Thailand: Mystical Asia - Birding Tour
Thailand is one of Asia’s most exciting birding destinations. Located at the crossroads of Southeast Asia, Thailand has exceptionally high bird diversity. It is home to many colorful resident species which share their habitats with healthy numbers of Palearctic and Himalayan migrants. Combined with legendary Thai hospitality, some of the finest cuisine in the Orient, and high-quality accommodation, it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular Asian destinations for birders. Our tour explores the national parks of south, central, and northern Thailand, looking for handsome hornbills, spectacular broadbills, stunning pittas, and a host of other Asian denizens. For those with extra time, a short extension to search for some of the Sundaic specialties of southern Thailand should ensure a grand finale, and bring a taste of the remarkable birds of the Malay Peninsula.
Main Tour: 17 February - 4 March ($6345; single supplement: $625)
Extension: 4 - 9 March ($2350; single supplement: $395)
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 17 Days (22 Days w/ Ext.)
Starting City: Bangkok
Ending City: Bangkok
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Group size: 7 + 1 leader
Day 1: Bangkok to Laem Pak Bia
After meeting up in Bangkok, we will drive a couple hours to the shorebird paradise of Pak Thale. If time allows, we’ll start our hunt for the area’s specialty shorebirds, including the famous Spoon-billed Sandpiper. A single night will be spent at a resort in Baan Laem, Petchburi.
Day 2: Pak Thale
Today we visit Pak Thale on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand. This is an extensive area of pools, saltpans, and shrimp ponds. In recent years a handful of critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers have wintered here. In order to look for it, we’ll have to comb through thousands of other shorebirds, including Marsh and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Sand-plovers, and Red-necked Stints. Other possibilities include Nordmann’s Greenshank and the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Later we plan to visit Laem Pak Bia by boat in search of Chinese Egret, Malaysian Plover and the newly described, and as yet unnamed, “White-faced” Plover, before heading to Kaeng Krachan NP for a three-night stay.
Days 3–4: Kaeng Krachan NP
In the far north of the Peninsula, Kaeng Krachan is home to a wonderful array of barbets, hornbills, broadbills, woodpeckers, and pittas. The most sought-after bird is the oddly-shaped Ratchet-tailed Treepie. Mammals are also readily seen. Possibilities include the delightful Dusky Langur, Gaur, Asian Elephant, and even Leopard, including the rare all black form ("Black Panther"). These two nights will also be spent just outside Kaeng Krachan NP.
Days 5–7: Khao Yai NP
On day 5, we head out of Kaeng Krachan, driving north to this other popular park, Khao Yai. Three nights will be spent just outside the park. The lush, evergreen dipterocarp forest supports some highly sought-after birds and mammals, including the entertaining White-handed and Pileated Gibbons. Impressive Silver Pheasants, stunning Siamese Firebacks, and bizarre Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoos walk unobtrusively through the undergrowth. Hornbills frequent the treetops, Blue and Eared Pittas skulk in the leaf litter, and White-crested Laughingthrushes move noisily in understory flocks. The bird list here also includes stunners such as Long-tailed and Silver-breasted broadbills, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Greater Yellownape, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, and Red-headed Trogon. One night we will linger in the park and enjoy the eerie calls of the harrier-sized Great Eared-Nightjar. We will also search for Sambar Deer, Indian Muntjac, and the retiring Asian Elephant in the more remote parts of the park. Our three nights will be spent in a hotel with spacious, bird-filled grounds just outside this flagship park.
Day 8: Khao Yai NP to Bueng Boraphet
Leaving Khao Yai NP we begin our journey north, with a stop at Bueng Boraphet. Located approximately halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Bueng Boraphet is Thailand’s largest freshwater lake and an area of international conservation importance for migratory waterbirds, which congregate here in the thousands every winter. They include Asian Openbill, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Cotton Pygmy-goose, and Lesser Whistling-Duck. Rarities also turn up regularly, such as Baer’s Pochard. The fringes of the marsh can also be good for passerines like the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat. We overnight in a hotel near Bueng Boraphet.
Days 9–11: Doi Inthanon NP
After another morning birding at Bueng Boraphet, we make our way further north to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, for a three night stay near the base of the mountain. The “Roof of Thailand” provides spectacular forest birding at a range of different altitudes. The lower mountain is covered by dry, open, deciduous dipterocarp forest. Here we seek one of the cutest raptors in the world, the diminutive Collared Falconet. Black-headed Woodpecker and Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch may also be seen climbing the limbs of these gnarled trees, while Black-backed Forktails haunt the rushing rivulets. Higher up the mountain slopes, dazzling Green and Purple Cochoas are the prized birds in the evergreen forest, where the resident birds are joined by migrant thrushes and warblers at this time of year. On one day we visit the damp sphagnum bog and rhododendron forest at the summit. This is an eerie place in the early morning, but the misty atmosphere is brightened by dazzling Gould’s and Green-tailed Sunbirds and the bold and approachable Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush. White-browed Shortwings and Slaty-bellied Tesias feed quietly on the damp forest floor.
Day 12: Doi Inthanon to Doi Chiang Dao
Heading north from Chiang Mai, we arrive at the looming limestone massif of Doi Chiang Dao. We bird around an attractive Buddhist temple searching for Pin-tailed Pigeon, Streaked Wren-Babbler, and Black Bulbul. A night walk may also reveal Mountain or Collared Scops-owls. A single night will be spent in Doi Chiang Dao.
Day 13: Doi Chiang Dao to Doi Ang Khang
We will head to the flanks of Doi Ang Khang, near the Myanmar border. The local specialties include Limestone Wren-Babbler, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Silver-eared Mesia, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, and Spectacled Barwing. One night will be spent in this fascinating highland town.
Day 14: Doi Ang Khang to Fang
After a morning of birding the trails of Ang Khang, we’ll make the short drive to the town of Fang, which serves as a springboard for our visit to Doi Lang the next morning.
Day 15: Doi Lang
This awesome new birding site has some of the most exciting birding in Thailand. Most importantly, it’s the best site for two of the country’s best birds: Hume’s Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch, the largest nuthatch on Earth. Once we have found these two species, there are plenty of other birds to look for, including Siberian Rubythroat, White-bellied Redstart, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, and even Himalayan Cutia or Whiskered Yuhina if we’re very lucky. This is a great place to catch up with some shy and scarce flycatchers like Ultramarine and Slaty-blue Flycatchers and Rufous-bellied Niltava. In the afternoon we’ll descend to a lowland valley, where we’ll spend the late afternoon birding some remnant riverside grassland, which can produce Yellow-eyed and Chestnut-capped Babblers, Bluethroat, and sometimes scarce species like Baikal Bush-Warbler or Yellow-breasted Bunting. The night will be spent in a resort in Thaton.
Day 16: Chiang Saen to Bangkok
We spend our last morning birding the Chiang Saen area looking for River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Pied Harrier, and a myriad of waterbirds before flying back to Bangkok, where we overnight.
Day 17: Departure
We head to the airport in the morning for departure, or to start the extension.
Thai Peninsula Extension
Thailand is a long, gangly country, with the birds of the north and center differing markedly from this further south on the Thai Peninsula, or northern end of the Malay Peninsula. As the latter name suggests the avifauna of this part of Thailand is influenced by that of Malaysia juts to the south. Extreme beauties like Malayan Banded Pitta, Scarlet-rumped and Diard’s Trogons, Green Broadbills, and Whiskered Treeswifts lurk in the forest, while the extensive mangroves in the bay of Phang-nga hold Mangrove Pitta and Brown-winged Kingfisher, among others.
*PLEASE NOTE: The itinerary has been changed for 2018 onwards from that which was previously advertised. This has been done purely to improve the birding; it still visits the same habitat types and targets the same broad list of birds, but now covers better site