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

A paradise island off the coast of Thailand home to a very special bird.

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 lookout 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 occurred offshore on The Similan Islands nowhere 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 tightest 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.

Our very packed but powerful boat that bounced through the rough seas.

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 discovered 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 like sardines, 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 description 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. The huge very sharp looking propeller blades were just inches away from the tiny ladder hanging over the back of the boat where swimmers had to haul themselves out of the water with the boat bucking in the big swell very scary indeed!

Finally we reached our main target, island no. 4 such a catchy name, 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 experience and we cursed Paula for taking our shoes. At last we reached 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. This was the spot to look for our much wanted bird and it had taken much longer to reach here, being in bare feet, and we now did not have much time for searching! Pressure was well and truly on.

Time was running out fast as we scanned the forest floor, Paula had us on a tight schedule, and we still hadn't seen our target bird were we to fail after all this effort and discomfort? 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 life list, we returned to the boat and re-joined 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!

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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