Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Burma (Myanmar) birding tour explores a poorly known country where birdwatching is still in its infancy, but where recent political reform has finally opened a country that was largely closed to outsiders for decades. Rich in endemics and other specialities, Burma also offers fascinating cultural and archeological sites, and a warm welcome from its friendly people. We even include an extension to Southern Burma to find the endangered Gurney's Pitta and some other great birds. Our tour has the most comprehensive itinerary available, producing a superb bird list including many specialities.
Sunday 19th March —
Saturday 1st April 2017
Southern Burma (Gurney's Pitta) Extension: Saturday 1st April — Saturday 8th April (8 days)
Leaders: Dave Farrow and a local bird guide
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations (and some simple camping during the extension)
Burma, now renamed Myanmar, is the largest and ornithologically most diverse country in Southeast Asia, stretching some 2000 kilometres from the cold, lofty heights of the Himalayas in the north to the steamy tropical lowland rain forests of southern Tenasserim. With most areas of the country closed to birdwatchers and other travellers for decades by a series of harsh and introspective military governments, Burma is now in a period of political change and is opening its doors to overseas visitors.
With its large size, equal to that of the United Kingdom and France combined, friendly population of fewer than 45 million people, impressive natural resources, including large tracts of unspoilt forest, and cultural delights that include thousands of glittering pagodas, Burma really has the potential to become, as the old local name Shwe Pyidaw suggests, once more a ‘Golden Land’ now that political reform has come.
As yet, very few birders have explored this interesting country, so you have the chance to be in the vanguard. This is a tour that offers the adventurous the chance to get far off the ‘tourist track’ while seeing many exciting avian specialities, including all Burma’s endemics, and a rich selection of more widespread Southeast Asian birds.
After a brief visit to the present-day capital Yangon (or Rangoon), we will travel northwards to the ancient capital of Bagan (or Pagan). Here, along the banks of the Irrawaddy River, once referred to as ‘the road to Mandalay’, we will be able to sample the avifauna of Burma’s unique dry zone amidst the 4000 or so pagodas and temples which are dotted across the plains, some dating back to the ninth century. Specialities here include four endemics; Burmese Bushlark, Jerdon’s Minivet, Hooded Treepie and White-throated Babbler, the latter an amazingly long-tailed member of the genus Turdoides.
After crossing the Irrawaddy River and travelling through the forested lowlands, we will work our way up into the Chin Hills, our principal goal. These steep mountains, which form a southern extension of the Himalayas from neighbouring Manipur in northeast India, are one of Southeast Asia’s great ornithological landmarks, with numerous unique subspecies, three endemic bird species – Mount Victoria Babax (split from Chinese), the striking White-browed Nuthatch and Burmese Bushtit – and a host of rare and restricted-range birds to fire the imagination including Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, Broad-billed Warbler, the near-endemic Buff-breasted Parrotbill (a recent split in the Black-throated Parrotbill complex), Sickle-billed (or Slender-billed) Scimitar-Babbler, the restricted-range Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler (now restricted to northeastern India and western Burma following a taxonomic reorganization), the near-endemic Chin Hills Wren-Babbler, Striped, Brown-capped and Assam Laughingthrushes, Streak-throated Barwing, Grey Sibia and Hume’s (or Manipur) Treecreeper.
Finally we will visit Kalaw in the hills of Shan State and beautiful Inle Lake in search of the virtually endemic Burmese Yuhina, a newly-discovered population of the critically endangered Chinese Grassbird, and the restricted-range Jerdon’s Bushchat, Collared Myna and Black-headed Greenfinch, as well as Black-tailed Crake, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Spectacled Barwing and Dark-backed Sibia, before our Burmese adventure comes to its conclusion.
During the optional extension we will explore Southern Burma. After an absence of fifty years, Gurney’s Pitta was rediscovered in Southern Thailand in 1986. Over the years it has been possible, though not without some difficulty, to see this enigmatic bird. As time progressed, however, the numbers have dwindled, so much so that by 2015 no Gurney’s Pittas remain in Thailand.
Subsequent to the discovery of the Pitta in Thailand, surveys were made in Southern Burma in 2003 that located a good population of them in an area of lowland forest. Following the improvement in the political situation in recent years, and following a recce by our local agents, it is now possible to visit the area in order to see this rare and declining species.
The forests of Southern Burma are especially rich and we have a chance to find some other species that are rarely encountered across the border in Thailand, such as the range-restricted Plain-pouched Hornbill and the range-restricted Tickell’s Brown Hornbill. Rufous-necked Hornbills occur here at their southern limit, while White-crowned Hornbills reach their northern limit. Many Sundaic species can be found here, isolated from the Malay peninsula by the near total absence of remaining lowland forest in the south of Thailand, an area dominated by rubber and oil palm. Further discoveries are sure to be made in this interesting area.
Birdquest has operated tours to Burma since 1998.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are of good to medium standard (mostly the latter). During the extension we will be staying for five nights at a simple but comfortable tented camp arranged by our local outfitters. Road transport is by minibus and 4x4s. Roads can be rather poor, but travel distances on this tour are not problematic.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few longer walks.
Climate: At low altitudes conditions are usually warm or hot and dry at this season. At higher elevations it is usually warm and sunny during the day, but cool or even cold in the early mornings (or even all day) at the highest levels. Overcast and rainy conditions are unlikely but possible. It will be humid in southern Burma.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
Burma Tour Prices: Prices in Burma (Myanmar) used to be around the Southeast Asian average, but after the country became a democracy and it ‘opened up’ after many years of a hermit-like existence, complete with international sanctions limiting development, prices for its very limited variety of accommodations and for tourist transportation ‘went through the roof’ as much greater numbers of visitors arrived to explore this fascinating country. In addition, a further factor keeping prices high is that Burma has an extremely limited number of tourist agencies that are capable of mounting more adventurous tours to out-of-the-way places, such as those for birding groups.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £4190, €4950, $5490 Yangon/Yangon. Southern Burma (Gurney's Pitta) Extension: £2120, €2500, $2780.
Price includes all transportation (including all flights inside Burma/Myanmar), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Accommodation Supplement: £325, €384, $426. Extension: £133, €157, $174 (including single occupancy tent).
Deposit: £450, €600, $700. Extension: £250, €350, $400.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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