Birdwatching Sites in Southern Thailand
Mu Koh Chumporn National Park (Chumporn)
Radar Hill – Khao Dinsor Raptor Observation Center (Chumporn)
Haad Kanom – Mu Koh Talae Tai National Park (Nakorn Sri Tammarat)
Khao Nan National Park (Nakorn Sri Tammarat)
Krung Ching Waterfall – Khao Luang National Park (Nakorn Sri Tammarat)
Namtok Sikit National Park (Nakorn Sri Tammarat)
Namtok Yong National Park (Nakorn Sri Tammarat)
Ao Manano – Khao Tanyong National Park (Narathiwat)
Khao Budo - Sunghai Padi National Park (Narathiwat)
Namtok Sipo National Park (Narathiwat)
Khao Yah – Khao Boo National Park (Pattalung)
Namtok Sai Khao National Park (Pattani)
Mu Koh Petra National Park (Satun)
Satun Municipality Pier and Mangrove Walkway (Satun)
Taleban National Park (Satun)
Tarutao Marine National Park (Satun)
Khao Nam Kang National Park (Songklah)
Saan Kala Khiri National Park (Songklah)
Kaeng Kreung National Park (Surat Thani)
Khao Sok National Park (Surat Thani)
Klong Panom National Park (Surat Thani)
Mu Koh Angtong National Park (Surat Thani)
Tai Rom Yen National Park (Surat Thani)
Than Sadet – Koh Phangngan National Park (Surat Thani)
Haat Chao Mai National Park (Trang)
Libong Island Wildlife Reserve (Trang)
Peninsular Botanical Gardens (Trang)
Bang Lang National Park (Yala)
Note: Text reviews are not complete for sites marked with an asterisk.
The list is organized alphabetically in order of the provinces where the sites are located. Reviews for some sites are currently in the works or have been postponed to a later date. If you are in need of specific information which pertains to a site which is not reviewed, please contact me by e-mail and I will try to assist with whatever information I have available.
Birding in Southern Thailand
The experience of birdwatching in the jungles of southern Thailand simply cannot be compared to birding in other regions of the country, such as the north or central plains. Unlike their continental counterparts, many species found in the tropical, evergreen forests of the south are extremely shy and skulking, preferring to remain hidden within the labyrinth of twisting vines and dew-drenched leaves. The birds of the north are far less skulking, meaning that a morning trip in the forests or mountains will usually yield a greater number of sightings in any given time frame. To put it in perspective, birding in the south (as opposed to the north) could be viewed as hiking the level of difficulty up a notch. -Don’t be frustrated if your end result seems to be a far cry from the expectations you set before embarking on your trip. -You are not alone!
The best season for finding birds in peninsular Thailand is from February – June when the birds are breeding and many species are calling or feeding their offspring. During this time it is easier to connect with skulking species like babblers and pitta, and knowing local bird calls can help birders locate broadbills and trogons without too much hassle.
There are a number of species which are restricted to peninsular Thailand, and this makes the south an important region that should not be left off the itinerary for visiting birdwatchers. Birders will also find that covering a wide range of habitats (mangrove, forest, offshore islands, lowland forest, peat swamp) will increase the chances of seeing a large assortment of species, as many birds are restricted to a certain habitat and rarely roam outside of their comfort zones.
The climate in peninsular Thailand is different from that of continental Thailand in that it receives a lot more rainfall. While most of the country has three seasons (cool, rainy and dry), southern Thailand has only two: dry and monsoon. The monsoon season often lasts more than half a year, and in some places it can last for up to ten months out of a year. The timing of the seasons plays an important role in the behaviour and breeding cycle of many species in the south and this is an important point to factor into the equation for birders who may be after a particular species.
The south is made up of 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang and Yala.
Forests and National Parks in the South
Most of the remaining forest found in the south today is restricted to the hill slopes since much of the lowland forest was decimated prior to the logging ban of 1989. Thankfully, many of the high mountains of the south are uninhabited, and since there are few roads which lead into the forest interior, birds which inhabit this terrain can be seen as better-off than their lowland counterparts. Many of Thailand’s lowland species are tottering on the brink of extinction locally due to loss of habitat and continued hunting. Most are now restricted to small “islands” of forest which are scattered throughout plantations in the south.
There are a number of national parks in the region which were set up with the intention of protecting and preserving the forests and wildlife in the region. However, many of the National Parks which protect these forests are ill-equipped to provide a full range of protection, resulting in the continued disappearance of many of the larger mammals, birds and predators from within the park boundaries. The threat of being attacked by wild animals while on a birding trip within any southern national park is therefore very low. -In fact, the only creature which would pose any threat to birders are the leeches, which are aplenty in the wet season.
National Parks in southern Thailand cover a wide range of habitat, ranging from beach forest, coral reef and offshore islands to mountain slopes and evergreen rainforest. Sadly, the number of inland forest parks are greatly outnumbered by the offshore or shoreline parks. Even more disturbing is the complete void of parks which feature peat swamp or lowland forest, two important habitats which are almost completely wiped out in Thailand.
As a result, many lowland bird species are on the brink of extinction in Thailand or have already been extirpated. Many birders now look to the jungles of Malaya or Borneo to round out their Sudanic bird lists.
The remaining forests are still well-stocked with a wide range of babblers, hornbills, bulbuls, pitta and broadbills. As long as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife continues to enforce the laws, these forests should continue to serve as suitable habitats to sustain the bird species in the peninsula.
Southern Thailand is the primary reason why tourists call Thailand and exotic paradise. The sun-kissed beaches, layered in white, powdery sand; emerald seas filled with dazzling fish and brilliantly colored coral; thick, humid tropical jungles inhabited by tiger and wild elephant; mangroves filled with birds, monkeys and giant monitor lizards; all this adds to the magic that we call southern Thailand.
Although much of the natural environment in the south is in decline due to the ravages of man, there are many havens where the wildlife still thrive, hidden away from the terror that we call humanity. In many parts of the south, one can still encounter patches of forest and jungle which eluded the curse of the chainsaw. Effective laws, such as the logging ban of 1989 helped to curb the insanity which reigned prior to the implementation of these guidelines. One can only wonder, however, what Thailand would be like today if only the government had instigated these laws a few decades earlier?
Although there are consequences for breaking these laws, nature is still under attack from rogue individuals and companies which covertly use their influence and money to encroach on forest lands. Logging is still a problem in the Deep South, where the Muslim insurgency prevents the forestry officials from patrolling the park boundaries for fear of being attacked. Khao Nor Chu Chi, the world-famous oasis of forest which and home to Gurney’s Pitta, is still under constant threat from loggers and plantation owners wishing to expand their properties and pocketbooks. The wildlife trade, which begins in the jungles and ends in Bangkok’s notorious Chatuchak Market, is still stripping the forests of their birds and wildlife.
Aside from the sale of birds, reef fish are sold en mass behind closed doors, resulting in the disappearance of species such as clownfish and sea horses from many of Thailand’s prime dive sites. Much of the marine life has suffered from the effects of over fishing and the introduction of industrial trawlers equipped with dragnets, and many sites on the west coast have been stripped of their predatory specimens, including many of the larger and targeted species such as jewfish, grouper, shark and rays.
Thailand’s growing population is a threat to wildlife and a problem which cannot be ignored. Expanding populations increase the demand for food and commerce, both of which require large amounts of land. This is why it is imperative that the government monitors the use of the land and implements strict zoning rules which will allow maximum use of available resources without straining the forests and its inhabitants.
Last but not least, the forests of the south all act as vital watershed stations; without them, the south would face terrible droughts and floods, as witnessed in the northeast, and much loss and sorrow would only befall mankind if he were to make the wrong decision to clear the forests for his own personal gain.