With just over 1,600 square kilometres of protected land, Alaungdaw Kathapa is Myanmar’s largest national park, encompassing the Reserved Forests of Patalon and Taungdwin. The park lies in Mingin Township, between the Chindwin River and the Myitta Valley, and it is truly isolated; in the rainy season the only way to get into the park is on the back of an elephant.
First created under the auspices of the British in 1941, Alaungdaw Kathapa was designated a national park in 1984, named for the Buddhist disciple Maha Kathapa. A large shrine to Kathapa sits right in the middle of the park and draws thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from all over the country and even from abroad. However the biggest draw is still the amazing flora and fauna, enticing bird watchers and nature lovers who prefer adventure to amenities.
This is where you can find endemic avian species like the White-throated Babbler and Burmese Bushlark, not to mention at least 18 species of woodpecker and more than 235 known species of other birds plus many that are believed to be there but not yet spotted.
Intrepid visitors will also spot mammals galore, including some wild elephants (the transport elephants are tame, according to all reports), and other large creatures including Cloud Leopards, bear and Barking Deer. Habitats range from coniferous forests on the mountain slopes to mixed deciduous forests in the valleys and foothills, all supporting a wealth of biodiversity that is unique to Burma (or Myanmar if you prefer) and endlessly fascinating.