Day. 1 We arrived at Narathatiwat airport at around midday to a wonderful welcome by airport staff and tourist police, who seemed genuinely interested by our presence. We boarded our van which had been graciously arranged by our contact Sum Nara Nara and headed to the town of Waeng. Sum Nara Nara is a volunteer for a worthy cause educating youngsters of the dangers of drugs and introducing them to the wonders of nature through his organization, "Spark U River of Life". We met up with Sum at a family restaurant and were treated to some delicious local food before heading to Hala Bala WS.
For the first night we would be staying inside the park as the only resort in the area was fully booked, (a slight mix up in the planning) The rooms in the park were basic to say the least, just a mat and a pillow on a hard tiled floor!! After unloading our gear we got straight out birding for a few hours along the road. Whiskered Treeswifts were my first lifers of the trip, with many other birds being present including, Red-Bearded Bee-Eaters, Babblers, Crimson-Winged Woodpecker and Long Billed Spiderhunters. A majestic Wreathed Hornbill passed overhead giving us a taster of what we would get the following day. In the evening we headed into Waeng for another great meal and then back to the park to our wonderful beds..
Day. 2 Up for an early start we headed off with Sum. Our first stop was at Sirindorn Waterfall, where at the entrance we ticked off Finsch’s Bulbul, one of our main targets for the trip. Along the river gave me my first shots of a Rhinoceros Hornbill. We birded around the area of the river and waterfall until lunchtime when we returned to the truck for some great southern curry and rice. As we were eating, a small fruiting tree gave great views of Crimson-Breasted Flowerpeckers and Grey-Bellied Bulbuls. After lunch we went back to the room and moved our gear to the resort. Ohh, the luxury of a decent shower, a bed and aircon. For the afternoon we headed back in and birded along the road ending up at a river where it duly started to pour with rain. Back to the resort, out of wet clothes, shower and more great food put an end to another great days birding.
Day. 3 Today we started off walking the road outside off the resort whilst we waited for Sum to turn up and got our first great ticks of the day, a Little-Bronzed Cuckoo and Javan Mynas. After getting into the park we birded along the road where we got great views of a Wreathed Hornbill. Eventually we ended up at a checkpoint. At the checkpoint another fruiting tree produced birds by the dozen. Scaly-Breasted Bulbuls being one of the highlights along with Barbets and a nesting Silver-Breasted Broadbill. We headed on to To-Mo Community Forest, one of the last remaining areas of lowland forest in the south. Along the stream, Black-Winged Flycatcher-shrike, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Rufous-winged Philentoma were all seen. The drive back through the village added Asian Glossy Starlings to the list and on the drive back an Orange-Backed Woodpecker was heard but sadly not seen.
Day. 4 Today we planned for the Research Centre. On arrival we were greeted by an over enthusiastic Bushy-Crested Hornbill. The hornbill must have been a rescue bird as it had no fear of humans, quite the opposite really as it wanted to be part of the team!! We had planned to walk the 1500m trail, but the rangers didn’t seem to be too clued up or enthusiastic about it so I opted to stay around the ground. Peter, Paul and Mark headed off with the rangers only to return covered in leeches after only getting 300m in. Birding around another trail area, my eye caught something to my left, then it flew directly across in front of me. An all but brief, but unmistakably clear view of a Malaysian Rail Babbler. What a great start to the day.. The rest of the morning was pretty quiet with plenty of Spiderhunters seemingly to be the only birds showing well. We went back up to the entrance area where we had seen a small fruiting bush in the morning to find it producing great views of Bulbuls, Flowerpeckers and Barbets. After meeting up with Sum we headed back to the resort.
Day. 5 Sadly, today was our last day birding and our last day at the resort, tonight would be spent back in the park. We headed off early into the park set for a full day at To-Mo. We stopped and birded around the to the third bridge area where we had more good views of a Rhinoceros Hornbill. At the checkpoint area we stopped again at the fruiting tree and also picked up a male Banded Kingfisher behind one of the buildings. A walk along another track here also added Sultan Tits and Sooty Barbets amongst others. At To-Mo, birding started a little slowly, but we soon latched onto a Chestnut Naped Forktail. Taking a breather for a few minutes, we were suddenly alerted to the call of a Diard’s Trogan not too far away. After a little searching we got a brief view of this fantastic bird before it was gone out of site. As we walked back to the truck another great tick was added to my list in a Rufous-tailed Tailorbird. After a bite to eat and a little more birding we headed back out of the park to Waeng for some more great local food. Back at the HQ we got cleaned up, packed and a few cold ones downed before crashing out for the last night.
Day. 6 The final morning, up and ready to go we had a couple of hours before Sum arrived. So a couple of hours birding was had around the HQ area. One final lifer of the trip for me was a female Blue and White Flycatcher. Around 8am Sum arrived and headed to his house for a great Masaman Curry breakfast.
Overall, a fantastic weeks birding with great company. I am so thankful to have been part of this trip with Peter, Mark, Paul and Dennis. Well over 100 birds logged and over 30 lifers for me. Hala Bala is definitely a great place to bird and one which I hope to return to again very soon.