Locations: Alaung Daw Kattapa National Park

Alaung Daw Kattapa ElephantWhen Marco Polo visited Myanmar in the 13th century, he wrote not just of glittering pagodas, but also of ‘vast jungles teeming with elephants, unicorns and other wild beasts’. Today large areas of pristine wilderness do remain in Myanmar even with former tiger and elephant populations severely reduced, but they are difficult to visit. Insurgent tribes, no infrastructure and a general lack of understanding amongst the current authorities being the principle reasons.

The one national park that is accessible from Mandalay and Bagan and with basic amenities for tourism is Alaung Daw Kattapa National Park. It lies just 4 hours drive west of Mandalay in a range of mountains in Sagaing Division near the border with Bangladesh. The area of the park is just 1,605 square kilometers, but it is mountainous and thickly forested and home to tiger (just a handful today), elephant (including the famous matriarch Silver Moon), leopard, gaur, sambar, wild pig, banteng, muntjak, clouded leopard, Himalayan sunbears, black giant squirrels plus numerous monkeys, gibbons and other animals and birds. In a single walk one can see 3 species of trongo and 5 of barbet and many others depending on the time of year. Access over the last 20 kilometers is by elephant, and the accommodation basic forest houses. Walks in the deeply forested mountains are done direct from the base camp either by elephant or on foot, and returning each night for dinner and overnight. There is no road access to the centre of the park. Also contained with the park lies an important Buddhist shrine from whence the park derives its name. This shrine to a saintly figure called Kattapa sees up to 30,000 pilgrims a year.


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