Suddenly there is something beautifully bright orange in front of me in the bamboo thicket. It’s the Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina). What a beauty! I hadn’t expected that at bird all. The Orange-headed Thrush can be found in India, in the Himalayan region to southern China, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand and Indochina and on some islands in Southeast Asia. Dense forests and bamboo thickets are preferred. The Orange-headed Thrush has a stocky body, the back of the male is blue-gray (shown in the image of the blog), the female is brownish. The Orange-headed Thrushes are very shy birds that live in pairs mostly on the ground.
But the reason to come to Khao Pra Bang Khram Park is the opportunity to discover the very rare Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi). Otherwise this Pitta occurs only in a few lowland rainforests in Myanmar and Thailand. Thus, the early morning of a birding trip was reserved to this rare Pitta species. As promised, Yotin, my guide, stand right in front of the open dining room of a small guesthouse, the Morakot Resort, at 6:30 am. With his pick-up, we will also be able to master difficult routes. Unfortunately we are not successful that morning with this rare pitta.
Then we drive to the actual park, the Khao Pra Bang Khram Park, to look for another type of Pitta. For most people, Gurney’s Pitta is the number one reason to visit KNC, and most people end up getting good sightings on one of the trails after internalizing the call of the Pitta. The equally beautiful Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana) is often seen by bird watchers looking for Gurney’s Pitta as well.
But not only birds are a reason to tourist this spot. Of course, this is a wildlife sanctuary. But the area is known for its crystal clear lakes as well. There’s a lot going on in front of the gate. Everyone wants to go to the crystal clear lake and walk along the path in flip-flops and bathing trunks. We seem like foreign bodies – as equipped as we are. Khao Pra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Khao Nor Chu Chi (KNC), covers 183 square kilometers of lowland forest in the Amphoe Khlong Thom district not far from Krabi in southern Thailand. Until recently, the park was the only known place to observe Gurney’s Pitta. Some time ago some other areas in southern Myanmar (Burma) became known, but KNC remains the most reliable place for this species, and in addition many other lowland specialties can still be found here. The disadvantage is the Emerald Pool or Cristal Pool, which is frequented by both foreigners and Thai tourists.
The Emerald Pool is a beautiful water hole in the Khao Pra-Bangkram Wildlife Sanctuary where you can swim very nicely. But it is just one of many pools and streams in a beautiful landscape in the park. It’s really breathtaking, but a few words of caution should be mentioned. The tourist crowds are can be massive, so that from 10:00 in the morning the busloads pour in. It must be almost impossible to get into the water when it is filled with hundreds of people. So you should think about renting a car privately in order to be there on time for opening times. In any case, we did and were very happy with the decision. In the very morning we first went to the hot springs waterfall at 8:30 am. This waterfall is located in a separate park, but nearby. Then we came to the Emerald Pool at 9:30 am. At the entrance gate it was said to have paid an entrance fee of 200 baht. We only had to share the swimming hole with about 15 other bathers. Finally the Thai school children and the other tourists came. By the hundreds. It is about half a mile to walk from the park entrance to the pool and we felt like we were on a shopping street. There are toilets and showers near the Emerald Pool and drinks can also be bought there. However, eating is not allowed in the park. At the entrance to the park there is a whole market with grocery cafes and typical souvenir shops so you don’t have to go hungry. Overall, the park is a lovely place for both bird watching and a relaxed swimming. You just have to know when to go to the Emerald Pool. If you want to see and swim in some of the other pools and waterfalls, allow at least three hours.
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