Another post inspired by a customer of The Koh Samui Guide Rafael wrote a few months ago: “The guide is proving an interesting and informative read. The only thing missing was where the good bird viewing spots were (LOL). A bit specialised I know. Now if only we can get our heads around a few Thai phrases we’ll be right”. Right indeed! Never ones to let a hole remain unfilled, we’ve summed our best suggestions for bird-watching on Koh Samui. With the recent announcement that Koh Samui is going green – why not join those scanning the sky for something interesting? Here’s our take on how to use your time on Samui to do some (fairly lazy) bird-watching.
Bird-watching on Koh Samui: Tips + FAQs
Greater racket-tailed drongo at The Jungle Club, Koh Samui
Tip #1. Don’t try too hard
Our scientific bird-watching method is usually “sit somewhere pretty, order a round of beers, and wait”. No matter where you sit, whether at sea level for the waders, slightly up hill to get a good view of birds of prey, or into thicker jungle landscapes for some brightly coloured beauties, Koh Samui will reward your attention. As a quick starter-pack, we’ve had great success seeing new-to-us birds at:
- Zazen Boutique Resort (a white bellied sea eagle flying across the bay)
- Tango Luxe Beach Villa (very busy egrets at sunset)
- The Jungle Club (tops in our book for recently affording a greater racket-tailed drongo sighting)
Tip #2. Book into nature
To bird-watch lazily, still in your PJs, consider booking into a hotel or a rental house that embraces nature. Compared to our list of birds seen in Thailand (currently a well-earned 24), The Tongsai Bay counts sixty resident bird species. Yea, we’ve been trumped. Tongsai Bay turns 30 years old in 2017, and throughout its existence it’s remained a considerate neighbour and host to native wildlife. If you’re happiest when bird-watching, their large property (kept totally free of pesticides) makes it an encouraging first choice for your Koh Samui accommodation.
An olive backed sunbird we’ve seen on Koh Samui
Tip #3. If you like small, flitty birds
(A phrase that will surely attract the wrong kind of visitors – sorry guys, try Pattaya), visit a variety of Koh Samui’s gardens – where tropical flowers attract tiny birds with beaks in crazy shapes.
Tip #4. Get to the beach
The biggest bird we’ve seen in Thailand, a white bellied sea eagle, was spotted while eating lunch on Bophut beach – so nothing too taxing, so far all of our birdlife has come to us (or – more accurately – flown away from us).
Tip #5. Take a full day
We should also mention that Ang Thong Marine Park has its own ecosystem and a variety of native wildlife, yet another reason for a great day trip.
Tip #6. Sip some (birds’ nest) soup
Also, the Five Islands on Koh Samui’s southwest corner is home to a large nesting swift population, whose nests are harvested for the Chinese ‘birds’ nest soup’ particularly popular in Hong Kong. Tours in longtail boats are available around the islands.
Tip #7. Get competitive
Visit a bird-singing competition on Koh Samui to see red-whiskered bulbuls compete for (their owners’) glory.
Tip #8. Get golfing
The restaurant at Santiburi Country Club sits way up high, amongst thick coconut groves. You should expect to see lots of birdlife busy at sunset. While the course earns high praise from golfers, ‘regular people’ are welcome to visit for lunch or drinks and enjoy the view.
What to bring with you?
- Books: Birds of Thailand + Birds of Southeast Asia
- Waterproof binoculars: Nikon 10×25 Binoculars
- A good lens: Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
- UV filter: Hoya 77mm UV filter
Throughout our well-hydrated bird-watching sessions, we rely utterly on our battered ‘Birds of Thailand’ book. Though only used copies are available on Amazon, its still well worth it; it’s a great book. As a great companion, Birds of Southeast Asia uses photos instead of drawings – often vital in easy identification.
Why is Koh Samui great for bird watching?
Favour the weird ones, or delight in sheer quantity? There’s a great variety available both year-round and during seasonal migration. Koh Samui’s topography means a rewarding variety of birdlife in a relatively small space (the island is about 88 square miles/228.7 square km). As well, building codes on the island are unique amongst other Thai tourist destinations. No building can legally be taller than its surrounding coconut trees, so you can always look up and expect to see something. (Actually, dead coconut trees are a great place to start).
Having hopefully addressed this slightly niche interest – what about the rest of your holiday? The Koh Samui Guide will get you to quiet corners of the island and handily fill the rest of your vacation itinerary – whether you want mainstream, normal, beach stuff or slightly more off-the-wall pursuits. Enjoy!
Photo credit to Guyon Morée via Flickr Creative Commons