by Nick Upton
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Krabi River

Sunset over Krabi Mangroves
(Photo by Kevin O'Sheehan)

Any birdwatcher making a trip to the south of Thailand is likely to stop in the town of Krabi, in the province of the same name. The good news is that Krabi is a pleasant town with good facilities and a relaxing atmosphere. Close to the town are some of the most beautiful beaches in the country and this is a good place to make excursions to Ko Phi Phi and Khao Nor Chu Chi, both excellent birding locations in their own right.

Krabi has some of the most accessible mangroves in Asia and a boat trip into them can be very rewarding. The river estuary at Krabi would be worth a visit even without the mangroves, and indeed the Krabi estuary was included in the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network on the 9th November 2005; the first such site in Thailand.

A stay in Krabi is an excellent way to get a taste of the famous beaches of Thailand as well as its culture and birds and an ideal place to do some birding if travelling with non-birding friends and/or family.
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 Birding Highlights

A birding trip to Krabi is for the quality rather than the quantity of birds that there is the potential to see. Birds such as Great Knot, Nordmann's Greenshank, Chinese Egret and Mangrove Pitta should be enough to tempt most birders.

Most of the birding here can be done by boat which makes it rather a relaxing experience and suitable for disabled birders. In the past Masked Finfoot has been seen from boat trips here, although it hasn't been spotted for some time now, but other mangrove specialists such as Brown-winged Kingfisher are commonly seen.

Great Knots
(Photo by Peter Ericsson)
At the river mouth large numbers of shorebirds are guaranteed from October to April with Terek Sandpiper fairly common; it's more attractive than most illustrations suggest. Far Eastern Curlew has also put in an appearance here, but be careful some orientalis Eurasian Curlews have bills just as long as Far Eastern's.
Click here for a checklist of the birds of Krabi
  Bird Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information

Krabi is a very popular tourist destination which makes getting there no problem. If coming from Bangkok by bus I would recommend taking one to Surat Thani from the Southern bus terminal and then taking an air conditioned minibus to Krabi; these minibuses usually wait in the main bus station at Surat. This journey takes in the region of 10-12 hours! Avoid a bus going to Krabi via the West coast and Phuket as the roads are narrow and wind over some quite steep terrain. The bus companies seem to save their most cramped buses on this route not to mention their most disturbed drivers. If these weren't reasons enough to avoid the western route them the journey can take in the region of 17 hours. There are also regular buses from Hat Yai if arriving from Malaysia or indeed buses from all nearby provincial capitals.

It is also possible to travel from Bangkok to Surat Thani by (a somewhat slow) sleeper train, departing from Hua Lompong station, and then proceeding to Krabi by minibus; I'm told this is a pleasant way of making the trip in the region of 18 hours.

The most convenient, but most expensive, method of arrival is by plane. Krabi has a small airport about 10 kilometres from the town, and there are daily flights from Bangkok. There are an increasing amount of airlines catering to domestic passengers which makes flying an ever cheaper and more attractive option.

For those touring Thailand by car, the drive from Bangkok can be done in about 9-10 hours which I can confirm is very tiring if there is only one driver.

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 Finding Birds
Krabi provides birders with quite a number of birding opportunities; hiring a motorcycle and simply touring around will reveal some interesting species, but there are a few places which have become favourites with birders.
Mangroves Mangroves River Mouth Krabi Mangrove Boardwalk  

Mangrove Boat Trips : The mangroves are where many specialist species can be found and one of the main reasons for birding here. Most people hire a boatman to explore the network of creeks and find target birds such as Mangrove Pitta and Ruddy Kingfisher. Many use Mr Dai, but I find him too happy to live off of past glories and do not find him value for money. He does know the bird's calls however, but I have found many of the other boatmen happy to explore this area in search of birds and a number of them have sharp eyes. Brown-winged Kingfisher is a certainty here and it is a magnificent bird, its colours contrasting with the dark green mangrove trees. Mangrove Blue Flycatcher lives here too, but be careful not to assume all the Blue Flycatchers here are this species; Hill Blue and glaucicomans Blue-throated Flycatchers occur in mangroves too.

Mangrove Pittas are quite vocal in the mornings; it's a good idea to get out of the boat to get the best views. Other birds here are Ashy Tailorbird, Malkohas and Black-and-red Broadbill. Also, near Khao Kanab Nam look out for Striated Swallow and Oriental Hobby; the latter can sometimes be seen hunting the former.

Mangrove Boardwalk : The mangrove boardwalk provides an excellent alternative to a boat trip for mangrove birds at Krabi.

Located at the point at which the road veers away from the river, as one walks north from along Krabi riverfront, it is easy to find. The sign in the photograph below marks the entrance point.

The boardwalk runs for about 1 kilometre which means that to find birds one must walk up and down a few times, but it is possible to find both Brown-winged Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta fairly easily. Other birds that can be found include Ashy Tailorbird, Black-and-red Broadbill and some lucky visitors have seen White-chested Babbler here too.

The short length of this boardwalk means that a boat trip may be desirable too but it is worth checking out beforehand and if you are lucky it may save money and time that would be spent on a boat.


The Mangrove Boardwalk, Krabi
(Photo by Nick Upton)

Sign at the Entrance to the Mangrove Boardwalk, Krabi
(Photo by Nick Upton)

River Mouth : All the boatmen can take you here and many of them know the requirements of birdwatchers. Timing is impotant here as when the tide goes out it goes out for a very long way and the birds can be very distant. A good place to go is the wader roost at the eastern side of the river mouth, all the boatmen know this and although it's obviously best to get there when the tide is in, birds can be located here at any time. Be careful of the mud if you get out, most places it is safe but there are some very sticky patches!

Chinese Egret and Nordmann's Greenshank are often searched for here and although identifying Chinese Egret should be done with care, Nordmann's Greenshank is reasonably easy to locate. Other interesting species that can usually be found are Great Knot, Lesser and Greater Crested Terns and the quite handsome Terek Sandpiper which can be quite numerous at Krabi. It is worth checking the multitude of Pond Herons here for Indian Pond Heron which is being increasingly sighted in Thailand, particularly on the west coast. One thing that is guaranteed here is that from October to April there will be thousands of shorebirds to observe.

Pacific Golden Plover & Little Egret
(Photo by Douglas Bolt)

Pacific Swallow
(Photo by Alister Benn)

Krabi : It is quite surprising how many species can be seen from the riverfront at Krabi. Pacific Swallows are nearly always in evidence swooping around just over the water and Collared, Common, Black-capped and even Brown-winged Kingfishers can be seen here. When the tide is out a small number of waders make it as far up to the town, with Common Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and Lesser Sand Plover being the most likely. Plenty of Egrets can be found here and when they begin to come into breeding plumage a few Javan Pond Herons or even Indian Pond Herons may be picked out from the numerous Chinese Pond Herons. White-bellied Sea Eagle and Brahminy Kite are both frequently observed flying over the town and the buildings near where the long-tailed boats are moored are used by small numbers of Asian Glossy Starling.

The Maritime Park and Spa Hotel, a large splendid looking affair about 1 kilometre north of the town centre is a good place to get into the mangroves and many people find Brown-winged Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta here. Just mention that you are watching birds and the staff are happy to let you wander around the grounds which include ornamental gardens, scrubland and mangroves; Bird List for Maritime Park and Spa, Krabi.

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Krabi is a small town which is used to catering for tourists, with a good selection of accommodation from backpacker lodges to huge, flashy hotels; Krabi Hotel Reservations. There are lots of good restaurants serving cheap food, both western and Thai and an excellent night market on the waterfront where lots of delicious things are for sale. There is also a daytime market which drags on into the evening where foodstalls will cook up various specialities and fruit sellers have a great variety of exotic fruits to buy and try; a durian is something you will never forget! This market is opposite the City Hotel which I always use; it has clean and well-kept air conditioned rooms from 650 baht.

Close to the waterfront are a number of small restaurants/bars where one can relax over a drink and internet cafes provide the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, or take a look at! A few places close by also hire motor scooters or bicycles quite cheaply for the day or half day.

(Photo by Douglas Bolt)

Krabi is also a good place for arranging travel to other destinations in Thailand, with a bus station, an airport and boat pier. This is a good place to travel to Ko Phi Phi from and there are plenty of travel agents that can arrange excursions for you. The rates of commission at all agents seem to be the same so there doesn't appear to be the need to shop around much for bus, plane or boat tickets. These travel agents can also arrange for car rental at good rates and a short notice.

Krabi is a fairly quiet town with little to do at night. A few bars along Chao Fa Road cater to foreigners and there are a number of bizarre karaoke bars and hotel bars around that cater to Thais and foreigners are welcomed although little English is spoken; a drink in one of these places is a strange experience indeed.


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 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Tours

Other Southern Thailand Birding Locations

Shorebirds in the Hand

Leg-flagged Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand

Jan Wilczur's Bird Art: Gurney's Pitta, Banded Pitta & Rufous-collared Kingfisher

Bird List for Maritime Park and Spa, Krabi

 Photo Galleries

Khao Khanab Nam


Boats at Krabi Pier


Mangrove Walkway

Fishing in Mangroves

Long-tail Boat

Mangrove Habitat
 Trip Reports

KNC, Krabi & Kaeng Krachan, 30th April-7th May 2001

Southern Thailand & Bangkok, 25th Feb-11th Mar 2006

Southern Thailand, 22-31st August 2008


by Peter Ericsson

by Petter Zahl Marki

by Nick Upton

 Useful Books

Mangroves and Sediment Dynamics Along the Coasts of Southern Thailand

Thailand's Islands and Beaches

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