BIRD WATCHING TOUR LANGKAWI- A REVIEW
I surprised myself at being so extremely excited about an upcoming Bird Watching Tour on Langkawi Island. I was by no means an avid bird watcher, so my excitement caused me to pause. Why I was nearly jumping out of my room to go on that tour?
Certainly, I do often enjoy birds when I come upon them. I love their charming songs and the brilliant colors of many tropical birds. I even have my favorite 2 birds in SE Asia, both favorites because of their songs. I recently learned that one is a koel, the other a myna. Both have entertained me thoroughly all over SE Asia for many years.
More recently, while exploring Langkawi on my own, I’d spotted several Hornbills and the amazing drongo, a black bird with 2 extremely long slender tail quills that end in round or oval feathers. Those sightings had certainly peaked my interest in birds. And 2 months earlier I’d visited the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park for a review.
Reflecting on my childhood, I suddenly remembered that I’d spent many years hiking through forests, up mountains, along streams and ocean shores, with my family while my parents immersed themselves in their long ‘bird watching phase’. Every time we went hiking, camping, or traveling, my parents carried along their bird guidebooks and binoculars. Hikes always included lots of stopping, flipping through bird book pages, and gazing around in the trees.
In my adulthood, I’d surprised myself many times by instantly recognizing most birds I come across, at least by species. Apparently I’d subconsciously picked up a lot of bird recognition during my childhood.
So, although I’m by no means an avid birder, I do have some background in birding and do appreciate birds. I even carry my own binoculars while traveling. I guess that qualifies me as a bird enthusiast.
Having resolved the mystery, I excitedly dashed off to meet the guide at a nearby resort lobby. I recognized her immediately as ‘the guide’ by her completely khaki, head-to-toe outfit and her outdoorsy, outgoing personality. Wendy was a friendly, enthusiastic Malaysian girl who was eager to get out and show us some birds. Joining us were 3 American women, also eager to spot Langkawi’s famous Hornbills and other tropical birds.
When I learned that we were going to Mount Raya, Langkawi’s highest peak, I was practically bursting at the seams. Mount Raya was one of the best places I’d visited on Langkawi thus far. The 13 km road to the summit weaves gradually up the mountainside, entirely surrounded by dense rain forest, with increasingly better views over the island. Mt. Raya is also where I’d spotted Hornbills and drongos.
We drove part way up then stopped, got out, and wandered the road listening for bird calls and peering around into the sky, trees, and dense undergrowth.
Wendy became wildly excited. Her eyes lit up, her head often cocked to one side listening, or her face intently searched the skies. Her keen, experienced eyes regularly spotted tiny specks, which turned out to be birds. She carried both binoculars and a huge scope on a tripod, which she quickly adjusted whenever she found a perched bird.
Several times, she start jumping up and down with excitement, beckoning us urgently, “come look, come look!” “Look through the scope! Quick, quick. Look!” As soon as Wendy laid eyes on a bird, she instantly identified it, including whether it was male or female. She kept an ongoing list of our bird sightings, to give us later. She was also quite adept at identifying birds by their call. Now that’s an avid birder!
It took a while standing around on the road before we really started spotting birds. Then it was a smorgasboard. We saw all 3 species of Hornbill that live on Langkawi: Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, and Oriental Pied Hornbill. The Great Hornbill is especially impressive. It boasts a 2-3 Meter wing span and looks spectacular when flying because of its wide yellow and black stripes along the wings. More amazingly, it makes a loud, powerful whooshing sound like a dull engine or a giant hand-held Japanese fan.
Wendy explained that the noise is a result of the Hornbill having only one layer of feathers, which the wind passes through. Most birds have 2 layers of feathers. We enjoyed many Hornbill sightings and were even treated to their wild calls, which sounded to me like a car engine trying to start up / turn over. Wendy thought they sounded like coughing.
In total, we spotted 32 birds that morning, including my favorite drongos and some very colorful birds. After spending a couple hours along the Mt Raya road, we relocated to a flat rice field, seeking different bird species. We saw loads of them! Most exciting for me were the White Throated Kingfisher with it’s brilliant metallic blue wings, the weaver birds with their bright yellow heads and striped backs, and the Red-Wattled Lapwing, with its super long legs and red-rimmed eyes. I’d never seen that charming bird before.
Wendy’s favorite for the day must have been the Plain-Backed Sparrows, of all things. A pair flew in and perched on a nearby telephone wire. Wendy was so utterly excited that she was literally squeaking at the top of her voice, jumping up and down, and glowing. Man, was she excited! She explained that they are extremely difficult to spot on Langkawi.
As fun, exciting, and successful as the morning had been, after 4 hours of intense concentration watching 32 bird species going about their daily lives, around 1 pm it was finally time to pack it in. We all piled back in the van and returned to our respective resorts to eat lunch and enjoy another tropical afternoon on Langkawi.
Thanks Jungle Walla Tours and Wendy for a fantastic morning on Langkawi Island!
Have you ever joined a bird-watching tour? If so, where? How was it? What great birds did you see?
What kind of outdoor tours do you enjoy while traveling?
Check out my other Langkawi tour reviews:
*disclaimer- while Jungle Walla Tours generously sponsored my tour, the comments and opinions expressed are my own candid views*