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. In the past there was occasional
trouble with Islamic separatists but these days it is not one
of the troubled provinces and bird watchers can feel safe and
welcome visiting this national park and, indeed, the whole province
Park headquarters is easily visited and it is very picturesque
with a beautiful lake nestled in between lush forest. Other
locations at which to enter the park also exist with a small
area of grassland and larger areas of mangrove making for a
mixture of habitats.
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.
at Thalebun National Park HQ
(Photo by Nick
(Photo by Nick
there are very few bird watching records from this location
in recent years 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 gullies and unexplored trails.
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot is a scarce bird which has been
seen around the park headquarters on a number of occasions and
the rare Green-backed Flycatcher has also been seen. Malayan
Banded Pitta is possibly the most beautiful Pitta species in
Thailand and it can be found in suitable forest around HQ as
can several species of Woodpeckers.
National Park staff talk about sightings of rare birds such
as Great Argus, Giant Pitta, Rail Babbler and Diard's Trogon
but you will have to make an effort to get into the forest somewhere
other than HQ for such treats! Thalebun could prove very rewarding
for birders wishing to get off the beaten track and makes a
good stopover if coming from Malaysia.
checklist of the birds for this location can be found here -Thalebun
If you need help organizing a bird watching
trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries
for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me
for advice: Thailand
the interactive map below to plan your route to Thalebun National
Park. The blue line shows the route from the Satun (Red Pin) to Thalebun
National Park (Blue Pin).
those driving their own vehicle, finding the park headquarters is
very easy as it is sign posted from the main Had Yai - Satun road
(route 406); the border crossing is also sign posted from the main
road, which is just a few kilometres further than the 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 Sa Toon; long "oo"). From here
take a songtaew going to the Malaysian border which is about 2.5 Km
beyond the park headquarters; I have not done this myself but I would
imagine that songtaews run fairly frequently in business hours. Motorcycle
taxis are also available at the junction from route 406 to the HQ.
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
When leaving the national park 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.
watching 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 seldom
seen in Thailand.
Roi Waterfall : A trail which begins at
a small car park, at the end of a narrow road, proceeds for
700 metres to the waterfall and has the potential for quite
a few forest species while the waterfall itself apparently holds
Chestnut-naped Forktail; get here before it is crowded with
locals. I have not visited this area so there is plenty of potential
to add to the park checklist provided here.
: In the past birders would walk along the road birding
the surrounding forest. However, these days corruption has resulted
in development along the road and the destruction of most of
the roadside forest which has resulted in an invasion of open-country
species such as Large-billed Crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common
Myna, Zebra Dove and suchlike. This combined with the fact that
the road can get quite busy means that it is not a good birding
option any more. It does not take long to walk to the Malaysian
border where visas can be quickly renewed if this is required
and a ramshackled market sells all sorts of things from food
to faked designer handbags.
: There is a ranger station here which can be reached
by driving along 10 kilometres of dirt road - there is a signpost
in Thai only, but as far as I understand entry is only allowed
in the company of a forest ranger. The dirt road is not suitable
for saloon cars but it is easily navigated in a pickup when
things are dry, it could be a challenge when things are wet
though. The area of grassland and stunted forest at the end
of this track is reached after rather depressingly driving through
nothing but rubber plantations where there is supposed to be
forest - the ranger I was with told me that just 10 years ago
there was good forest all along here! The main reason to access
this area is to look for Dusky Eagle Owl, the only know site
for this species in Thailand, but it certainly is not guaranteed
as I found out in 2016.
At the turnoff from the road another ranger station, only 2
kilometres away, is also sign posted - this may be worth checking
: The Headquarters area is the most easily visited part of
Thalebun National Park and is where most visitors will start their
birding. Just birding around the buildings will turn up a lot of the
commoner species, particularly if any of them are producing fruit
or seeds; I have seen Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot on a seeding tree
behind the restaurant on a couple of visits. Species such as Red-throated
Barbet, Grey-bellied Bulbul, Spectacled Bulbul, Sooty Barbet and Golden-whiskered
Barbet are also likely to show up on fruiting trees around HQ.
Both Grey-rumped Treeswift and Whiskered Treeswift frequent exposed
perches around the headquarters area and can also be seen soaring
Birding along the short stretch of road which goes to the campsite
and park accommodation can be quite productive with Black-and-yellow
Broadbill being quite common along with a number of Bulbuls and species
such as Green Iora, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Lesser Green Leafbird joining
flocks. The potential for finding woodpeckers is good too and I have
seen Buff-rumped, Grey-and-buff, Rufous, Banded and Crimson-winged
Woodpeckers along this stretch.
When birds are migrating plenty of interesting species can be found
in the clearings among the forest here with Yellow-rumped Flycatcher,
Green-backed Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Tiger Shrike and Forest
Wagtail all occuring.
Lake : This is a very photogenic area which
attracts most of the visitors to this site. It is an extremely
beautiful spot to just sit and relax and 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. Grey-rumped Treeswift
and Silver-rumped Needletail both frequent the lake and in 2003
I saw Blue-eared Kingfisher here. I have also seen White-bellied
Sea Eagle and Great Hornbill by just sitting and waiting next
to the lake. Certainly in October this could be a good place
to sit and watch migrating raptors; a member of the park staff
told me that hundreds can be seen in a day at migration's peak.
The margins of the lake do not seem to attract much birdlife
although Yellow-bellied Prinia can be heard calling from a reedy
area close to the boardwalk.
The large trees just behind the boardwalk are visited by a lot
of birds in the morning, particularly when they produce fruit.
Gold-whiskered Barbet, Streaked Bulbul, Blue-crowned Hanging
Parrot, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker and many other species
are regular - perhaps something rarer may join them.
: Parts of this trail area bit overgrown
but it does get birders right into the forest and there is a
good chance to find Babblers, with Black-capped Babbler being
quite common. Several gullies are ideal habitat for Malayan
Banded Pitta, and I saw a pair along here in April 2014. As
with most forest interior birding things can be hard work but
with patience interesting birds that do not come to the forest
edge can be seen. Other interesting birds that I have seen along
here include Moustached Hawk Cuckoo, Purple-naped Sunbird and
: A very short trail goes about 30 metres into the
forest to the foot of this small waterfall but it does allow
adventurous birders to follow the course of the stream further
in order to find scarce forest species. Chestnut-naped Forktail
is possible and other potential species include Green Broadbill,
Fulvous-chested Jungle-flycatcher and Diard's Trogon as well
as a variety of Babblers.
Yoo Cave: One can attempt to hire a boat at Tam
Malang to go to Poo Yoo cave, a journey which goes through some good
quality mangroves which will contain some excellent birds such as
Mangrove Pitta, Brown-winged Kingfisher, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Mangrove
Blue Flycatcher and possibly Masked Finfoot. Most of these species
can be more easily seen, though, birding the mangroves around Satun
town and Tam Malang pier itself.
in this park are reasonably good, with most of the accommodation
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, although this
could prove frustrating given the scope for language problems
if you do not speak Thai. Considering that this is not a busy
national park visitors can probably just turn up and find some
accommodation - even during Thai New Year 2014 most of the park
bungalows were empty! There is also a camp ground in a convenient
place with toilets and showers available.
There is a drink and snack shop next to the lake and a small
restaurant next to the car park where simple, but tasty, 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
with several large supermarkets where virtually anything can
be obtained. There are plenty of hotels
in Satun, which is about a 40 minute drive away
if you prefer something a little more comfortable.
(Photo by Nick
the entrance fee for foreigners is 200
baht on the occasions that I have visited the staff were
lenient and let me in for the Thai price after I spoke to them briefly
National Park Bird Checklist
Other Southern Thailand Birding Locations
Unrest in the
South claims the Life of Foreigner
the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
Thalebun National Park is a good site to explore
in conjunction with other seldom-visited sites in southern Thailand;
some scarce species can be found and with some effort a few
surprises are a very real prospect.
Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand
bird tours, or contact me for more information:
Thailand, 5-16th April 2016
Bird Sightings from Thalebun National Park -
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