National Parks of the South

21 Jun 2016 11:28 #3863 by Robby L
National Parks of the South was created by Robby L
Just arrived home yesterday from a two month trip around the south camping in national parks. I will drip feed reports on each in the next few days.
We started and finished at Kaeng Krachan, as we finished there I will leave that one till last and start with :

Huai Yang Waterfall National Park.

First impressions, clean and well maintained with a good camping area and toilets with a restaurant open most of the day. Venders turn up during the day selling meat, fish ice and cakes.

The track up the waterfalls is easy and well maintained, the most notable bird is Blue–winged Pita which are numerous and easily seen up to the third waterfall above that Bulbuls are dominant but difficult to ID with Blue-whistling thrush also easily seen. There are also large rodent looking things which race around very quickly so I was unable to get a photo.

Around the camping area Indian Roller fly around as well as Barbet and Drongo.
The area across the small bridges from the camp site warrants more investigation as there is a fair bit of bird life in that area.

A problem there are dogs from the temple just down the road, I saw several wandering around on their own up around the waterfalls and when I went up to the first waterfall in the evening to see if any birds came down to bath 3 monks turned up with 10 dogs following along behind, that ensured there would be little birdlife however in spite of their presence I still saw 2 Blue Winged Pita.

A place worthy of more time than the 2 nights we spent there and the place to go for anyone who wants to see Blue-winged Pita.


Lamnam Kra Buri NP

We had planned to stop at this park but on arriving there it was not at all what I had expected. The HQ area is on the other side of the road from the river and was dry and dusty, I had expected an area by the riverside with access to mangrove areas but there seemed to be little access to there so we kept on going down the road to:

Nam Tok Ngao National park.

Where we only stayed one night as there is little to see or do on the Andaman side of the park however the bulk of the park is on the other side of the hills where there are several ranger stations that warrant farther investigation.

Next on our list was :

Sri Phang Nga National Park

I was keen to get to this park as I had read some great reviews of what was to be found here however what we found was not up to expectations. I had read of others seeing up to 70 bird species in a day but very few of those showed themselves for me with the only hornbills being the pair I saw flying.

For a start nowhere was mentioned that they have an ‘office hours’ policy that you are not allowed to leave the camping ground before 8am and must return by 5pm a policy I have never seen at any other national park I have visited. This to me in unacceptable as it wastes the best 2 hours of the morning when it is cool and, arguably, bird life is at its peak.

There is a big camping ground which seems little used as we were the only ones camped there for the first 2 nights, small toilets only one of each, M&F, a long way from camp however they are clean with a western style toilet as well as Thai. The showers are the best I have seen with good water pressure. They were not keen on us cooking our own food as visitors are supposed to eat at their restaurant but said they would let us get away with it 'this time' .

There are two main trails to waterfalls which start about a K up the road from the camping area at a picnic, parking place where kids and big kids can slop around in the water where 2 streams converge the short trail, about 300m, to the Tam Nang Waterfall starts across a bridge on the left of the parking area, this is on the larger of the 2 streams and is quite a nice waterfall. I walked this on the afternoon we arrived, saw very little birdlife other than at a bird bathing spot at the parking area, birds there were all Bulbul of 3 or 4 species which I haven’t ID’d yet. I spent a bit of time watching and saw 2 Hornbill fly to a roost out of sight high on the hill, I then got told off for getting back to camp after 5pm
The other trail to the Ton Dang Waterfall is longer and with more birdlife, I got photos of Chestnut-crowned Forktail and some other birds along this stream, also heard and glimpsed Bamboo Woodpecker but no photos. There is a sign 50m before the waterfall and here a short track leads to where guides have set up a feeding pace for Pita. Regardless of how you feel of the ethics of feeding to attract wild birds and animals this seems to be the only realistic chance to get photos of Hooded and Banded Pita. I snuck in once the guides had left with their clients and as well as smaller birds got some good photos of the 2 species of Pita. There is a Hooded Pita that has laid claim to the place and chases away any small birds which makes it difficult to get a look at any small species.

Another trail is a steep one which branches off to the right about 50m along the Ton Dang Waterfall trail it heads steeply uphill then to the left along a ridge top to end at a fallen tree. This trail may in the past have continued on but I could find no sign of it. Ropes have been put along most of the steep part of this trail which are a help both going up and down and it appears some surveying has been done up on top as there are marker pegs with string between them and red paint on trees. This trail is through thick mature forest and allows no opportunity to see the few birds that are calling.

One more rarely used track goes to the left off the road to the parking-picnic area, it starts less than 100m from the camping ground and crosses the stream before following a small stream up to a waterfall, the last part of the track is in the stream bed and would be dangerous if there was a lot of water in the stream. By the look of the discarded PVC pipes this was at one time the camp water supply. With lots of little fish in the pools and minimal disturbance this should be ideal habitat for Forest Kingfishers but neither sight nor sound of them did I encounter, nor were there any other birds to be seen, only photos I got were of a pair of Gibbons in the top of a tree.

I took Ying with me on the last evening up to where guides have been feeding birds and when we got to the short track to the feeding spot a Banded Pita followed us apparently looking for food, it hopped around in front of us, it was very tame and at one stage Ying was walking around following it taking pictures with both her camera and her phone, a Hooded Pita also turned up briefly. I know from experience that guides have to provide clients with what they pay for but have to question the practice of getting birds (or animals) to the stage of expecting food and possibly relying on being fed. There is probably only one Banded Pita and one Hooded Pita that is using that feeding station as that is all we saw.
No large animal sign at all other than primates, Dusky Langur and Gibbons. Not as many squirrels as most other places but I did get a photo of a Shrew type thing.

Bird List.
Grey-headed Pygmy Woodpecker Stripe-throated Bulbul
Banded Pita Hooded Pita
Spectacled Bulbul Grey-bellied Bulbul
Ochraceous Bulbul Black-crested Bulbul
Brown Shrike Grey-backed Shrike
Pacific Swallow Paddyfield Pipit
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

More another Day.
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21 Jun 2016 19:00 - 22 Jun 2016 08:02 #3864 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic National Parks of the South
Cool! You are definitely getting around Robby. I love reading about these places I have never been (yet).

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22 Jun 2016 13:49 - 22 Jun 2016 13:52 #3869 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Khao Sok National Park.

First impressions, staff not so friendly, not happy we wanted to camp as “Tourists” are supposed to stay at their bungalows or one of the many resorts, eat at restaurants and hire guides. Camping site a disaster area, not going to attempt to put up a tent in that mess so we went to the other side of the road where there was a little grass but the ground is very stony and almost impossible to get a tent peg all the way in.

The so called ‘narrow trail’ is a series of deteriorating concrete staircases which leads to a stream with a swing bridge with a sign “Closed for repair”,

Even the sign is in need of repair , and this sign on the trail :

There is a trail which continues on the other side of the bridge which I presumed was the trail that continued to the waterfall but as I had seen very little bird life I turned round and headed back to camp.

Next day I tried the other trail which is in fact a road that goes for 7km and which follows the river with side tracks to the river which mostly go to swimming spots or are loops where the guides take their clients to walk in the forest.
Down the side track a bit over a kilometer down the road by a sign telling of bamboo there is what appears to be a Broadbill nest under construction so I hung around and was rewarded by the sight of a pair of Red and Black Broadbill presumably the owners of the nest, unfortunately not very good photos due to a misty morning . When I went back the next morning hoping to get better photos the broadbill did not appear but instead a Chestnut-naped Forktail hopped into sight for a brief photo OP.
On both days I carried on to a sign pointing to Wing Hin Waterfall about two and a half KM down the road, never did see the waterfall but there is some interesting trees at the river crossing which were attracting small birds which I was able to get some photos of.

Wallaces Hawk Eagle

Bird List:
Wallace’s Hawk Eagle,
Red and Black Broadbill
Blue-winged Leafbird,
Abbott’s Babbler
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter,
Stripe-throated Bulbul
Chestnut-naped Forktail,
Brown-throated Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird,
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

PS. There are some scathing comments on this place on Rushens site.
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25 Jun 2016 15:37 #3883 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Klong Phranom National Park
There was very little information about this park anywhere on the internet, the only thing I could find was that it had been a hideout for communists back in the sixties so we had to do everything by touch.
The HQ about is 100m off the main road (401) at the 21km milestone east of Khao Sok NP.
First impressions, great setting flanked by 2 massive rock pillers, good place to camp around the helicopter pad, staff friendly and very helpful, they don’t get many foreigners, boss speaks a little English, toilets clean and well maintained, there is a restaurant area where we charge batteries and I wrote a few things on the laptop but no food service.

There is a 2km nature trail starting from behind the HQ that leads to a big tree, there are also other access points 3 of which we explored. This is a little visited Park with great potential and I recommend it to anyone who plans to be in the area. There were what I would call ‘civilisation’ birds around the HQ like Common Myna and Magpie Robin plus some others on ripe bananas and a flowering tree up behind the staff houses as well as a pair of interesting little striped Squirrels racing around in the trees above our camp.

Burmese Striped Squirrel

We were taken to what is called Bamboo on a 4WD track through rubber and palm oil plantations and into the forest they then showed us the start of the trail. They told us that no foreigner had been to that place for 13 years. We didn’t get to the Bamboo place as we lost the track on top of the ridge but we had another go a few days later after getting farther directions from staff this time we failed even to get to the start of the track up the hill as there had been heavy rain and even in 4WD the track proved too slippery so we walked the last 200m to where we had parked the previous time. I did however get some bird photos and information from a lady working in a palm oil plantation, she told us that 20 years ago there were lots of animals in the area including Tigers and Bears but now everything is gone.

We spent 2 nights in a comfortable rental house at Klong Boon Naak ranger station No 2, it is a ranger station 5km up a road about 10km back towards Khao Sok. The road gets progressively worse and the last stream crossing is definitely 4WD territory. The place is on a stream that comes from the forest, it is possible to camp there but we chose to leave our tent set up at the HQ. I walked a fair way up the stream and up a track that led to the ridge top, difficult to see birds in the thick forest but I could hear calls of Great Aegus farther along the ridge and came across a patch about 6m X 3m that had been cleared of leaves which I presumed is a display area, I sat down and watched with soap,emm, hope in my soul for a time but no birds turned up.

There are Chestnut-Naped Forktail and kingfishers in the stream, got photos of the Forktail but all I saw of the Kingfishers was them in fast flight past me, other birds seen were Bulbul and sunbirds. For anyone seriously wanting to track down Great Argus this might just be a very good place to look.

We then moved on to Nam Tok Ton Yai ranger station No 3 which due to a misunderstanding I had thought was the access to the old communist area but that it turns out is from the HQ area via the big tree track. We only stayed one night as there are limited tracks and unlimited leaches. I still managed to get good photos of both male and female Crimson-breasted Flowerpeckers, new species for me, on a fruiting tree where we stayed.

If you are in the area don’t by-pass this one.

Bird List.
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-throated Flycatcher
Brown-throated Sunbird
Chestnut-napped Forktail
Common Lora
Common Myna
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
Magpie Robin
Puff-throated Babbler
Rufous-bellied Swallow
Greater Green Leafbird
Spotted Dove
White-rumped Sharma
Streak-eared Bulbul
Stripe-throated Bulbul

Seen but no photos
Cinnamon Bittern
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo
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28 Jun 2016 10:08 #3886 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Khao Phanom Bencha National Park

Again almost no information on this Park, It was not easy to find as it is poorly signposted, you have to look for signs that point to ‘Huai To Waterfall, park is 20km from the main road.

First impressions, clean and very green with a good big camping area and western style toilets although no showers as we know them only the Thai version. There is a restaurant and snack shop with signs and menu in Thai and English. They have something of an obsession with clearing away every last fallen leaf and on our last morning there I counted 10 ladies with brooms sweeping the ground and picking up leaves.

There is a nature trail and a track to the waterfall which join up way up the top of the waterfall track. Don’t recommend anyone has a go at climbing up from the waterfall as what isn’t vertical is overhanging both on the way up and down the nature trail (Dog slide hill), well yes that’s an exaggeration but you get the message, don’t do it. The bottom part of the Nature Trail (from 1. to 8 on the map) is through nice forest and there are some birds but not much farther up. Most of the birdlife seems to be around the camping area and buildings, a pleasant place to camp but not a lot of birdlife.

Saw an interesting Squirrel around the camping area and by the waterfall toilets that I have never seen before, red belly with a white stripe on either side of the belly and a red tip on the tail.

Bird List..

Black-headed Bulbul
Stripe-throated Bulbul
Blue-winged Pita
Magpie Robin
Ocrhraceous Bulbul
Scaly-breasted Munia
White-throated Kingfisher
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
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02 Jul 2016 01:33 #3891 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic National Parks of the South
The squirrel from Khao Phanom Bencha is the Plantain Squirrel, Callosciurus notatus.

Great write-ups again!

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03 Jul 2016 11:20 - 03 Jul 2016 11:20 #3892 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic National Parks of the South
I agree - great write-ups Robbie. Wetting my appetite for when I have more time to travel further a field.

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03 Jul 2016 13:03 #3893 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Thank you kind Sir's.

Next on our list was : Khao Pra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary (Khao Nor Chu Chi).

When we got there we were told that all trails had been closed for 3 years with the only trail open was the one to the Emerald Pool which is a top tourist attraction in the area. The trails were closed off when bird numbers had dropped way down and birds were no longer nesting in the sanctuary. We were told that numbers had increased this year to the stage that birds were starting to nest again.
We were told that we were welcome to camp there but the toilets were in poor condition and there was no water for showers.

I have since been told that if you go with a guide you can get access, no doubt once the correct palms have been crossed with gold.

We elected not to stay and carried on to : Khao Pu - Khao Ya National Park.

Not an easy place to find as it is poorly signposted, we arrived at this park just before dark after calling at Khao Pra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary and finding it closed, got the tent up and slept.

First impressions, looks good with western style toilets but no showers but I have the technology to counter that, toilets are a bit far from where we camped but not a problem really. Obviously no rain here for some time as the place is very dry.

First morning I headed up a nature trail which starts a s a concrete road then as a series of concrete staircases past a huge cliff that looks as if it could fall on your head at any time, the stairs end at a ridge top and a short track to the right and some sharp rocks that overlook some fruiting trees with a dead tree on the left that were well populated with birds which turned out to be mostly barbet’s and bulbuls

Brown Barbet

. A bit of an effort to climb all the way up but well worth it from my prospective as I ended up with 3 new bird species and a don’t know for the morning. Next morning I headed back to the same place and although most of the fruit had been eaten from the trees the birds were still around although mostly the same species, I was able to add a Banded Woodpecker to the list.

Male Red-throated Barbet

Went again the next morning but even fewer birds, but a flight of hornbills landed in the top of some tall trees above me then when I moved they flew off giving me a brief glimpse of 5 birds as they passed a gap in the trees, not a good enough look to be able to tell the species but it does prove hornbill are in the park. Took Ying up to have a look at the cliff in the afternoon and we saw a bird that I at first thought may be a honey guide as the cliff is full of beehives but no such luck for it looks to be some kind of thrush with long slim wings that make it look like a swallow or swift when in flight.

Female Red-throated Barbet

Had a large bird fly over our camp and land briefly in a tree for a very poor photo, I saw another the same when I walked up cave road on the morning we moved on and managed to get enough of a photo to ID it as a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, another new species for me.

This is quite an exciting place that is rarely visited by birders and deserver farther exploration, several times I heard what sounded like pita alarm calls but as the undergrowth is very thick was unable to see the birds. One of the staff told us that this is the only place in Thailand where Blythe’s Frogmouth can still be found, whether that’s true or not I don’t know.

Streaked Wren Babbler

No large animals in the park but saw a troop of Long-tailed Macaques and 4 small ground animals, again no photos.
There are two main trails, the one to the cliff-top and the other to the cave which is a concrete road with another track through the forest. There is an indistinct side track at the 2300 marker which heads off to the left (on the way up) I followed it for a couple of hundred meters and it heads up a valley into the forest, if we had stayed longer I would have followed it to see where it went but we had planned to leave the morning I saw it and as there was a celebration on that day to mark 25 years since the establishment of the park and lots of people arriving we decided to move on.

Bee Cliff in English

If you are ever in the area don’t bypass this one as it is full of barbet and has great potential to produce hard to find southern species

Bird List
Brown Barbet
Red-throated Barbet
Banded Woodpecker
Streaked Wren Babbler
Magpie Robin
Stripe-throated Bulbul
Blue-whistling Thrush
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
Blue Rock Thrush
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16 Jul 2016 10:40 #3905 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Hat Chao Mai National Park

We spent a night at this coastal park and had a walk along the beach in the morning. There is supposed to be a cave leading to a lagoon that is only accessible at low tide but there are signs on the beach telling people not to go that way. Plenty of places to camp with good toilets and great sunsets over the sea. We were the only ones there and the only birds I saw (photos) were Hoopoe, Brahminy Kite, Collared Kingfisher and Indian Rollar.

Satun Mangroves

We only spent a couple of hours at the mangrove walkway when we went from Tale Ban to Satun to stock up.
The entrance to the walkway is through a stainless steel gate to the left of the offices of the Tale Ban ranger station, the gate was closed when we got there but not locked so we opened it and went in.

There had been a storm the night before there were branches and in one place a tree which had fallen on the walkway. There is a new looking look-out (watch) tower near the beach and a big new shrine where a group of the faithful (I had a different name for them on the day) lighting strings of fireworks and what with a couple of army types hacking into the fallen tree with an axe it was somewhat noisy, a good reason for birds to be elsewhere.

There are interesting fish close to the watchtower that come out of the water and wander around on the mud. Ying had a good time taking photos of them and the fiddler crabs while I tried to see birds from the tower. Farther along a Collared Kingfisher posed for a distant shot and a small bird wave passed hopping from tree to tree there were Golden-bellied Gerygone and a small grey woodpecker among them but the only photos I could get was a quick one of an Oriental White Eye.

Mud Skipper Boleophthalmus boddarti

More time spent there would yield more sightings but why birds should be in that noisy place when there are miles of mangroves is a mystery.
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29 Jul 2016 11:37 - 29 Jul 2016 11:42 #3920 by Robby L
Replied by Robby L on topic National Parks of the South
Thaleban National Park
Stayed 20-26 May 2016

Not a good start as the man on the gate ‘forgot’ to give tickets, Ying realised this when she got back to the car and went back and got them, she had one word “corruption” as the ticket stubs are the only record of entry money being paid without them the cash can just vanish, the tickets are also our record of having paid.

Next we were told there had been a lot of rain every day so it would be best to put up the tent in a Sala, fair enough have done it before and agree but the Sala is around 100m from the car and guess who has to carry all the gear. Toilets although good are about the same distance away but that’s not a real problem.
We are also told that there are few birds about due to the wet weather, this remains to be seen also watch out for the monkeys which get into everything including the rubbish bins which are all wired and tied shut.

Place is set up for selfie taking tourists with new concrete ‘boardwalks’ and great displays of “Reserved animals” and Hornbill, also several houses for rent and another camping space close to the houses but the toilets there are in poor condition.

Had a bit of a wander round and saw very little only thing that could be heard were a lot of very noisy frogs, the next morning I walked the nature trail seeing a Chestnut-naped Forktail on the road on the way, almost no bird sound or sight on the trail but a bit of pig sign. I noticed a side track that led round the lake. I took this track later in the day and it led to a rubber and palm-oil plantation which had a bit of birdlife including Whiskered Treeswifts sitting in a dead tree.

We went up what is a road to Wang Pra ranger station (ranger station 3) which is 10km from the main road, on parts of that road we needed to use 4WD drive as the road was muddy from daily rain. We were told that we needed to have a staff member with us to walk farther into the park and we had to arrange permits at the HQ. Instead we visited the Yom Roi waterfall (ranger station 2) which is a likely area for birdlife with a Black and Yellow Broadbill nest about 4m directly above a picnic table at the entrance station.

I started putting bird photos on the computer and had several staff watching including the man who does bird research at the park and he offered to arrange permits and take up to the Wang Pra Grassland the next day. We went with him but all I will say is that we were very privileged to be given access to the area as it is something given to very few.

An interesting place that needs farther investigation, most of the birds I saw were around the camping and boardwalk area including many Black-and-yellow Broadbill which are easy to see. I was surprised there is no birdlife around or on the lake as I would have expected egrets, herons and kingfishers as there are plenty of fish present, nor were there any small birds evident in the reeds or other vegetation around the lake. One of the ladies in the restaurant told Ying that no hornbills had been seen in the HQ area for the last 10 years, we were told these birds can still be found in remoter parts of the park.

There is a restaurant in the park with both Thai and European food the park entrance is only 3km from the Malay border where there are extensive markets that are supposed to be duty free. There is another new market about 100m up the road and on the other side of the road a good Thai place to eat which will also do laundry.

This is a park well worth visiting however when visiting this park you should be aware of local politics and religion, staff are mostly Muslim and at first (rightly) suspicious of strangers. We stayed there 6 nights and after they got to know us and that we had no ulterior motives for being there they were very friendly and welcoming. The park director said that they would like to see more people there who are genuinely interested in nature and conservation.

Comment 2
Ying told the Director about not being given tickets and he thanked her and it would seem the one responsible has been moved on.

Bird List
Chestnut-naped Forktail
Whiskered Treeswift
Lesser Cuckooshrike
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Spectacled Bulbul
Black-and-yellow Broadbill
Brown Shrike
Black-headed Bulbul
Greater Green Leafbird
Black-crested Bulbul
Grey-bellied Bulbul
Rufous-bellied Swallow
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Crested Serpent Eagle
Black Eagle

Forgot to mention,They have free WIFI there.
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"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

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