Birding Sites in Krabi
Haat Nopparat Tara - Koh Phi Phi National Park
Khao Panom Bencha National Park
Koh Lanta National Park
Tan Bok Korrani National Park
Baan Nai Chong
Kanab Naam and Krabi River Mouth
Note: Text reviews are not complete for sites marked with an asterisk.
Birding in Krabi
Krabi is an extremely rich birding paradise, although it also ranks as one of the most difficult provinces for birding in the south. Much of the former forest cover has been decimated and replaced with millions of hectares of plantation. Many forest species prefer to shy away from humans, a natural result from decades of persecution and hunting pressure. Most of the good birding is found in fragments of lowland forest which were escaped destruction in the years before the logging ban of 1989.
It is these fragments of forest which attract birders to visit this quiet corner of Thailand, making Krabi most frequented province by birders in the kingdom. Most are after the elusive Gurney’s Pitta, a bird thought to have been extinct until its rediscovery in the mid-1980′s. The bird resides in a tiny patch of forest surrounded by plantation in the heart of the Klong Thom basin. The future of this bird in Thailand is very unpredictable due to the multitude of problems which plague the area, ranging from hunting and foraging to local politics and commercial investment by large multinational corporations.
Krabi is still a haven for a number of species which were difficult or impossible to find elsewhere in Thailand. Although a number of specialties such as the Masked Finfoot, Malaysian Rail-Babbler, White fronted Scops Owl, Great billed Heron and Malaysian Honeyguide have been extirpated from the region, one can still encounter Black Magpie, Red crowned Barbet, Giant Pitta, Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Spotted Wren-Babbler and Golden crested Myna.
Not only are the forests still teeming with birdlife, but the mangroves which carpet the estuaries and shorelines are also home to hundreds of species of birds such as waders, terns, kingfishers, flycatchers and shorebirds. Likewise, the multitude of islands and rocky outcrops which dot the bay are magnets which attract seabirds and migrating visitors.
Krabi is a treasure trove for birders, but as with any treasure, it takes a lot of hard work and patience to uncover the hidden secrets of this mystic province.
Map of Krabi
Krabi is located on the west coast of southern Thailand. It is bordered by Phang Nga in the north, Surat Thani in the northeast, Nakorn Sri Tammarat in the east and Trang in the southeast.
Krabi is a province with a rich natural history. Krabi was once blessed with an abundance of lowland forest which teemed with wildlife. It’s almost unbelievable when one considers that up until the mid – 1940s, little had changed in the region. While the majestic tiger and wild elephant roamed the forests, the mangroves were inhabited by Siamese Saltwater Crocodile, a fierce predator which was known to even prey on fishermen as they made their way down the Krabi river to collect their fishing nets in the bay. After the larger mammals and reptiles were hunted to extinction by the mid 1950′s, it only took two short decades to wipe out approximately 85% of the forest through logging or clearing of land to make way for cash crops such as coffee, rubber and oil palm. Driving through Krabi today, one can see thousands of acres of land dedicated to oil and rubber plantation, a reason why Krabi lists as one of the top palm oil-producing provinces in Thailand.
The sacrifice of forest for plantation is a choice which fared well for the farmers but poorly for the nature. While most forestry officials are quick to point out that thousands of acres of plantation can be counted as “forest” since they are composed entirely of trees, as Mr. Phil Round pointed out, “these monocultures support little if any native forest bird species and cannot be counted as viable forest stock, even if they are allowed to naturally regenerate”. (Lekagul and Round, Guide to the Birds of Thailand, 1991)
Today there are small “islands” of forest among the sea of plantations which exist in Krabi which offer a taste of what the entire region was once like. Despite having limited boundaries, these areas are incredibly rich in birdlife and still support small populations of mammal and reptile specimens such as Slow Loris, Stump-tailed Macaque, Giant Water Monitor and Draco lizards. Areas such as the forest of Baan Nai Chong, along the main highway to Krabi, has proven to be quite productive to birders, producing notable sightings such as Malaysian Rail Babbler less than fifteen years ago. Khao Nor Chuchi, the famous Gurney’s Pitta site, is also a forest remnant, an “oasis” of jungle completely surrounded by rubber and palm oil plantation. As time marches on, one can only wonder how long these forest birds will be able to hold out before they too, will become a forgotten memory, or just another name in a checklist of the extirpated.