than see.

Day 4

Morning birding, then drive back to Mergui for an overnight stay.

Day 5

Fly Mergui – Yangon and join main tour for overnight in Yangon.

Main Tour

Day 6

Arrival in Yangon (Rangoon). City tour and visit to the famous gold-domed Shwedagon Pagoda

Overnight in Yangon.

Day 7

Early morning flight to Bagan (Pagan)

Bagan, on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River is a World Heritage Site and it and its 4000+ pagodas are considered by many to be one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world.

We wikk bird on the river banks, in the grasslands and in the nearby hills of Bagan. This is an extraordinarily rich birding area and special species to find include the endemic quartet of Burmese Bushlark, Jerdon’s (White-bellied) Minivet, White-throated Babbler and perhaps Hooded Treepie. A huge variety of other species are here, including the Chinese Francolin, Rain Quail, Spotted Owlet, and three species of Prinia, Burmese Shrike and Plain-backed Sparrow. The Irrawaddy River is home to Indian Spot-billed Duck, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Brown-headed Gull, River Tern, Sand Lark, Grey-throated (taxonomically "split" by some from Brown-throated) Martin, White-tailed Stonechat and Jungle Myna. We have even seen the rare Indian Skimmer here in the past, although human disturbance may now have caused them to abandon this site. We will take a boat trip on the river to maximize our chances for these riverside specialties.

Overnight in Bagan.

Day 8

Birding Bagan

Overnight in Bagan.

Day 9

Drive from Bagan across the Irrawaddy River to Kanpetlet on the slopes of legendary Mt. Victoria for a four-night stay in a specially-built lodge high on the bird-rich slopes. There are some special birds to look for en route, including the rare White-rumped Falcon, up to five species of Parakeet, including Grey-headed and further chances for the endemic Hooded Treepie. 

Overnight in Kanpetlet.

Day 10 - 12

Birding Mt. Victoria: This rich area is accessible to its peak by a jeep track and is the home to an array of much desired species, including the endemic White-browed Nuthatch, lost to science until we re-discovered it here in 1995. The bird list here is long and includes species such as the Common Hill Partridge, Blyth’s Tragopan (seen by one member of our party in 1995 but badly over-hunted), Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Broad-billed and a host of other Warblers, Grey-sided Thrush,  3 species of Yuhina, 4 of Wren-Babblers (including Spotted and Chin Hills), Green Shrike-Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Grey Sibia, Red-tailed Minla, Mount Victoria (Chinese) Babax, Rusty-fronted and Streak-throated Barwings, Crimson-faced (Red-faced) Liocichla, Assam, Blue-winged, Brown-capped and Striped Laughingthrushes, Spot-breasted Parrotbill and the superb Fire-tailed Sunbird, to name but a few!

Overnights at Kanpetlet.

Day 13

Drive from M.t Victoria to Bagan and overnight.  

Day 14

We'll fly from Bagan to Heho and drive to Kalaw. We will keep a lookout for the Rufous-winged Buzzard, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Siberian Stonechat and Black-headed Greenfinch en route. After dark we will attempt to call in a Hodgson’s Frogmouth.

Overnight in Kalaw.

Day 15
Birding the upland forests around Kalaw and Yay-aye-kan Resevoir: Species to find here include the Himalayan (Common) Buzzard, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, the rare near endemic Burmese Yuhina, Silver-eared (Chestnut-crowned) Laughing-Thrush, Dark-backed (Black-headed) Sibia, Bianchi’s Warbler and Grey-headed Parrotbill.

Drive to Lake Inle and stay overnight.

Day 16
On today's boat trip for waterfowl on Lake Inle we will keep an eye out for the rare and declining Baer’s Pochard), Jerdon’s Bushchat, White-tailed stonechat and the famous “leg rowers" of the local fishermen.

We'll take an afternoon drive from Lake Inle to Heho, where birds we'll see en route may include Collared Myna and Spot-winged Starling, then we'll take an evening flight from Heho to Mandalay.

Overnight in Mandalay.

Day 17

We drive from Mandalay to Myitkyina and, if time permits, we'll bird around Myitkyina.

Overnight in Myitkyina.

Day 18

Drive Myitkina – Chibwe (7-8 hours), birding along the way for the Collared Treepie, Collared Myna and other north Myanmar lowland birds.

Overnight in Chibwe.

Day 19

Drive from Chibwe to Mt Emawbon in Kachin State, birding along the way in search of such possible exciting species as Blyth’s Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, White-collared Yuhina and Black-faced Warbler.

Overnight camping by tent on Mt. Emawbon.
Day 20

All day on Mt. Emawbon in search of legendary birds such as Sclater’s Monal, Blyth’s Tragopan, Chevron-breasted Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Collared Treepie and others in this almost unknown area.

Overnight camping by tent on Mt. Emawbon.

Day 21

Morning birding on Mt. Emawbon and then we drive back to Pha-Ye for the night.

Day 22

Drive from Pha-Ye to Myitkyina and stay overnight.

Day 23

Fly Myitkyina to Yangon (Note: The scheduled times for this flight are notoriously unreliable, so we have to reserve a full day for this flight).

Overnight in Yangon.

Day 24

We finish today with a relaxing visit to Hlawga Park to see a range of lowland birds typical of southern Myanmar and, particularly, the rare Pale-capped Pigeon. An interesting range of native animals have been re-introduced to this park and roam freely; we shall see many of them as well.

Our tour ends with evening departures from Yangon airport