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Thalebun National Park

Thalebun Marine National Park, in SaTun province, is actually a complex of mountains which consists of evergreen forest with a little deciduous forest, mangrove forest and an offshore island; it has been a National Park since 1980. There has occasionally been trouble with Islamic seperatists in the past and I can remember seeing photos in the Bangkok Post in around 1999 of the restaurant here which had been blown up.

The area around park HQ is the most frequently visited and is very picturesque with a beautiful lake nestled in between lush forest, but there is the possibility of getting into an area of grassland and also of taking a boat trip into the mangroves which could be rewarding.

Very few birders seem to visit this National Park, but with some effort I'm sure a lot of very exciting birds could be found given the quality of the habitat here. If nothing else, this is a relaxing spot which, during the week at least, receives very few visitors.

Thalebun Lakem
With the ongoing violence in the southernmost provinces it is questionable how safe it is to visit Thalebun at the present. It is probably best to err on the side of caution and avoid it until the situation improves.
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 Birding Highlights

Blue-eared Kingfisher
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)

Since there are very few bird watching records from this location it is difficult to identify many known highlights. This in itself makes the Park an exciting place to visit with the high possibility of finding good birds in a "new" location. The quality of the habitat is such that there is no reason why most of the southern specialities should not be found here by those ready to follow gulleys and unexplored trails.

The lake at headquarters is itself a highlight with Blue-eared Kingfisher and White-bellied Sea Eagle both present. There is a good selection of Woodpackers occurring here as well as Hornbills which are most easily seen as they fly between the hills.

Flycatchers appear numerous in this National Park and virtually all the southern species of Bulbul can be easily found. Thalebun could prove very rewarding for birders wishing to get off the beaten track and makes a good stopover if coming from Malaysia.

Click here for a checklist of the birds of Thalebun
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 Travel Information
Thalebun National Park  

Getting to Thalebun National Park by public transport should not be too tricky. The easiest way would be to take a bus to the provincial capital SaTun (pronounced Sar Toon; short "oo"). From here take a songtaew going to the Malaysian border which is about 2.5 Km beyond the park headquarters.

If coming from Krabi it is possible to get off at Chalung, take a songtaew to the road which heads to the park (it is signposted) and take a motorcycle taxi for about 20 Kms to the HQ.

If coming from Had Yai one can get off at the junction to the access road and then take a motorcycle taxi.

For those with the luxury of a vehicle of their own finding this national park is easy, simply follow the signpost on the Had Yai-SaTun road (Route 406).

If coming from Malaysia I would imagine that Alor Setar is the place to travel from or it is quite likely that Padang Besar is geared up enough for backpackers to have transport to the Thai border near Thalebun National Park.

For those staying in Thailand it is a simple affair to jump on a songtaew on its way to SaTun from the Malaysian border. One can ask the National Park staff for details of these; when I visited there were staff who could speak English at HQ.

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 Finding Birds

Finding birds at Thalebun can be a little frustrating due to the lack of good trails into the forest, however with some effort there are plenty of exciting birds to see here and the possibility of some birds never before seen in Thailand due to the proximity to Malaysia.

The lake is good for Kingfishers and wonderful views of White-bellied Sea Eagle hunting.

Numerous Flyctachers were in evidence around the HQ area on my visit, including Ferruginous, Brown-streaked and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher.

Wang Pra Grassland Ya Roi Waterfall   The Lake Nature trail The Road

Poo Yoo Cave : One can hire a boat at Tammalang to go to Poo Yoo cave, a journey which goes through some good quality mangroves which must contain some excellent birds such as Mangrove Pitta, Brown-winged Kingfisher and possibly Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Masked Finfoot.

Wang Pra Grassland : This grassland area can be reached by driving along 9 kilometres of dirt road. I have not been to this area and have not heard of anyone who has been there, but the staff at the National Park seemed to think it was an excellent area for wildlife, particularly mammals.

Ya Roi Waterfall : A short trail to the waterfall has the potential for forest species and the waterfall itself holds Chestnut-naped Forktail; get here before it is crowded with locals.

The Road : Due to the lack of decent trails some of the best birding is along the road which can be quite productive. Plenty of the southern Bulbuls can be easily seen along here and this is one of the best places to get views of Hornbills as they fly across the valley; Great, Bushy-crested and Helmeted have been seen and others should occur. It does not take long to walk to the Malaysian border where visas can be quickly renewed if this is required.

White-bellied Sea Eagle
(Photo by Alister Benn)

The Lake : This is definitely one of the highlights here, the lake is an extremely beautiful spot to just sit and relax. Given the lack of trails it is quite probably worth finding a comfortable spot to sit by the lake and wait to see what turns up. When I was there in March 2003 Blue-eared Kingfisher was very obliging and Silver-rumped Needletail (Silver -rumped Swift) was cruising around over the lake every day.

The large trees just behind the boardwalk were very productive when I visited Thalebun with Brown-streaked Flycatcher appearing unusually common and Golden-whiskered Barbet providing a colourful distraction.

The most fantastic spectacle was provided by a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles which use the lake as a larder and can be watched whilst hunting. One morning I came out of the bungalow and saw one snatching a fish from the water at very close range. In addition, the National Park leaflet suggests that masked Finfoot has occured in this lake; I suppose it is a posibility.

Nature trail : Despite the name of this trail I did not find it particularly good for finding birds as it is quite overgrown. The potential for finding Babblers and perhaps Pittas along here is good with Black-capped Babbler appearing quite common. I encountered very few other birds on this trail with the notable exception of Moustached Hawk Cuckoo which provided excellent views.

Waterfall trail : This trail is in poor condition but allows one to follow the course of a small stream to the top of the small waterfall where it seems to disappear. The stream could be followed further into the forest as long as care was taken to stick close to the water in order not to get lost. There are lots of nice shady patches along here where I saw Ferruginous and Dark-sided Flycatchers and numerous other small birds. The most interesting thing seen along here was a very handsome Crimson-winged Woodpecker.

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Facilities in this park are reasonably good, with accomodation in a better state of repair than in many National Parks in Thailand. There are bungalows for rent here which can be booked in advance by contacting the visitor centre on 0747292023, althought this could prove frustrating given the scope for language problems if you do not speak Thai. If not arriving at a weekend it should be simple to just turn up and sort out a bungalow as I did in 2003. There is also a camp ground in a convenient place.

There is a small resataurant where simple food and drink is available, but the opening hours are not particularly convenient; 8 am to 4.30 pm. The lady in the restaurant will cook food to take away to be eaten at a later time if asked, but it is perhaps a good idea to bring something to cook with and food to prepare at leisure: SaTun is a decent sized town where just about anything can be found in preparation. The restaurant lady was also amenable to selling us some of her ingredients for us to cook on our gas stove. Alternatively, there are food stalls at the border which are open in the evenings; however, this is 2.5 kilometres away which would involve a walk in the dark so remember a flashlight if not driving.

Although the entrance fee for foreigners is now 200 baht when I visited the staff were lenient about letting me in for the same price as Thais (I did have a work permit and could speak Thai to help me with this though).


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