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BEST OF THAILAND & CAMBODIA

Spoon-billed Sandpipers and Giant Ibises

Birdquest’s Best of Thailand & Cambodia birding tour combines two classic Southeast Asian birdwatching destinations that not only has a very interesting avifauna but friendly people, beautiful landscapes and some great food. This unusual tour combines Spoon-billed Sandpipers and Nordmann’s Greenshanks at the Gulf of Thailand with Scaly-breasted Partridge, Southern Brown Hornbill and Ratchet-tailed Treepies at Kaeng Krachan, Siamese Fireback and Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo at Khao Yai, the extraordinary ruins of world-famous Angkor Wat, Milky Storks and other waterbirds at Tonle Sap, the fabled Giant and White-shouldered Ibises of remote northern Cambodia, and Bengal Florican and Manchurian Reed Warbler in the grasslands.

Saturday 26th January — Friday 8th February 2019
(14 days)


KINDLY NOTE THAT ONLY A LIMITED NUMBER OF OUR 2019 TOURS ARE CURRENTLY ON THE WEBSITE. MANY MORE 2019 TOURS WILL BE ADDED IN LATE 2017 OR EARLY 2018.

Leader: Craig Robson

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and comfortable hotels (but 3 nights at a basic guesthouse)

Spoon-billed Sandpipers: critically endangered and declining alarmingly, this tour offers the best chance of seeing this exotic and enigmatic wader (Dave Farrow)

Spoon-billed Sandpipers: critically endangered and declining alarmingly, this tour offers the best chance of seeing this exotic and enigmatic wader (Dave Farrow)

Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand offers some of the region’s very best birding, including a long list of specialities and some of the most exciting shorebird watching in all Asia. An extremely rich resident Oriental avifauna, ranging from huge hornbills to diminutive flowerpeckers, is supplemented during the northern winter by an influx of migrants from northern Asia.

This beautiful country with its diverse ethnic groupings, much revered, age-old monarchy and rich cultural heritage has great appeal for the traveller as well as the birdwatcher. This is one of our favourite countries: a vibrant and still in some ways exotic land that has an infinite capacity to delight and surprise the visitor.

A classic destination for anyone interested in Asian birds, birding Thailand is a real ‘must’. Not only does the country offer wonderful birding, but accommodations and roads are mostly good or very good and the food is simply delicious!

Rapidly leaving the burgeoning Bangkok metropolis behind, we shall head for the coastal mudflats and saltpans of the Gulf of Thailand where, amongst an array of shorebirds, we will be searching for the ultimate prize – the rare Spoon-billed Sandpiper – at what has become the best place in the world for seeing this endangered species. Other special shorebirds include Malaysian Plover, the as-yet-undescribed White-faced Plover, the rare and endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Knot and the rare Asian Dowitcher.

We then head westwards to the huge Kaeng Krachan National Park, a superb area that possesses the richest and most diverse forest avifauna in the whole of Thailand, including such specialities as Scaly-breasted Partridge, Silver Pheasant, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Green-eared and Moustached Barbets, Southern Brown (or Rufous-cheeked) Hornbill, Racket-tailed and Ratchet-tailed Treepies, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Plain-tailed Warbler and Collared Babbler.

From Kaeng Krachan we travel northeastwards across the rice bowl of central Thailand to the famous Khao Yai National Park for our next taste of forest birds. Targets here will include Siamese Fireback, the shy Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Banded Kingfisher, Blue Pitta, Puff-throated and Grey-eyed Bulbuls, and Limestone Wren-Babbler, although there will be many other birds to enjoy ranging from the huge Giant Hornbill to the handsome Hainan Blue Flycatcher.

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 is 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 (perceived as a much needed source of income by the cash-strapped government) is continuing 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 was the discovery of a good population of the legendary Giant Ibis. 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 the Cambodian section of our two-country adventure by flying to Siem Reap in the northwest of the country. Here we will 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, the spectacular Black-headed Woodpecker, Swinhoe’s Minivet and the seldom-seen Pale-capped Pigeon.

Finally, on our way back to Siem Reap, we will visit an area of grassland in the Tonle Sap floodplain which still supports a good population of the endangered Bengal Florican.

Birdquest has operated tours to Thailand since 1982 and to Cambodia since 2003.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good standard. At remote Tmat Boey in Preah Vihear province of Cambodia we will be staying for three nights in a basic guesthouse in the village. Road transport is by small coach or minibus (and where necessary by 4x4 vehicles) and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy to moderate (including some longer walks in flat terrain).

Climate: The weather is mostly warm or hot, interspersed with occasional cloudy periods and possibly the occasional shower. Generally ‘dry’ heat though occasionally it can be fairly humid.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £3750, €4420, $4910 Bangkok/Siem Reap. Single Room Supplement: £351, €414, $460. Deposit: £450, €540, $590.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes this flight: Bangkok-Siem Reap.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The rare Greater Adjutant is present in small numbers at Tonle Sap, and can be seen alongside Lesser Adjutant and Milky Stork (Pete Morris)

The rare Greater Adjutant is present in small numbers at Tonle Sap, and can be seen alongside Lesser Adjutant and Milky Stork (Pete Morris)

The incredible temples at Angkor Wat are set in amongst some fine forest and never fail to impress. These three images speak for themselves! (all by Dave Farrow)

The incredible temples at Angkor Wat are set in amongst some fine forest and never fail to impress. These three images speak for themselves! (all by Dave Farrow)

The beautiful Banded Kingfisher utters his mournful call from high in the forest trees (Dave Farrow)

The beautiful Banded Kingfisher utters his mournful call from high in the forest trees (Dave Farrow)

A flutter and a flash of orange in the forest heralds an Orange-breasted Trogon (Dave Farrow)

A flutter and a flash of orange in the forest heralds an Orange-breasted Trogon (Dave Farrow)

...while the Hainan Blue Flycatcher is a more understated bird (Dave Farrow)

...while the Hainan Blue Flycatcher is a more understated bird (Dave Farrow)

Wetlands near Bangkok may reveal some scarce and attractive Asian Golden Weaver (Pete Morris)

Wetlands near Bangkok may reveal some scarce and attractive Asian Golden Weaver (Pete Morris)

On our 2009 tour we enjoyed a rare view of this Oriental Hobby (Dave Farrow)

On our 2009 tour we enjoyed a rare view of this Oriental Hobby (Dave Farrow)

In 2009 we saw the recently rediscovered White-faced Plover, a tricky ID, and perhaps previously overlooked, but the flag on its leg must surely help! (Dave Farrow)

In 2009 we saw the recently rediscovered White-faced Plover, a tricky ID, and perhaps previously overlooked, but the flag on its leg must surely help! (Dave Farrow)

Often heard, Collared Owlet can be hard to find due to its tiny size (Dave Farrow)

Often heard, Collared Owlet can be hard to find due to its tiny size (Dave Farrow)

...whilst the Asian Barred Owlet is usually encountered during the day (Dave Farrow)

...whilst the Asian Barred Owlet is usually encountered during the day (Dave Farrow)

Spot-billed Pelicans are relatively common at Tonle Sap  (Pete Morris)

Spot-billed Pelicans are relatively common at Tonle Sap (Pete Morris)

Cambodia is the last haunt of some critically endangered large waterbirds including Giant Ibis (Pete Morris)

Cambodia is the last haunt of some critically endangered large waterbirds including Giant Ibis (Pete Morris)

... and White-shouldered Ibis (Pete Morris)

... and White-shouldered Ibis (Pete Morris)

The extensive areas of dry deciduous forest that remain in the north of the country are home to the ibises and a number of other interesting species including Chinese Francolin (Dave Farrow)

The extensive areas of dry deciduous forest that remain in the north of the country are home to the ibises and a number of other interesting species including Chinese Francolin (Dave Farrow)

... a variety of woodpeckers including the localized Black-headed Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

... a variety of woodpeckers including the localized Black-headed Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

... and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

... and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

... and raptors including the rare White-rumped Falcon (Pete Morris)

... and raptors including the rare White-rumped Falcon (Pete Morris)

... and the tiny Collared Falconet (Pete Morris)

... and the tiny Collared Falconet (Pete Morris)

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

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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