of Ban Maka, an Inexpensive and Quality Lodge for Birders and Bird
By Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido, PhD
This article was was kindly submitted by Robert DeCandido
in a slightly different format to that presented here.
of the dilemmas for anyone interested in visiting Kaeng
Krachan National Park is finding a place to stay within easy reach
of the park. There are several options in the village of Kaeng Krachan
that mostly cater to weekend visitors from Bangkok. However, travel
to and from the village to the park can take an hour to the entrance
gate, and an additional 45 minutes to the lower campground - if you
have your own vehicle. You can hire a guide with a vehicle (about
2000 baht per day) but this quickly becomes expensive if you wish
to spend several days visiting the park.
February 2008 Deborah Allen and I faced such a dilemma. We had
our own vehicle (a 4-wheel drive Suzuki Caribean rental, about
700-800 baht per day) but no camping gear. Hence it was necessary
to commute to/from the park every day. Fortunately we met up
with a couple who own and operate a magnificent resort; Ban
about a 30 minute drive from the park entrance gate. More importantly,
the lodge is set in scenic grounds and teems with birds; Hair-crested
(Spangled) Drongo; Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush; Green-billed
Malkoha; Flavescent and Stripe-throated Bulbuls; Verditer and
Asian Paradise Flycatchers; Black-naped Monarch; Striped Tit
and Puff-throated Babblers; Blue Whistling Thrush; Asian Barred
Owlet; Common and Black-capped Kingfishers etc. And, to our
delight, the owners had set up two bird blinds (hides) with
a water "drip" and fruit to attract an array of birds
and small mammals to photograph. Since both of the operators
of the resort (Gunn and Beverly) make digital images of birds,
we quickly found that the hide is designed with birders, and
especially bird photographers, in mind.
Ban Maka Entrance
Ban Maka Accommodation
Lake at Ban Maka
The Grounds of
rented a bungalow for two (available with separate beds) and enjoyed
the spacious room with air-conditioning, tiled floors and en-suite
bathroom with hot water shower. Drinking water is provided daily
as well as towels and soap - the latter as needed. The wooden furniture
in each of the bedrooms is lovely, and there is ample storage space
to unpack clothes and store equipment safely. There is no TV in
the rooms and only one outlet to charge camera/flash batteries.
There is also no internet service on-site (As of 2013 internet
is available in the restaurant area but not in the rooms).
However, we found the cozy outdoor restaurant a great place to plug
in our laptops and process our digital files.
Bungalow for 2
Bungalow for 4-6 persons
is available at the on-site restaurant for about 30-150 baht per meal,
and these are available to go. Fried rice with pork will set you back
about 30 baht while steamed fish (fillet with no bones) is about 120
baht. The Thai cook is quite friendly and she is happy to adjust the
spiciness of the food to your taste, and even make French Fries (chips).
We recommend "nid-noy" - just a "little" spicy.
Need you laundry done? About 100 baht will get a 15 kilo load washed,
pressed and folded in one day. The staff here is friendly and more
than willing to fulfill reasonable requests. Have a non-birder wife
or significant other? This is also a great place for him/her.
Bungalow for 2
owners (Gunn and Beverly) have been operating Ban Maka for 6 years.
They are originally from Bangkok and worked as bankers there. Both
earned Master's degrees in the United States and speak English fluently.
If you wish to stay at their resort it is best to contact Beverly
via her cell phone - she is often in Bangkok on business during the
week: 081-840-5797 (or e-mail: Narida@scb.co.th).
On the other hand, Gunn remains at Ban Maka full time, making several
trips each week into Kaeng Krachan Park usually up to the second (900
metre elevation) campsite to photograph birds. We were able to catch
a ride with Gunn on a couple of occasions, and he was more than happy
to show us foraging Pin-tailed Parrotfinches, nesting Long-tailed
Broadbills and the best places to look for flocks of Ratchet-tailed
Treepies. Gunn knows the park intimately, and we enjoyed his wit and
his ease with people as we rode with him in his 4-wheel drive Toyota
to the upper campsite in Kaeng Krachan (about 80 minutes travel time
from Ban Maka). Admission to the park was 200 baht per person for
foreigners in February 2008, with an additional 30 baht charge per
vehicle. Camping was free inside the park, although bathrooms and
shower facilities were considerably better at the upper (900 metre)
campsite than the lower one. At least in the busy (dry) season, food
(including snacks and coffee) is available at both campsites, again
with the upper campsite offering a better selection of tastier dishes
at about 25-50 baht per meal. It would be possible to have all meals
prepared at the upper campsite for as long as one stayed there...
but check with Gunn to make sure that the Thai cooks are at the campsite
when you intend to visit/stay.
View of the broad-leaved evergreen forest from the second (900 metre)
campsite at Kaeng Krachan.
we do not enter into the realm of lodge recommendations or other product
endorsements. We are working scientists and photographers, and prefer
to remain neutral observers (and we received no direct or indirect
benefits from writing this piece). However, we feel that Gunn and
Beverly not only offer superb accommodation at a reasonable price
(cheaper than anything else we looked at in Kaeng Krachan village),
but they are also working to increase habitat for birds and other
wildlife at Ban Maka. Education is the primary reason Ban Maka exists
- to allow Thai and international guests to enjoy and learn about
the birds, other animals and plants in this part of Thailand. Gunn
and Beverly have recently come under strong pressure from local politicians
to cut the forest on their property, especially the biggest trees
that Oriental Pied Hornbills need to nest in. As a result they are
hoping to attract more foreign birders and their friends in order
to show the economic value of natural areas outside the national park
to the locals opposed to their forest resort. Want to help them? There
is no better way than to visit, take some photos and go home to spread
the good word. Bird tour groups of 10-25 people would be especially
welcome and feel comfortable here, making use of Ban Maka as a base
to head into the park daily.
Bird Blind (Hide) at Ban Maka
View from inside
a Bird Blind
independent travelers who do not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, Ban
Maka offers a superb opportunity to see Kaeng Krachan and to reach
the high (900 metre) camp. By staying at the resort it should be
possible to catch a ride to the top, remain there for several days
and then catch aride down again. This you would need to arrange
with Gunn and Beverly. For others interested in bird photography
or a guide for the park itself, Gunn knows the park intimately well
and when/where to look for the park's speciality birds including
nesting Broadbills, Pittas, Woodpeckers, Bee-eaters and, of course,
Getting to Ban
Maka is relatively easy for those driving their own vehicle (and
note well: you can only get a 4-wheel drive vehicle with good ground
clearance past the first campsite up to the second campsite at 900
metres elevation). To find Ban Maka, just make your way to the information
centre of the park, about a 10-minute drive from Kaeng Krachan village,
on the only road that goes in that direction. Conyinue on that same
road for about another 15 minutes or so, until you come to the last
left turn (end of the public road) that can be made before the gated
entrance to the military training camp. Take that left hand turn
and then continue for another 10 minutes (3 kilometres) until you
come to the first major intersection (look here on the left for
a yellow Ban Maka sign in Thai script). Make a left hand turn at
this first major intersection onto a wide dirt road. Drive aboy
1-2 minutes (1 kilometre) and look on the right for the yellow Ban
Maka sign again. For more detailed instructions (and the yellow
Ban Maka sign in Thai), see their website: http://www.banmaka.com
or call Beverly: 081-840-5797 (or e-mail: Narida@scb.th.co).
De Candido, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org
Watching Trips in Thailand:
Ban Maka is a good base for exploring nearby Kaeng Krachan
national park and surrounding areas and is a great location
to add to long or short birding trips to Thailand.
Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best
birdwatching options for you: email@example.com