Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park, in Surat Thani
province, is well-visited by tourists but rather underwatched
by birders. This is quite surprising given the large area
of quality habitat here that extends into the numerous Wildlife
Sanctuaries that border this National Park.
there are only 2 proper trails from park HQ (a total of 11km)
and walking these back and forth for a few days can get a
little dull. However, spending time on these trails will be
rewarded with some exciting species and add to the relatively
little that is known about the avifauna of this park as well
as providing the opportunity to experience some excellent
are two access points to Khao Sok National park; HQ and Chieo
Lan Dam, but here I will deal solely with the HQ region which
is most commonly visited.
(Photo by Rob ter Ellen)
(Photo by Suppalak
of southern specialities occur in Khao Sok National Park and
if more birders were to visit there would be a huge list of
highlights. This is just about the only place in Thailand
to see both Lesser and Grey-headed Fish Eagle, and Banded
Pitta is a fabulously beautiful species which appears far
more common here than anywhere else. With such a large area
of quality habitat it is inevitable that Hornbills can be
found with Great, Helmeted and White-crowned the most frequently
of healthy rivers in Khao Sok are good places to see unusual
species with both Blue-banded and Rufous-collared Kingfisher
present and readily seen. Chestnut-naped Forktail is another
sought-after species that is associated with water here and
can be found with patience.
the forest other exciting birds can be spotted with White-browed Piculet,
Brown Barbet, Black-and-yellow Broadbill and a good number of Babblers
often making an appearance for those who make the effort. Great Argus
is frequently heard on the hill ridges but few are lucky enough to
see this species, however, for those determined enough there seems
to be a good population of this bird here.
here for a checklist of the birds of Khao
Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for
ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand:
Sok National Park is one of the easiest national parks to
get to in Thailand. It is frequently visited by tourists
from the southern beach resorts and many places from Khao
Lak, Krabi and Phuket run minibuses to the accommodation just
outside the park.
there by scheduled public transport is also an easy option.
From Bangkok take a bus (from the southern bus terminal) or
train to Surat Thani. From here a minibus to Khao Sok or any
bus to Takua Pa can be taken; the buses will stop at Km 109
where people from various bungalows at Khao Sok wait to collect
visitors. From Phuket take a bus to Takua Pa and then another
heading to Surat Thani and get off at Km 109. From the main
road to the accommodation is a few kilometres so it is best
to take a ride with one of the bungalow operators.
Khao Sok, simply stand by the side of the road and flag down
any passing bus going either to Surat Thani or Takua Pa, depending
on which way you are going. Some songtaews also make these
journeys and will also stop for passengers. You might even
get lucky and be given a lift if you hitch-hike.
at Khao Sok is pretty much limited to just two forest trails. I have
tried birding along the main road but it never really goes into any
good habitat and only fairly common open-country birds are usually
seen. For the best opportunity to find exciting forest birds, time
should be spent on the trails.
Trail : This easy-to-follow
trail is a jeep track for the first few kilometres before becoming
much narrower. This trail provides most of the best opportunities
to find some of the most exciting species at Khao Sok. At many places
this trail provides good views of the nearby river where Hornbills
can sometimes be observed flying from one side to the other.
1, Rufous-collared Kingfisher can often be heard calling in the
morning and with patience can be found. A short way along the
trail at point 2, Banded Kingfisher often performs the same trick
and at point 3 there is a clump of bamboo where Bamboo Woodpecker
is frequently seen along with noisy Piculets. At point 4, there
is a viewpoint for watching for Hornbills and Fish Eagles which
are fairly regular here. A small bridge at point 5 crosses a small
creek where Blue-banded Kingfisher has been seen.
the disused campsite the trail becomes narrower and at first goes
through a fairly flat piece of forest. It is here, at point 6, where
Banded Pitta is frequently found and a splendid male once gave me
the best views that anyone could ask for. The trail goes up and
down for a while after this and crosses a small stream where Chestnut-naped
Forktail has been observed and I saw a pair of Blue-banded Kingfishers
Trail : This trail
heads to a waterfall through some excellent forest. The forest
is very thick in places and seeing birds can be tricky although
finding leeches, at least in October, is very easy indeed!
are numerous along this trail with Black-capped, Spot-necked
and Chestnut-winged Babblers among the more attractive of
this group likey to be seen. Black-backed Kingfisher can often
be heard calling from the numerous small creeks along here,
but getting a good view of one can be much harder. A bird
which virtually nobody sees but which appears numerous is
often heard calling from the hill ridges along this river
valley: Great Argus. For those wishing to track down this
species, this area is likely to be the best place in Thailand
Area : The land
around the accommodation is mostly under agriculture and as
such is not a great place for birding. At night, however,
it may be a good place to look for owls.
(Photo by Peter
so many places to stay it is very difficult to recommend anywhere
in particular. I have stayed in a few different places and they have
all been fairly cheap, friendly and clean. Most places have small
restaurants attached to them and food is usually good quality and
inexpensive. Some of the resorts here are quite upmarket and only
deal with pre-booked tours, but there is enough accommodation to be
able to simply turn up and find somewhere. The map below gives an
indication of the
accommodation layout at Khao Sok
are a few small shops that sell snacks, drinks and souvenirs as
well as a couple of internet cafes. Massage is available for a reasonable
price and all bungalows can organise rafting, elephant riding, forest
walks and cayaking trips to Chieo Lan lake. Transport to almost
anywhere can also be arranged if asked for.
There are National
Park bungalows, but the dubious quality of these would suggest that
it is wiser to stay outside the park, although camping will mean
that the daily entrance fee of 200
baht would only have to be paid once. The cafeteria
inside park HQ seems to be almost never open, but with plenty of
places to eat outside of the park, this shouldn't be a problem.
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Southern Thailand Birding Locations
Wilczur's Bird Art: Gurney's Pitta, Banded Pitta & Rufous-collared