Khao Luang National Park (incl. Krung Ching) – Nakhon Si Thammarat

Khao Luang National Park is situated in Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand, and housed within this national park is southern Thailand’s tallest mountain, Khao Luang, with an elevation of around 1800 metres above sea level. In February 2019 I traveled down to the area with the ambition of climbing to the summit – which also holds an endemic barbet – but bad weather scuppered my hike. This trip can be read about on this blogpost –> February 2019 – Khao Luang National Park.

Aside from hikers trying to conquer southern Thailand’s tallest mountain, Khao Luang National Park is also well-known as one of southern Thailand’s best birding destinations because of the park’s quality lowland forest, which is now nearly non-existent in much of the southern Thailand. The best location to actually get into this quality forest is the Krung Ching substation of Khao Luang NP, situated around 80 kilometres northwest of the provincial capital. The substation is named after Krung Ching Waterfall, which can be accessed by a well worn trail that leads about 4 km from the parks visitors centre through pristine forest. The site itself has a nice campsite surrounded by a cool stream, as well as a few bungalows, at which I’ve stayed a few times. It should be noted that trekking up Khao Luang itself begins at Khiriwong Village, about 23 km due west of the provincial capital, and the climbing season is from about January to June I believe. Organizing a hike can be quite tricky, but contacting someone from Khiriwong is usually the starting point.

Birding at Krung Ching is really separated into a couple of areas, with the most frequently birded being the 4 km waterfall trail, the campsite area, and the access road which includes a helipad where good views over the forest can be had. There is also a another small trail that leads off from the helipad, but on the occasions I’ve tried to walk this trail it’s been very overgrown.

Over my visits so far, I’ve only actually made it all the way to the waterfall once – and I’ve met birders who’ve never made it the whole way – and this owes mostly to the quality of the forest one must walk through; it’s easy to get stuck along the way waiting at likely points for birds. The trail starts out quite flat, but quickly ascends a steep, slippery and potentially dangerous concrete path – before my 2019 visit, the rangers had added some concrete fold holds to the path to prevent some of the slipping. After this hill, however, the trail is more or less flat for all but the final couple of hundred metres where you descend stairs to get good views of the waterfall. At several times along the trail, a stream is very close on the right-hand side, and closer to the waterfall a larger, sandy-banked river becomes visible. Aside from the amazing bird life at Krung Ching, there is still decent populations of mammals, including a supposedly small but stable population of Malayan Tapir, though seeing one would be extraordinarily lucky.

As mentioned above, one of the other major areas to find birds is the access road that includes the helipad a few hundred metres up the road from the visitor’s centre. I enjoy walking along the road here both in the morning and afternoon, because even though the more skulking forest dwellers can’t be seen here with ease, the views into the canopy – and above from the helipad – means a lot of good birds can be more easily viewed in the trees than from the dense and dark trail.

Krung Ching is one of my favourite locations in Thailand, with its amazing birdlife, the tranquil setting of the campsite and bungalows, and the long trail that allows you to explore great forest. Additionally, it never seems to be busy, and in fact, on the occasions I’ve stayed there, there have been no other overnight guests, only day trippers, and usually they are birdwatchers as well.

From my two visits – which entails 6 nights, 8 days – I’ve so far encountered 116 species at Krung Ching, but the overall species list for this site is around 300 species.

My 2018 visit can be read about on this blogpost – Krung Ching 2018, while my 2019 visit can be read about on the blogpost linked in the first paragraph of this page.

BIRD LIST (116 identified species)

  1. Asian Emerald Dove
  2. Thick-billed Green-pigeon
  3. Greater Coucal
  4. Raffles’s Malkoha
  5. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
  6. Black-bellied Malkoha
  7. Violet Cuckoo
  8. Banded Bay Cuckoo
  9. Plaintive Cuckoo
  10. Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo
  11. Moustached Hawk-cuckoo
  12. Indian Cuckoo
  13. Silver-rumped Needletail
  14. Germain’s Swiftlet
  15. Asian Palm-swift
  16. Whiskered Treeswift
  17. Striated Heron
  18. Malayan Night-heron
  19. Oriental Honey-buzzard
  20. Crested Serpent-eagle
  21. Wallace’s Hawk-eagle
  22. Buffy Fish-owl
  23. Scarlet-rumped Trogon
  24. Orange-breasted Trogon
  25. Black Hornbill
  26. Black-backed Kingfisher
  27. Banded Kingfisher
  28. Rufous-collared Kingfisher’
  29. Red-bearded Bee-eater
  30. Dollarbird
  31. Brown Barbet
  32. Blue-eared Barbet
  33. Red-throated Barbet
  34. Lineated Barbet
  35. Gold-whiskered Barbet
  36. Maroon Woodpecker
  37. Rufous Woodpecker
  38. Buff-rumped Woodpecker
  39. Bamboo Woodpecker
  40. Crimson-winged Woodpecker
  41. Banded Woodpecker
  42. Vernal Hanging-parrot
  43. Green Broadbill
  44. Banded Broadbill
  45. Black-and-yellow Broadbill
  46. Dusky Broadbill
  47. Fiery Minivet
  48. Scarlet Minivet
  49. Ashy Minivet
  50. Lesser Cuckooshrike
  51. White-bellied Erpornis
  52. Dark-throated Oriole
  53. Large Woodshrike
  54. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
  55. Rufous-winged Philentoma
  56. Green Iora
  57. Great Iora
  58. Crow-billed Drongo
  59. Bronzed Drongo
  60. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  61. Black-naped Monarch
  62. Amur Paradise-flycatcher
  63. Blyth’s Paradise-flycatcher
  64. Crested Shrikejay
  65. Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher
  66. Common Tailorbird
  67. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  68. Black-headed Bulbul
  69. Spectacled Bulbul
  70. Scaly-breasted Bulbul
  71. Black-crested Bulbul
  72. Stripe-throated Bulbul
  73. Red-eyed Bulbul
  74. Hairy-backed Bulbul
  75. Ochraceous Bulbul
  76. Grey-cheeked Bulbul
  77. Yellow-bellied Bulbul
  78. Buff-vented Bulbul
  79. Olive Bulbul
  80. Streaked Bulbul
  81. Yellow-browed Warbler
  82. Eastern Crowned Warbler
  83. Yellow-bellied Warbler
  84. Pin-striped Tit-babbler
  85. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  86. Grey-headed Babbler
  87. Moustached Babbler
  88. Black-capped Babbler
  89. Short-tailed Babbler
  90. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
  91. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  92. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  93. Oriental Magpie-robin
  94. White-rumped Shama
  95. Fulvous-chested Jungle-flycatcher
  96. Siberian Blue Robin
  97. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  98. Green-backed Flycatcher
  99. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
  100. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker
  101. Thick-billed Flowerpecker
  102. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
  103. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  104. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  105. Plain Sunbird
  106. Brown-throated Sunbird
  107. Crimson Sunbird
  108. Purple-naped Spiderhunter
  109. Little Spiderhunter
  110. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
  111. Spectacled Spiderhunter
  112. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
  113. Asian Fairy Bluebird
  114. Greater Green Leafbird
  115. Lesser Green Leafbird
  116. Blue-winged Leafbird

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