Trip Report – April 2016
This trip was a wonderful combination of culture and birding – so not our normal birding pace but worth a trip report anyway.
Day 1: We spent our first day In Phnom Penh sightseeing. The Royal Palace and S21 (Khmer Rouge prison camp) were our main stops but we included Wat Phnom and Wat Ounalom as well. It was all easily done by tuk-tuk from our hotel. Night at Raffles.
Day 2: After a nice lazy morning we took a short flight to Siem Reap to meet our guide for the next 6 days. We took a short walk through some trees in town and got our first life bird – Taiga Flycatcher. Had a wonderful traditional meal over looking the pool of our hotel. Night at the Golden Temple Hotel.
Day 3: Our first big day birding was on Tonle Sap. The water level was low so we couldn’t go as far into the reserve as normal but we still had some incredible birds, 66 species with Greater Adjutant, Cinnamon Bittern, Black-backed Swamphen, Himalayan Cuckoo and Pin-striped Tit-Babbler were lifebirds for us. Other highlights were Rufus & Laced Woodpeckers, Spot-billed Pelican, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Paddyfield Pipit.
It was also fascinating to see the floating villages and we were given a lovely lunch at the village of Prek Toal. Night at Golden Temple Hotel.
Day 4: Our destination was the Sarus Crane Reserve at Trapaeng but we managed to get 3 life birds before we even got there – Oriental Pratincole, Pied Harrier and Australasian Bushlark. There were a number of cranes in the reserve but the highlight for us were the Oriental Plovers & Small Buttonquail.
The dry forest area was also very productive. We had Rufus-winged Buzzard, Black-headed Woodpecker, Spotted Wood-owl, Barn Owl and Scarlet -Backed Flowerpecker all within about 20 minutes.
Another nice lunch was provided for us at the ranger station and then we saw White-browed Crake in the lotus pond outside. A couple more stops were less productive because it was getting to the high 30s by then so we headed back to our hotel for a relaxing afternoon.Night at Golden Temple Hotel.
Day 5: We left our hotel and drove out to the Bengal Florican reserve. Our guides were very organized and they had local people out spotting so it didn’t take long for us to enjoy great views of these wonderful bustards, surrounded by more Oriental Pratincole.
A short way further on we stopped by a lake and within 30 minutes we had 5 life birds – Blue-breasted Quail, Black-browed, Manchurian and Oriental Reed-Warblers along with Striated Grassbird made for a great stop.
We then started our long drive to Tmatboey. A fruitful stop along the way gave us White-Rumped Falcon and Indochinese Cuckooshrike – and a blessing from a Buddhist monk. Another stop at the entry to the reserve delivered White–shouldered Ibis & Indochinese Bushlark.
We dropped off our bags ( the accommodation here is VERY basic) and went into the reserve for a late afternoon walk – which was wonderful. Giant Ibis, Burmese Shrike, Striated Swallow, Brown Prinia and Slaty-crowned Babbler were all added to our life list.
It was dark when we got back so a quick dinner and then a night in the lodge – it was supposed to be 2 nights but it was so basic and so hot that we decided to just do the one night. Night in Tmatbouy.
Day 6: After surviving the night in the lodge we headed back into the reserve for another great morning of birding – we had been given a wonderful picnic breakfast and enjoyed it overlooking the river watching Violet Cuckoo, Blue Bearded Bee-eater, Mugamki Flycatcher and Van Hasselt’s Sunbird. A walk in the forest added Chestnut-capped & Abbot’s Babblers plus Two-barred & Pale Legged Warblers. The final life birds for us at the reserve were Rufescent Prinia and Chinese Francolin.
It was only 9am but it was very hot so we packed up our stuff and started to drive to Kratie.
Night at the Mekong Dolphin Hotel ( not great) – dinner at Le Tonle Guesthouse – very nice.)
Day 7: A lazy start to the day – met our guide at 7.30 and drove over to the Mekong River to pick up our boat. It was nice on the river and we got our targets fairly easily – Mekong Wagtail and Small Pratincole – before enjoying some good views of the River Dolphin.We completed the river trip and then stopped at a large tree to see a number of Asian Golden Weaver before starting the long drive back to Siem Reap. Night at Raffles
Day 8: We had set this day aside for Ankor Wat so we started early to avoid the heat. It was a lovely day and certainly worth the visit. Night at Raffles.
Day 9: A relaxing morning and then a flight to Ho Chi Minh City where we were met by our next guide and drove to Cat Tien Park. It was dark when we got there so we took advantage of the great lodge (outside the park) to enjoy a nice dinner. Night Cat Tien Jungle Lodge.
Day 10 & 11: Took the ferry into the park at 6 am and then again at 3pm each day (after a relaxing lunch and siesta at the lodge) and spent the time walking & driving the trails. Our main targets were Green Peafowl, Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Silver Needletail, Banded Kingfisher, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Black and Red Broadbill and 3 pittas ( Blue-winged, Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped). These first 2 days gave us wonderful views of everything except the Germain’s But we also got another 13 life birds which was great.
Day 12: Our final day in the park and we were determined to get the Peacock Pheasant- our persistence paid off and, with the help of our great guide – Quong – we were successful.
We left around 10 am and started the drive towards Dalat. Stopped for a great lunch and then started birding outside Di Linh. Wow! what a great spot. It was early afternoon so not the best time but still amazing – 7 life birds in 1.5 hours – Red-vented & Indochinese Barbets, Grey-crowned Tit, Yellow-vented Pigeon, Burmese Shrike, Grey-headed Parrotbill and Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler.
Then another drive to our wonderful accommodation in Dalat. Ana Mandara Villas.
Day 13: Early start to a private lot just outside Dalat for some wonderful birds – our lifers were Kloss’ Leaf-Warbler, Orange-breasted & White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias and Lesser Shortwing. Lovely spot with many more species to enjoy and then into town for a great local lunch. We played tourist in the afternoon – the Chinese Pagoda is worth a trip along with the Zen Buddhist temple. Then enjoyed the hotel for a relaxing evening.
Day 14; A hike up Lang Biang was the program for this morning and it was lovely. We started early for both the birds and to avoid the crowds. It was both a wonderful hike and a wonderful birding day – Dalat and Clicking Shrike-
Babblers, Gray-bellied Tesia, Eastern-crowned Leaf-Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, Black-browed and Mountain Fulvettas, Vietnamese Cutia, Collared Laughingthrush, Large Niltava, Snowy-browed Flycatcher and Scaly Thrush. Wow! Final night at Ana Mandara Resort.
Day 15: Left at 5 am for a 1.5 hour drive to Bidoup National Park – our last morning of birding and it was the lovely. We walked the roads and a wonderful part of the forest and ended our trip on a successful note. Vietnamese Greenfinch, Yellow-bellied Nuthatch, Pygmy Wren-babbler and Arctic Warbler were lifers and Red-headed Trogon & White-Bellied Epornis were new for the trip.
A late afternoon flight had us back in Ho Chi Minh city at the most amazing hotel we have ever stayed in – Park Hyatt. Wonderful!
Day 16: A lovely day in Ho Chi Minh city enjoying the hotel and the sights.
A perfect ending to a fabulous trip. Night at Park Hyatt.
General comments: This was one of the best trips we have ever done. The people and service were wonderful, the accommodations exceptional and the food fabulous. We didn’t have time to get to Northern Vietnam (and were told that all the birds there have been eaten so it’s probably not worth the effort from an avian perspective!) but were extremely happy with the part we covered.
It is a high recommend.
Guides & Resources
Guides – Cambodia Guide was provided by Sam Vesna Centre
Vietnam Guide – Quang Hao Nguyen – [email protected]
Field guides – The Birds of South-East Asia- Craig Robson
Lonely Planet Guides for Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos