A Very Rough Boat Trip To See A Very Fancy Bird Indeed Thailand

The Similan Islands off the coast of Thailand, paradise islands.

We were in Southern Thailand between tours in New Zealand and further north in Thailand enjoying some relaxing birdwatching and soaking up the sunshine and eating great food. Of course where ever we are in the world we are always on the look out for great birds, particularly ones we have not seen before. On previous visits to Thailand we had seen an amazing looking bird in the field guide, the Nicobar Pigeon a superb chicken sized pigeon which we would have loved to have seen. Looking at the distribution map we were dismayed to see it only occured offshore on The Similan Islands no where near where our tour was going, oh well. But now we were not that far from these islands, hmmm, so we put a plan in place.

We were up early to be whisked away from our hotel, driven along the coast down to a busy quayside. It was quite a bunfight at the waterfront with masses of people also wanting to head out to the Similan Islands, though we doubted many of them were pigeon-fanciers! They certainly weren't dressed like birders, lots of flesh on show, most of it probably should have been covered up!

The operation to move this mass of humanity out to the offshore islands was run by a surprising group all good-humoured people but with an odd dress sense. 'Paula' a woman of indeterminate age was in charge of our group and soon called us together for a briefing. Paula wore the tighest jeans imaginable and a bright pink top, she also had a very prominent adam's apple! Before we could board a mean-looking large motor cruiser we had to leave our shoes behind, no problem for the beach goers but we wanted to go birding. We were packed in like sardines, we felt very out of place,most people were half our age and nearly naked, Paula gave us a quick talk on how the day would pan out. Then the engines purred into life and we slowly made our way out of the harbour towards the open sea. Once safely past the Thai Navy the engines roared as the captain opened the throttle and the boat took on an alarming angle.

The sea became rougher and rougher the further from land we ventured. People aboard became greener and greener and the sick bags were passed out, and put to good use. Thankfully Alan had discoved his anti seasick patches by this trip, very odd seeing so many folks very ill and Alan just fine. An hour and a half later, having seen no birds, we could not see anything packed inside the hull, we neared the first island. This was to be a beach stop with a walk up to a lookout rock. The beach with its white sand and jungle behind would have been picture-postcard perfect had it not been crowded with hundreds of other people all here to enjoy the beach and the lookout. In the trees behind the beach we found three Large Green Pigeons, that is a species not a discription of them, wonderful to see but not the main reason for our visit.

Back on the boat, we crossed to another nearby island where it was time to go snorkelling in some pretty deep, rough water. However, armed with snorkels, masks and fins, we did manage to see a sea turtle (species unknown) plus numerous colourful tropical fish, before it was time to board the boat again, no easy feat with aforementioned fins and a huge swell to contend with! Ruth only just made it back on board, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Finally we reached our main target, island no. 4 and we could begin our search for the bird we had hoped to see. We walked barefoot through the forest (ouch!) to the opposite side of the island being bitten badly by some very vicious and hungry mosquitoes. A very uncomfortable expeience and we cursed Paula for taking our shoes. At the campsite near the beach, on the opposite side of the island, we watched flying fox bats as they flapped their wings to keep cool in the tall trees above us and another Large Green Pigeon.

Time was running out, Paula had us on a tight schedule, and we still hadn't seen our target bird. Then a movement caught our eye. There it was! A superb Nicobar Pigeon strutting amongst some huge tree roots at the far end of the campsite. Yes! This wonderful bird was fairly unconcerned by our presence and we soaked up the views. A second bird then appeared from the jungle and also showed off nicely, the colours in the dappled sunshine had to be seen to be believed. it was hard to take good photos as the birds walked quickly and were in and out of bright sunlight and deep shade, but we had our bird.

Thrilled with the new addition to our lifelist, we returned to the boat and rejoined the rest of our group who were busy swimming in the coral sea, sunbathing, drinking and other stuff that young couples do. We did get a few strange looks as we emerged sweaty and dirty from the jungle!

We then 'enjoyed' a very bumpy boat ride back to the quay, not by any means a normal day's birding, but what did the other holidaymakers on the boat make of two birders in their midst?!

Wryneck Cemlyn Sept 2016 Martin 3

On a previous September tour we were lucky enough to find a Wryneck! Photo Martin Jones

If you are looking for a short break this Autumn our North Wales tour might be of interest. We have a great selection of birds and habitats all within a few miles of our home here in Llandudno. Come and join us in September for our five day “Best of North Wales Tour” where we visit a wide range of habitats enjoying over 120 species of birds at a pace that gives us plenty of time to really enjoy the birds. The tour is based at a lovely country hotel with lots of birds around the hotel, great food throughout too! For all the details or to book your place please email us.

Please email us here to arrange your very own Birdwatching Trip…..


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds and great fun with you soon!

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