Join a land and boat based journey through Myanmar in a trip created to educate and inspire, while also contributing to critical conservation and considering the newly arrived globalization that is quickly changing this land, its people and wildlife.

A patchwork tapestry is an apt metaphor for Myanmar given its incredibly diverse cultures, biodiversity and physical landscapes. The trip is particularly focused on an immersion experience in the world of the Asian elephant-both wild and captive - utilizing teak river boats, planes, public river cruisers, dugout teak longtail boats, elephants themselves and our own two feet.

The country is at a critical juncture as Myanmar grapples with internal issues that have come to the surface as the country seeks to join the modern world. The Rohyinga refugee crisis, choosing between conservation and rapid development, the process of transitioning to a truly democratic government are all issues of immense complexity facing Myanmar today.

In-country partners Aung Myo Chit and Jon Miceler, two dedicated world-class conservationists, are tackling complex conservation issues in this land of temples and tribes to shift the traditional travel paradigm by building the tourism product and accommodation around the conservation project. Embark on this pioneering 15-day land and boat expedition, walking deep into forests with former timber elephants in the remnant teak forests of upper Burma, cruising on a teak boat while seeking out the rare Irrawaddy dolphin and ending with a hands-on conservation project radio collaring elephant in the Ayerwaddy River Delta. While this is a wildlife focused trip, no trip to Burma/Myanmar is complete without immersion in some of the many different cultures that exist here. Our journey is brimming with opportunities to learn about the art, anthropology and general history of this ancient land.

A portion of the trip fees for this one of kind experience will be donated to a Burmese NGO focused on radio collaring elephants to protect them. This is a low-volume, high- impact conservation journey, working with communities, conservationists and scientists in remote locations.

THE JOURNEY

1-15 NOVEMBER 2020

Experience remote, rural Myanmar in the company of elephants which is entirely free of the captive, staged atmosphere of the elephant camps in other parts of Asia. Your participation will protect Myanmar elephants.

Stage 1 Elephant Immersion, Katha, Upper Myanmar

The first stage of the journey begins with authentic immersion into the world of the domesticated Asian Timber Elephant. Jon Miceler and Aung Myo Chit have spent the last several years exploring areas of rural beauty in northern Myanmar with the aim of bringing participants into these virtually unknown regions in unique, authentic ways-without sacrificing comfort. These journeys are all done in the company of elephants. Activities take place in newly built camps located near the town of Katha in Myanmar’s Upper Sagaing region in the far north of the country.

Stage 2Ayerwaddy Dolphins

Following the immersion with the retired elephants, we return to the river to board an elegant teak boat of polished teak floors, comfortable en-suite cabins and an extensive upper deck with bar, dining table and reclining deckchairs. Once again on the Irrawaddy we are borne gently southbound on the 3-day journey to Mandalay. In between off- boat excursions enjoy informal lectures and discussions on this complex and remarkable country. Aung Myo Chit will share his journey documenting the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and the remarkable symbiotic relationship between fishermen and the dolphins, who cooperate to round up fish and then share their catch.

Stage 3 Wild Elephants of Ayerwaddy Division

We spend 5 days combining time in the forests seeking out the elephants with down time on the beach. The aim is to collar one or two selected individuals on this trip to facilitate intensive monitoring and to better design the boundaries of the current sanctuary. Helping rangers guard the remaining elephants from poaching is an essential step in rebuilding the population. Satellite collars allow rangers to identify and respond to threats in real-time through mobile devices. Data collected through these collars also helps predict where the animals are moving in order to anticipate any dangers they may encounter. This includes alerting neighbouring communities when the animals are heading towards their homes to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

The journey detail

Typically, it is a five-night journey, though most guests extend their visit with our river cruise add-on: a two-night/ three-day Irrawaddy River experience with a conservation focus around the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin.

Day one

Fly into the town of Bhamaw in Kachin State, a 40-minute direct flight north of Mandalay. Flights are on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, operated by Myanmar Airways. We meet you airside in Bhamaw, then drive 15 minutes to the town jetty. Here you will board a private charter of an authentic river cruiser. The journey down the Irrawaddy River takes five hours. You are served a Burmese tiffin lunch and soft drinks on board. The boat is simple, with open-air walls, sitting mattresses and clean bathrooms. At dusk, you will be driven from your riverside arrival location to a locally-owned Burmese guesthouse in Katha – the colonial-era town in which George Orwell was once stationed in Sagaing State.

Day two

A morning visit to Orwell’s home in Katha, taking in several other British colonial-era landmarks. You have lunch at a local restaurant, then drive forty minutes to a village at the edge of a vast tract of protected teak and ironwood forest. You meet the elephants in this village and slowly walk for an hour into our Village Camp. Over dinner the first night in the forest, you will start to learn about the elephant story behind KnoWhere Myanmar.

Day three

Wake up early to help wash your elephant in the river. After breakfast, enjoy a day-long immersive learning experience on the lives of elephants. Local communities and ecology, with walks determined according to the group’s interests and fitness levels.

Day four

Wake up early to start the day’s walk with the elephants, travelling between 8 to 16 kilometres (depending on fitness levels and local trekking conditions) to our second camp: Valley Camp. We picnic en route, in the forest. The terrain is gently undulating, including ridges, farmed valleys and bamboo thickets.

Day five

Enjoy a full day of exploration on the hills and old growth forest around our Valley Camp. This day includes a more detailed demonstration of what the life of a timber elephants actually entails and how that former life compares to the their present post-logging reality.

Day six

Depart after breakfast for a 30-minute journey to the Katha jetty where you will board a beautiful, boutique river boat for the onward cruise to Mandalay. This is an easy, relaxed day of river cruising on a comfortable teak boat with AC cabins, full private bathrooms, excellent chef, laundry facilities and full bar.

Day seven

Today we make several stops along the river with a focus on indigenous nature worship shrines completely unique to Myanmar and one of upper Myanmar’s centers of ceramic making. That evening we dine on a sandbar.

Day eight

On our final day of river travel we focus entirely on a completely unique encounter with the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins — a species that one of our Group Expedition Leaders, Aung Myo Chit, has been leading conservation efforts on for the last 15 years. There is every likelihood we will witness the ancient, symbiotic relationship between these dolphins and a specific group of local fishermen Aung knows well. We make use of wooden skiffs guided by these fishermen and actually take part in the fishing process in partnership with the dolphins that our fishermen call in using rhythms tapped on the side of their boats. That afternoon we arrive in Mandalay in the early afternoon where it is possible to transfer international departures or to continue your onward journey.