Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Cambodia & Laos birding tour visits two seldom-visited Asian countries with a superb selection of special birds. Cambodia, which was held in a time-warp by its troubled past, has at the same time held onto large and vulnerable birds like Giant Ibis and White-shouldered Ibis which were rendered extinct elsewhere, while reclusive Laos has its own set of specialities. Among the other great birds we will be looking for are Milky and Greater Adjutant Storks, White-rumped Falconet, White-rumped Falconet, Chestnut-headed Partridge, Bengal Florican, Pale-capped Pigeon, Black-headed Woodpecker, Mekong Wagtail, Bare-faced Bulbul, the recently-described Cambodian Tailorbird, Manchurian Reed Warbler, Sooty Babbler and Cambodian Laughingthrush. A non-birding highlight will surely be a visit to the amazing temples of Angkor Wat.
Wednesday 14th February —
Thursday 1st March 2018
Cambodian Laughingthrush Extension: Thursday 1st March — Monday 5th March (5 days)
Leaders: Craig Robson and a local bird guide in Cambodia
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and accommodations that range from comfortable to basic
After decades of war, terror and isolation, Cambodia is now once again accessible to the outside world. This little-known and seldom-visited country, characterized by ancient temples, mighty rivers and remote forests, plays host to some avian delights which are nowhere else found so easily. Ancient Cambodians lived, very much as many of them still do today, in houses on stilts, existing on a diet of fish and rice.
After centuries of wars with the Thais and later the Spanish and Portuguese, the French arrived in 1863 and virtually turned the nation into one of their colonies until eventually, under the guidance of King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia regained her independence in 1953. Following the unsuccessful US bombing of suspected communist base camps in 1969 and subsequent invasion, the Khmer Rouge emerged victorious in 1975 when Phnom Penh fell to Pol Pot’s regime and the country entered it’s most violent and disastrous period of history. Pol Pot’s men systematically killed more than two million Cambodians, targeting the educated in particular, in their brutal attempt to turn Cambodia into a Maoist, peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative. Currency was abolished, postal services halted and the population became a work force of slave labourers, effectively cut off from the outside world. In 1978 the Vietnamese invaded, forcing the Khmer Rouge to flee to the jungles along the Thai border from where they sporadically fought the new Vietnamese-backed government. They were eventually outlawed and effectively lost any remaining power with Pol Pot’s death in 1998 (his death was greeted with anger in Cambodia and elsewhere as he was never brought to trial). Hun Sen now leads the nation and this one-eyed strong man has proved to be a stabilizing force for a country with such a tortured history.
Fortunately, throughout the troubles, much of Cambodia’s natural and cultural heritage remained intact, although logging is now proceeding at an alarming rate. Now that travel is safe and easy, this fascinating country already receives a good deal of attention from backpackers and cultural tourists, eager to visit the amazing temples of Angkor Wat.
Happily for us, conservationists have also been hard at work in the last decade and have recently made some unexpected discoveries. The most exciting of these were the discovery of a good population of the legendary Giant Ibis, the only viable remaining population of the White-shouldered Ibis, and a new species of wagtail, the Mekong Wagtail, and a new species of tailorbird, the Cambodian Tailorbird. Straddled between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia shares much of its avifauna with those countries, so this is a tour for the more adventurous birding traveller that is specifically designed to look for the specialities that either do not occur in these neighbouring countries or which are rarely seen in them.
We will begin our adventure by flying to Siem Reap in the northwest of the country. Here we will search for the endangered sharpei subspecies of Sarus Crane and visit the waterbird colonies of Tonle Sap (home to breeding Lesser and Greater Adjutants, Milky Storks and Spot-billed Pelicans). We will also visit the incomparable Angkor Wat temple complex. The 100 or so remaining temples here are the sacred remains of what was once a much larger administrative and religious centre and are one of the world’s cultural wonders.
We will then make an expedition in four-wheel-drive vehicles to the remote north of the country where we will look at a series of forest pools where we have an excellent chance of finding the incredible Giant Ibis, the rare White-shouldered Ibis, Pale-capped Pigeon, the spectacular Black-headed Woodpecker and Swinhoe’s Minivet.
After exploring some grasslands in the centre of the country, where we will hope to find the spectacular Bengal Florican and the more subtly interesting and little-known Manchurian Reed Warbler, we will drive east to Kratie and take an exciting boat trip on the mighty Mekong River where we will see the recently-described Mekong Wagtail and the fascinating Irrawaddy River Dolphin.
After visiting a site for the recently discovered Cambodian Tailorbird, we will finish our journey in the cool hill forests at Bokor where, amongst a host of interesting forest species including the spectacular Great Hornbill, the beautiful Blue Pitta and the lovely Indochinese Green Magpie, we will hope to find the rare and seldom-seen, near-endemic Chestnut-headed Partridge before we head for Phnom Penh and the end of an exciting tour.
Before our travels through Cambodia get underway, we shall enjoy a short exploration of the little-visited and rather reclusive country of Laos, a place that has been completely off the birding map until very recently. Here you can be amongst the birding pioneers as we visit some beautiful karst limestone hills, where the interesting endemic Bare-faced Bulbul was only recently discovered for science in the remnant forests on their slopes. Several other interesting species occur in this little-known area, including the restricted-range Sooty Babbler and the uncommon Red-collared Woodpecker and recently-described Limestone Leaf Warbler.
Laos also harbours a population of Jerdon’s Buschat and we shall be visiting an area along the Mekong River in search of these dapper birds. The country is a very relaxed and comfortable place to visit, a fact which is gradually attracting more and more visitors to this beautiful part of Southeast Asia.
After the end of the main tour there will be an optional extension to the remote Cardamom Hills, the highest part of Cambodia, in search of the endemic Cambodian Laughing Thrush and several other great birds that are restricted in range or difficult to see anywhere they occur.
Birdquest has operated tours to Cambodia since 2003 and to Laos since 2011.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard. At Ban Nahin and Tmatboey the guesthouses are rather simple but perfectly adequate and all rooms have private bathrooms. During the extension there will be two nights of very basic camping-style living at Mount Aural, involving sleeping in hammocks. Road transport is by minibus (and where necessary by 4x4 vehicles) and roads are very variable in quality.
Walking: The walking effort is easy to moderate (including some long walks in flat terrain).
Climate: Mostly hot, although cooler at Bokor. Generally ‘dry’ heat though occasionally it can be fairly humid. Sunny weather may be interspersed by occasional cloudy periods and showers.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £4050, €5060, $5670 Vientiane/Phnom Penh. Cambodian Laughingthrush Extension: £990, €1170, $1300.
Price includes all transportation (including the Vientiane-Siem Reap flight), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £321, €401, $450. Extension: £100, €118, $131.
Deposit: £500, €600, $650. Extension: £100, €120, $130.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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