Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Birding Hotspot at Langkawi Island - Part 1

Langkawi
Located in the state of Kedah. The Langkawi archipelago consist of 99 tropical islands lies in the northwestern corner coast of Peninsular Malaysia, north of Straits of Malacca, adjacent to the Thai border a few km is Ko Tarutao island. The largest island is Langkawi island (478.5 sq km), followed by Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Tuba and many other smaller islands. It's administrative capital town is at Kuah. It is the most developed, there are many duty free shops, offices, banks, restaurants that offer local cuisine, asian cuisine and western cuisine. Beyond Kuah town one can notice the beautiful countryside, relaxed lifestyle of traditional Malaysian villages, delightful beaches , paddy fields.

Langkawi has a tropical monsoon climate with temperature remain quite consistent throughout the year. The rainy season is from September till early January. The hottest month is in Febuary. For more details http://www.worldweather.org/020/c00085.htm

Some Historical facts
Langkawi is known of it's Mahsuri legend. This legend is about a young woman by the name of Mahsuri was accused of adultery and being executed in the public despite pleaded innocence. Before her last breath she cursed on this island of having extremely bad luck for seven generations.

In 1821 Kedah was conquered by Siam. Thai influence in culture and food remains visible till today. It also go through a brief Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, who held the state until Malaysia independence day on 31st of Aug 1957.

To promote tourism, this island was granted tax-free status in 1987, before that it was sleepy and backward. Development and economic growth ever since then, life has never been the same for Langkawian. The local folks believed and they are very much relieve that finally the seven generation of Mahsuri's curse has eventually ended.

Langkawi today
The International Maritime and Air Show (LIMA) is held yearly there, since 2000 it also host Malaysian Ironman triathlon. As of todate tourist attraction to Langkawi are besides it's offer the island best duty-free goods shopping, it has nice beautiful beaches, clear turquoise water at Pulau Paya Marine Park for it's popular site for diving and snorkelling.
For bird-watchers this place is a must to visit due to Brown-Winged Kingfisher, Black_Hooded Oriole, Jerdon's Baza, Mountain Hawk Eagle and Plain-Backed Sparrow are yet to be occur in others part of Malaysia


How to go to Langkawi
Road
Drive along North-South Highway head to Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis. The journey from KL takes about 6 hrs to Kuala Kedah and 7 hrs to Kuala Perlis. Car parks service are available to allow you to park your car at a very affordable fees per day. Proceed the journey to Langkawi the main island by Ferry. The Ferry journey from Kuala Kedah is approximetly 1 hr 30 mins and Kuala Perlis about 50 minutes.
There are Ferry Service to Langkawi from Penang as well, the journey takes 3 hrs. Ferry Service from Saturn ( about 1 hour drive from Hatyai Thailand ) the journey takes only 1 hr and 15 mins. During festival season and long weekend holiday be advisable to buy the ferry ticket in advance to avoid hassle not able to get across due to ferry tickets sold off.

Flight
Langkawi International Airport at Padang Matsirat facilitate easy get into Langkawi. Car Rental service, restaurant, banks, money charging counter, banks, duty free shopping archade are available at this airport. There are many air flights that you can choose to travel with. From KLIA the service are provided by MAS (Malaysia Airlines), from LCCT Air Asia have an interval of 1 hrs flight to Langkawi that the journey only takes 50 mins. From Singapore twice daily flight are provided by Silk Air. The newly launched air service by FireFly that takes off from Penang and old subang airport also could be opt for for budget flight. However Firefly flight schedules are very limited.
Air fares Schedules can be checked and book on line
AirAsia http://www.airasia.com/site/my/en/home.jsp
MAS http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/hq/en/bkinfo/booking-info.aspx

Train
KTM comfortable and economical rail services you can opt for to head to Alor Setar (Kedah) and Arau (Perlis) being the nearest station to head to Langkawi. Taxis, public bus are available to Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis to help you to proceed by Express Ferry Services.


For further schedule and rate please visit: http://www.ktmb.com.my/


Accomodation
To cater for accomodation need there are many range types of hotels from budget hotels to hostel bed to suit every need. If need accomodation that can be easily accessible to hawker food then choose your accomodation at Kuah town. For backpacker standard choose your accomodation at Pantai Cenang. For cool air on the summit of Gunung Raya you can have luxurious living on the tallest mountain at langkawi http://www.dcoconuthillresort.com/ For high class stay with easy acess to the beautiful beach you can choose some resort at Tanjung Rhu or Datai to face the Adaman Sea.

Move around at Langkawi
Due to duty free status, cars are affordable to the langkawian therefore there are hardly any public buses around. Car rental service can be done just immediately after you land at the airport or at Kuah ferry terminal. During opt peak season a proton wira manual car is rent out at RM50 per day. If you intend to be at Langkawi more than 2 weeks you can opt to ship your own car there by container with the fees of only RM80. Shipping of such items can be arrange at our Klang Port.

My Field Trip Report 7th of November till 14th of November
Due to unaware of where are the hotspots for birding at Langkawi , I took the apportunities to registered myself for the MNS Selangor branch birding trip to Langkawi on 7th till 10th of November. Me and another birder to maximize the monies and effort that we have occured we extended our stay till 14th of November. As each of us are responsible to makes our arrangement to reach Langkawi on our own for tour, to save the hassle of travelling I book a seat to fly in by Air Asia AK6304 depart from LCCT at 11:25am and landed at 12:05pm, even though it was schedule to the arrival time is 12:25pm. It was a smooth flight, custom check are very relax due to it is a local flight for Malaysian.

As you walked out from the Airport to the Arrival hall there are many Langkawi brochures and free map to facilitate one to plan for a free and easy holiday. I do advice to pick up all of them, cause you would never know which one is needed then. I missed to pick up one good map that have detailed down all the road directions. I then realised that once I get out from the Arival hall for security purpose if you are not a worker you are not allowed to be there.

Since most of them have arrived before me, therefore we start the trip by detoured into the Airport to pick me and another lady participant, we then head to the petronas petrol station nearby the airport for fuel refill on two of the van that we hired for this trip. After that we head for a malay kampung style lunch at the local restaurant. I pick up fried cat fish, wild ferns, salted egg to go with our local rice as my lunch. Food is a bit pricey compares with Malay food store near by my office here in KL here even though this island is a duty free island. Anyway sea food are fresh here in Langkawi Island.


Patiently allowed me to share with you all in 6 parts the birding spots at Langkawi Island instead of by daily basis. This part is on Gunung Raya the tallest mountain at Langkawi and Coco Beach and a peatswamp area near Go-kart very near to Langkawi International Airport. The spot are mark at the map below.

After a hearthiest lunch we head to Gunung Raya the tallest mountain. It is a great challenge to drive on the 23km long winding scenic road leads up to the mountain on a rented car which normally the car features are not familiar as our own car. One of trip here one of our commitee member who drove the van forgotten that she engaged on a hand-break while we are heading down the hill. A few of us in another vehicle noticed smoke from that vehicle. Lucky an intresting bird attracted her attention to stop the vehicle for a while. :-) well sometimes GOD use such things to save us from danger... As for my case on the rental car that was on the 14th of Jan where I'm about to drive back the car to airport as I'm about to catch my flight back, I accidentaly press on the hazzard lights. I could not recall which button I accidentaly press on.. I could imagined the car who is behind me is indeed cursing and swearing at a confusing signal I put on when I'm at a junction.

Sign board at Gunung Raya started with 500 feet asl and as you go higher you would notice 900 feet asl, 1500 feet asl and then 2,000 feet asl. This sub-montane forest unlike the montane forest in the main range of Peninsular Malaysia there aren't any presence of Long Tailed Sibia, Orange-Bellied Leafbird, Silvered Eared Mesia that we normally find.
Nice view though.. This is a view at resort at the summit of Gunug Raya. At this time of moment this resort is under renovation. However Tea, Coffee are open for sell at their Coffee house.

This is the pool side at D'Coconut Hill resort. We saw a small flocks of male and female Asian-Fairy Bluebird here.As we head down this Changeable-Hawk Eagle darp morph caught us by surprise. In order not to frighten this bird we get down from the van to stand a distance away to take it's photo.
Oriental Pied Hornbill are more easily to be seen at Langkawi.
Birds we sighted and hear during our visit on 7th November after Lunch and 8th November Morning at Gunung Raya
Grey Wagtail, Jerdon's Baza, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Brown Shrike, Striped Tit- Babbler, Changeable Hawk Eagle (darp morph), Oriental Pied Hornbill, Dollar Bird, Red-eyed Bulbul, Pacific Swallow, Barn Swallow, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Crow Spp, Dark Necked Tailorbird, Great Hornbill, Puff-throated Babbler, Artic Warbler, Abbot's Babbler. One good spp that I spooted is 2 Siberian Thrush.

Coco Beach and a Paddy fields near Go Kart
We were shown of this place on 7th November evening, 10th evening and I and a birder friend visited this place again on 11th November in the afternoon.

This resting butterfly caught my attention as I wait for the Bittern to pop up again.
Brown-Shrike like to take advantage of a good view to look out for it's prey.
Scaly-Breasted Munia being a seed feeding diet would favour such terrain.
At Coco beach we saw and heard
Cinnamon Bittern, Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Pond Heron, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Red-wattled Lapwing, Cattle Egret, Brown Shrike, Peaceful Dove, Common Myna, Blue- Tailed Bee Eater, Little Heron.

1 comment:

steve said...

Fantastically detailed reports. Well done.
cheers,
steve