I just want to say a big thank you to Alison and the Rockjumper team for an absolutely fantastic trip through Thailand recently. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and successful trip. Also, I must comment Nigel Redman, who is an exceptional guide, with a vast knowledge of birds (in Thailand and beyond), as well as a keen knowledge of recent taxonomic changes in Asian birds, and for his management of the trip and the group. Luckily for me, this was my first time birding in Asia, so I managed upwards of 330 lifers!
Our new Thailand Highlights tour is designed around the very best birding sites in Northern and Central Thailand, offering a superb selection of spectacular and sought-after Southeast Asian specials, along with a huge array of migrants from the north, which spend the frigid winters in these warmer climates. Time will be spent exploring the wetlands near Bangkok where we stand excellent chances of finding the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank and Chinese Egret. Major reserves visited include Kaeng Krachan, Khao Yai and Doi Lang where targets include the stunning Green Peafowl, Siamese Fireback, Silver Pheasant, gorgeous Silver-breasted Broadbill, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Blue Pitta, White-rumped Falcon, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Green Cochoa – and much more! In addition, culturally Thailand has few equals, and you will have opportunities to visit some of the many spectacular pagodas and shrines that adorn this friendly, varied and spectacular land.
This is a short yet comprehensive alternative to our longer Northern & Central: Asian Birding at its Best tour, and is suitable for both birders and non-birding spouses alike.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Green Peafowl, Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Great & Tickell’s Brown Hornbills, Banded Kingfisher, Silver-breasted & Dusky Broadbills, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Blue & Eared Pittas, White-rumped Falcon, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Green Cochoa, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Chinese Egret, Malaysian Plover, Black-backed Forktail, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Asian Stubtail, Dark-sided Thrush
White-handed and Pileated Gibbons, Giant Squirrel, Asian Elephant
lowland and montane rainforests, mangroves, wetlands, coastal mudflats
Cool but generally comfortable in the higher areas, warmer and more humid lower down. Rain and mist is possible
moderate pace, undemanding walking on forest trails and along forest roads, mostly in national parks
pagodas and temples, great food, rainforests, friendly people
Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok
After arriving at Bangkok International and transferring to a comfortable city hotel, you will be met by your Rockjumper leader. Our exciting Thailand birding tour officially begins at dinner this evening.
Day 2: Bangkok to Kaeng Krachan via Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
This morning on our Thai birding tour, we will drive south to the Gulf of Thailand in Samutsakhon province. Most of today will be spent exploring the mudflats, mangroves, saltpans and shrimp pools in search of the many special shorebirds that winter in this area. Top of the list is the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and we stand an excellent chance of finding this incredible rarity mixed in with the hordes of other waders! A number of other highly sought-after species can also be found here, such as Asian Dowitcher and Nordmann’s Greenshank, which are both becoming increasingly rare and difficult to find throughout their ranges. Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Long-toed, Red-necked and Temminck’s Stints, Great Knot, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Brown-headed Gull, Whiskered, Caspian, Gull-billed, Common and Little Terns, Little and Indian Cormorants plus an abundance of other shorebirds can all be expected during the day. We may also find a few of the area’s scarcer but generally annual visitors such as Slender-billed Gull, Red-necked Phalarope and Eastern Curlew. Brahminy and Black Kites are often seen hunting over the surrounding area and we can expect our first introduction to many of Asia’s widespread species such as Red Turtle, Spotted and Zebra Doves, Black Drongo, Pied Myna and Scaly-breasted Munia. Other noteworthy and eye-catching species that we may see during our time in this bird-rich area include the beautiful Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers, Racket-tailed Treepie, Malaysian Pied Fantail and White-shouldered Starling. In the afternoon, we will embark on a short boat trip to Laem Pak Bia, a small sand bar, near the mouth of an estuary that is a particularly good site for the increasingly scarce Malaysian Plover. This spot has also become a fairly reliable wintering site for the rare Chinese Egret and the interesting dealbatus race of Kentish Plover, often referred to as White-faced Plover. Following our boat trip we will give a short search for Golden-bellied Gerygone and any of the wader specialties that we may still require before continuing the drive through to Kaeng Krachan where we have a three-night stay.
Days 3 & 4: Kaeng Krachan National Park
The fantastic national park of Kaeng Krachan, established by the King of Thailand after a visit to the area in 1981, has the richest bird list in Thailand, exceeding 420 species! It is the largest national park in the country – over 3,000 square kilometres in extent – and is situated on the eastern side of the Tenasserim mountain range near the Burmese border. Many of the special birds in Kaeng Krachan are species from the southern part of Thailand and neighbouring Peninsula Malaysia that reach their geographical northern limit here.
Our two full days in Kaeng Krachan will be spent scouring the beautiful, verdant forests that cloak the surrounding hills. We will cover most elevations and every habitat type, from the more open low elevation forest along the entrance road to the bamboo-cladded hills around the very top of the road. In the higher altitude forest around the hill-tops, we will search for the very special Ratchet-tailed Treepie, an extremely localized and rare species, especially in Thailand, as well as the lovely Red-bearded Bee-eater, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Flavescent, Ochraceous and Buff-vented Bulbuls, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Dark-sided, Hill Blue and Verditer Flycatchers, Greater Green Leafbird, Yellow-vented and Plain Flowerpeckers, Black-throated Sunbird and the zippy Streaked Spiderhunter. Mixed species flocks will also be a feature of Kaeng Krachan and working these exciting waves of activity could produce Speckled and White-browed Piculets, Great Iora, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, the bamboo-dwelling Yellow-bellied Warbler, Striated Yuhina, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Golden Babbler, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and the furtive Collared Babbler among many other species.
In the bamboo-dominated mid elevations we will seek out the vociferous Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, the rare, bamboo-specialist Bamboo Woodpecker, Banded Kingfisher, Black-and-yellow, Silver-breasted and Banded Broadbills, the sneaky Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Puff-throated and Rufous-fronted Babblers, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, the gorgeous Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Pin-striped Tit-Babbler. Driving along the forest track that leads up into the hills in the early morning and late afternoon will undoubtedly be our best opportunity of finding the shy Grey Peacock-Pheasant and Kalij Pheasant. The former species is usually particularly shy and tough to see but we will try our best to obtain views of this spectacular Asian mega while bird watching in Thailand!
The most productive birding however is likely to be along the flat, entrance road that meanders through Kaeng Krachan’s lowland forest. The birding here can be superb in the early morning with highlights including Great Slaty, Streak-breasted, Crimson-winged and Rufous Woodpeckers, Greater Yellownape, Common and Greater Flamebacks, the sought-after Black-thighed Falconet, the tiny, fast-flying Vernal Hanging Parrot, Thick-billed and rare Yellow-vented Green Pigeons, Green-billed Malkoha, Asian Emerald, Violet and Banded Bay Cuckoos, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Germain’s Swiftlets in flight overhead, Blue-bearded and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, small, noisy flocks of Oriental Pied Hornbills, the rare and nomadic Tickell’s Brown Hornbill, the immaculate Green-eared, Blue-throated and Blue-eared Barbets, Ashy Woodswallow, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, the bright red and glossy-black Scarlet Minivet, Black-naped Oriole, Bronzed, Hair-crested and the spectacular Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, noisy but shy and secretive groups of White-crested, Black-throated, Greater Necklaced and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, the magnificent Sultan Tit, Black-headed, Black-crested, Stripe-throated and Streak-eared Bulbuls, Dark-necked Tailorbird, the dazzling Asian Fairy-bluebird, Common Hill Myna, melodious White-rumped Shama, Asian Brown and Taiga Flycatchers, Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, the brilliant Ruby-cheeked, Olive-backed and Crimson Sunbirds, the striking Black-and-red Broadbill and Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. We will also have a look at the small, seasonal ponds and pans along this road as these sometimes harbour White-throated and Black-capped Kingfishers, the shy and scarce Black Bittern, Chinese Pond Heron and White-breasted Waterhen, while in the more open areas we will also keep a lookout overhead for soaring raptors that could include Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Besra and the impressive Mountain Hawk-Eagle.
In the evenings we’ll try for Collared Scops Owl and Large-tailed and Indian Nightjars around our accommodation near the edge of the national park.
Mammal-wise me may be fortunate to see some of Kaeng Krachan’s fantastic species such as Yellow-throated Marten, Banded Surili, Dusky Leaf Monkey, Stump-tailed Macaque or White-handed (Lar) Gibbon. These are all generally scarce but we’ll certainly keep our eyes peeled for these lovely mammals.
Day 5: Kaeng Krachan National Park to Khao Yai National Park
This morning on our Thailand birding tour, we will do a little birding around our resort where a few quality species can be found, including Indian Stone-curlew, Rufous and Racket-tailed Treepies, Thick-billed and the skulking Lanceolated Warblers, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Vinous-breasted Starling, Eurasian Hoopoe, Grey-breasted and Plain Prinias, Indochinese Bush Lark and Siberian Rubythroat.
Leaving this wonderful area, we travel east and slightly north to Khao Yai National Park, another of Thailand’s impressive reserves, where we will have another three-night stay. Our drive today will see us skirting around the metropolis of Bangkok as we head east. We will, however, have a few stops to enjoy some birding and lunch. We will have time this morning to stop in again at the Pak Thale mudflats and salt pans should we have missed any of the three mega waders (Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank or Asian Dowitcher) on our first day. We’ll also make a stop in at the Ban Bang Ta Boon wetlands nearby where new species could include Western Osprey, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal, Garganey and Eurasian Wigeon and if we are lucky, Cotton Pygmy Goose.
Most of the afternoon will be dedicated to travelling and we can expect to arrive at our hotel near the entrance to Khao Yai National Park in the early evening.
Day 6 & 7: Khao Yai National Park
Two full days of our Thailand birding tour will be dedicated to exploring the densely forested hills and riversides of this exceptional reserve. Khao Yai protects one of the largest pristine tracts of tropical rainforest in south-east Asia and holds a wide variety of fabulous bird and mammal species, including very rarely seen Tiger and Asian Elephant.
While exploring this verdant tropical habitat along roads and trails, an abundance of forest birds will be seen. Some of the many sought-after specialties include the elegant Siamese Fireback and Silver Pheasant, magnificent Great, Wreathed and scarce Austen’s Brown Hornbills, the shy Green-legged Partridge, Laced, Heart-spotted and the rare Black-and-buff Woodpeckers, Orange-breasted and Red-headed Trogons and the beautiful Long-tailed, Banded, Dusky and Silver-breasted Broadbills. We will also keep a lookout for Crested Serpent Eagle, Rufous-bellied and Changeable Hawk-Eagles, Black Eagle, Black Baza, Vernal Hanging Parrot, White-throated Rock Thrush, Black-throated and Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds and Little Spiderhunter, while Red Junglefowl is sometimes encountered at the road-edge in the early morning and late afternoon. Oriental Pied Hornbill, Common Hill Myna, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Green Pigeon and the dazzling Asian Fairy-bluebird regularly visit fruiting trees and this is also where we’ll have a chance of the seeing the rare, nomadic and superb Golden-crested Myna. Mixed flocks attract species such as Greater Flameback, Black-headed, Grey-eyed, Stripe-throated and Puff-throated Bulbuls, White-bellied Erpornis, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Great Iora, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Large Woodshrike, Sulphur-breasted and Claudia’s Leaf Warblers, and the vibrant Sultan Tit.
The undergrowth in this fantastic park also provides shelter for several skulking species, including Blue and Eared Pittas and the elusive Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo. We will try our best to find these beautiful and much-wanted rarities but we will require a fair dose of luck, perseverance and patience to see them! Other forest interior skulkers and undergrowth inhabitants that we will be on the lookout for include the secretive Orange-headed and Siberian Thrushes, Common Green Magpie, Black-throated and charismatic White-crested Laughingthrushes, Hainan Blue and Mugimaki Flycatchers, Abbott’s, Puff-throated and Rufous-capped Babblers and Siberian Blue Robin.
At and just after dusk we will position ourselves at localities where the massive harrier-like Great Eared Nightjar often comes out to feed and we may also see Collared Scops Owl, Brown Hawk-Owl and Collared Owlet.
Mammals are fairly well represented in Khao Yai and we may encounter Pig-tailed Macaque, White-handed and the scarce Pileated Gibbons, Black Giant, Grey-bellied and Variable Squirrels, Sambar and Red Muntjac (Barking Deer) during our time in this wildlife-rich reserve.
Day 8: Khao Yai to Bangkok, flight to Chiang Mai
Following some final early morning birding near the edge of Khao Yai National Park where we hope to find Coppersmith and Lineated Barbets, Red-breasted Parakeet, Asian Koel, Shikra and Chestnut-tailed Starling, we will visit a nearby lake surrounded by grassland and scrub where we’re sure to encounter a range of great birds. We’ll almost certainly see Zitting Cisticola, Common Tailorbird, Siberian Stonechat and Paddyfield Pipit in the grassland and scrub surrounding the lake and also have an excellent chance at Greater Coucal, Oriental Skylark, Plain-backed Sparrow, Richard’s and Olive-backed Pipits, Scaly-breasted Munia, Common and Pin-tailed Snipes, Yellow Bittern, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, the scarce and boldly-patterned Pied Harrier and Red-rumped Swallow. There is also a chance of flushing a Rain Quail or Common Buttonquail while birding in this area.
Departing this productive wetland site, we’ll begin the journey back to Bangkok with a short stop along the way for the localised Limestone Wren-Babbler at a nearby Wat (place of worship). If time allows we may also stop in at the edge of the extensive Rangsit Marsh where new birds may include Spotted Owlet, Small Minivet and Blue-tailed Bee-eater and if we are very fortunate, perhaps even a Cinnamon Bittern.
After lunch in town, we’ll make our way over to Bangkok Airport from where we’ll catch our internal flight to Chiang Mai, a fairly large city and tourist hub situated in the north-western corner of the country. Here we will have an overnight stay before heading on to the birding mecca of Doi Inthanon.
Day 9: Chiang Mai to Fang via Huai Hong Khrai
An early departure will take us to a nearby King’s Project by the name of Huai Hong Khrai, in search of one of the world’s most spectacular birds – the beautiful Green Peafowl! We will spend the early part of the morning here, searching for this incredible creature. While searching for this spectacular pheasant we will certainly encounter a wealth of other eye-catching birds with highlights possibly including Black Baza, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Common Flameback, Red Junglefowl, Brown-backed Needletail, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Eurasian Jay, Rosy Minivet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Asian Barred Owlet.
Later, on the drive north, we will make a few scheduled birding stops at sites for Wire-tailed Swallow and Green Sandpiper, and again at an area of rice paddies which can be good for Pied Harrier, Oriental Skylark, Common and Pintail Snipes, Greater Painted-snipe and Grey-headed Lapwing. Later in the afternoon, we will make a stop at the wonderfully positioned Chiang Dao Temple, situated in beautiful forest at the base of the imposing mountain of Doi Chiang Dao. The walk up to the temple can be quite productive for birding, and some good species including Streaked Wren-Babbler, Bay Woodpecker, Striated Yuhina, Purple-naped Sunbird, White-crowned Forktail and Pin-tailed Green Pigeon may be found. In the early evening we will then transfer through to Fang, our base for the next two nights of our Thai birding tour.
Day 10: Doi Lang
This morning on our Thai birding tour. we have an early departure as we strike out for the fabulous birding site of Doi Lang. The mountains here form a border with Myanmar and today we will have numerous views into this beautiful country. Our prime target for the early part of the morning is the rare and much desired Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant. One of the roads that lead to the summit of Doi Lang passes through an excellent stretch of this species’ preferred habitat and we stand a fair chance of finding this incredible pheasant! While searching for this species, we also stand good chances for finding Mountain Bamboo Partridge (another sought-after speciality) feeding at the roadside. Later on, we will bird this zone for the very special Giant Nuthatch, while other targets include Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Grey Treepie, Rufous-fronted and Yellow-eyed Babblers, Aberrant Bush and the recently described Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Hill Prinia, White-bellied Redstart, Lesser Shortwing, Crested Finchbill, White-gorgeted, Slaty-blue, Ultramarine, Sapphire and Pale Blue Flycatchers, Cook’s Swift, Slender-billed and Maroon Orioles, White-browed Laughingthrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Little, Crested and Chestnut Buntings, and Common Rosefinch.
Day 11: Fang to Doi Angkhang via Doi Lang
This morning on our Thailand birding tour, we head up to Doi Lang again to explore the riches of this mountain. If need be we can have another shot for some of the region’s tough species such as Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch before heading up to the mid and high elevation forests. These areas hold a superb variety of birds and we stand excellent chances of finding the vivid Scarlet-faced Liocichla. Other species occurring in this zone include Oriental Turtle Dove, pocket-sized Collared Owlet, Blue Whistling Thrush, Bay and Crimson-breasted Woodpeckers, Grey-backed Shrike, Black-throated Bushtit, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Slaty-backed and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Buff-throated Warbler, Black-throated Sunbird and Large and Small Niltavas. A number of rare species for Thailand have also been found on this particular mountain and possibilities include Rusty-naped Pitta, Red-tailed and Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes, Spot-winged Starling, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Long-tailed Sibia, Himalayan Cutia and Scarlet Finch.
Access to the high reaches of Doi Lang has recently become an issue with the military having strict control of the area. There is also another potential road up Doi Lang that, if passable, can provide access to some slightly different habitat. Predicting access to the high elevation is almost impossible and we will have to see what the military’s stance is when we arrive. High elevation species that are only likely to be found if accessing this zone include Whiskered Yuhina, Red-flanked and Himalayan Bluetails and Chestnut-headed Tesia while Red-billed and Coral-billed Scimitar Babblers are really only possible if access via the alternative road to the top is possible.
Thereafter we will make our way a little further south towards the spectacular area of Doi Angkhang where we will have a two-night stay. Doi Angkhang is a rugged and scenic mountain that forms the border between Thailand and the country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Thai government has established watershed protection and upland agricultural projects here to conserve the remaining forest patches and these areas are particularly productive for birding.
Day 12: Doi Angkhang
Today we have a full day of our Thailand birding tour to explore this superb area. Doi Angkhang is famous for holding many great species, including the seldom seen Spot-breasted and Pale-billed Parrotbills, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Daurian Redstart, Crested, Chestnut and Little Buntings, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Crested Finchbill, Rusty-cheeked and White-browed Scimitar Babblers, Mountain Tailorbird, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Russet Bush Warbler, Pied and Grey Bush Chats, White-browed and Speckled Piculets, Long-tailed Minivet, Bianchi’s and Marten’s Warblers, shy White-necked Laughingthrush, Spot-throated Babbler, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Japanese White-eye, Olive-backed Pipit and Striated Yuhina, amongst many others!
We will also take the time to visit one of the area’s King’s Projects, which can be a particularly productive site for finding thrushes such as Black-breasted, Eye-browed and Grey-sided. The King’s Project is also a good area for Hill Blue Flycatcher, stunning Rufous-bellied Niltava, White-tailed Robin, Plain Flowerpecker, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Maroon Oriole and Spot-winged Grosbeak. At night we will go out and search for the rare Hodgson’s Frogmouth, a species that resides in these mountains. We will no doubt hear Mountain Scops Owl calling and will also put some time into trying to locate one of these notoriously difficult-to-view owls. Giant Nuthatch and the remarkable Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant also inhabit this mountain, though we will require a very healthy dose of luck to see these rare species at this site!
Day 13: Doi Angkhang to Chiang Mai flight to Bangkok and departure
A final morning will be spent birding at Doi Angkhang before our drive down to Chiang Mai. From Chiang Mai we will board our flight back to Bangkok where this quick-fire but extremely species-rich birding adventure of Thailand will conclude.
What our clients say about tours to Thailand
- GS, Thailand 2017
Markus is brilliant, very friendly and outgoing, and hugely determined to get you to see all the birds … He is truly genuine, a remarkable young man.FM, Thailand
In the field, Keith and the local “Zen Birding Master’’ Uthai were an unbeatable combination. Their knowledge, persistence and patience were greatly appreciated. They tried to make sure everyone got the birds and were willing to go to great lengths to do so. Both had a great sense of humour and were a pleasure to travel with.PN & PN, Thailand
Thailand was truly a wonderful trip! Markus is unbelievable in getting everyone on the bird! His recognizing and scoping of the birds is superb. Beyond this he is [also] a very kind man with a great personality who keeps things on an even keel, making sure there is lots of laughter. Because of this the group “gelled” very quickly . I plan to do more Rockjumper tours because of the information and encouragement he gave me and I hope he is the leader of at least some of the tours.PSR, Thailand