Friday, 27 March 2015

Khao Lak

The drive south from Kuraburi takes about 1.5 hours, it's approximately half way back to Phuket International Airport. The scenery along the way is quite stunning, everywhere is incredibly green despite the heat and the land soon rising from sea level to higher mountains inland still all covered in trees.
Khao Lak itself seemed to be a strung out ribbon development along the main highway from what I saw. There didn't seem to be much of a centre although there is a working harbour. Much of the development is hotel property, usually set in large grounds it seemed. Ours was no exception.
Blue Lagoon, Khao Lak
The rooms were all individual bungalows set in perfectly manicured gardens but there was quite a bit of water around. The channels running alongside our room were tidal. The grounds themselves held a few birds, Common Mynah,Oriental Magpie Robin, Common Tailorbird and the odd Dove.Nothing to get excited about !
The first morning I was up at the crack of dawn as this shot of two Yellow-vented Bulbul confirms !

Yellow-vented Bulbul  Thailand
I think I woke them up walking in the nearby woodland. However, the insects were wide awake and I paid the price for not using repellent too.
Other than a Chestnut-headed Bee-eater or two there wasn't much to shout about.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater   Thailand
but as I was eating breakfast Al fresco, as I do when ever I can, I spotted a Brown Shrike in bushes across the road. 30 minutes later and I was able to relocate it down on the beach.

Brown Shrike   Thailand
I also found a pair of Indian Roller were hanging around the same location.
Indian Roller   Thailand
Overall though, I wasn't too impressed with the opportunities that seemed to present themselves but there again I wasn't too bothered either. Later that morning we borrowed the bicycles the hotel provides free of charge and cycled up to the main highway to look for a cash machine. On the way there I found a little track leading down to a sea inlet and beach. There was a Lesser Sand Plover and a Common Sandpiper to be seen. That I decided would be the target for the following morning and sure enough it was but the tide was all wrong and there was nothing to be seen.
Having enjoyed our snorkelling trip to the Surin Islands we decided to take a trip out to the Similan Islands the next day. Taking just a day trip it worked out at a far more reasonable £84 for the two of us. Having paid I was then warned that the Similians were far busier than the Surins and how true it turned out to be. it's a similar distance off shore, takes over an hour in the high powered speed boats but because it's easier to get to from the popular tourist resorts the number of boats arriving was horrendous.
there's no doubt the islands are beautiful. The beaches a stunning white sand but you can't really appreciate them in the chaos of up to a dozen boats reversing in side by side to disgorge their passengers.
Sicilian Islands, Andaman Sea
It gets far worse than the image shown in this picture!
The snorkelling was equally awful ! The chosen spots were bereft of any potential hiding places for fish and the water too deep for decent views anyway. With half a dozen boats moored near to each other there were 150-200 swimmers in the vicinity at once! No wonder there was little to see.
Hugely disappointed we returned to one of the island camp sites for the buffet lunch, again the food was not anything to recommend and was taken sat where ever you could find a few feet of spare space. I went off to the loo and came back to see Claire had got the iPad out to take some shots.
I couldn't believe what she was looking at !
There among hundreds of people and behaving like a feral pigeon in Trafalgar Square was this absolute stunner !
Nicobar Pigeon
How I wished I had taken a decent camera although fair do's the iPad takes some great snaps and many of the scenic shots I have posted were taken using it .
Ah well, a record of sorts of the nearest living relative of the Dodo!
The Nicobar Pigeon was the only bright moment of an otherwise really bad day. Our troubles were compounded when someone stood on Claire's recently purchased dive mask and shattered the glass. £50 down the tubes the trip was no longer much of a bargain.
Ah well, these things happen.
For the next couple of days I decided to take leisurely breakfasts and try my luck down at the river inlet when the tide was more suitable.
There were a few boats moored in the inland lagoon formed by the river and these attracted resting Pacific Swallow now and again.
Pacific Swallow   Thailand
The Common Sandpiper seemed generally more confiding than the Lesser Sand Plover
Common Sandpiper   Thailand
which was in turn was positively friendly compared to the Slaty-breasted Rail which hurried off the minute I arrived.
Slaty-breasted Rail  Thailand
Still, if there's one thing that makes a bird come out of it's shell, it's food !
The sight of a Crab lunch had the Lesser Sand Plover dashing over towards me and I was soon getting my favourite shots of the whole trip.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
The poor Crab is hopelessly under equipped to fend off an attacker this size but it bravely puts on a show.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
The Plover grabs the  main pincers first to disarm the crab...literally.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
but the Crab is still defiant.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
There's only one direction this fight can take.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
Once all the legs are gone it's ready for eating.
Lesser Sand Plover   Thailand
What a terrible death to endure. It made interesting if gruesome watching and recording.
Pleased I had something worthwhile I headed back to the hotel but not before a German passer-by stopped me and told me of an allegedly good spot for birding further up the coast. I decided it was probably too far.
That evening I took another outing adding a White-throated Kingfisher to my photo haul.
White Throated Kingfisher
and resigned my self to spend my last full day by the pool with another book.
it started out that way, but first a quick trip across the road to photograph what I think are Germain's Swiftlet.
Germain's Swiftlet   Thailand
The German guy was there again and once again he stressed that I should go to the place he had recommended.
I went back to the hotel and told Claire I had decided to go out for the day. I could read a book at home but it's 7800 miles to Thailand. I should use the opportunity to go and see for myself.
Was it worth it ? We'll see !

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