Bird Watching in Taman Negara

Taman Negara Bird Watching
There are a few places for bird watching in Taman Negara for those interested in this hobby. The first thing you should know is that this is a rainforest area, and one of the oldest in the world dating to 130 million years old.

This means, you will be doing tropical birding here and the main area for bird watching in Taman Negara is no other than around the park headquarters and its surroundings. 

However, for the serious birders, there are a few other places which are great for bird watching. Recently in late 2016 and early 2017, there has been a new place which opened for birding, and is a 10 minute drive out of the main area of Kuala Tahan in Taman Negara. Overall, there are over 350 species of birds recorded in the entire Taman Negara area.
Taman Negara National Park Bird Watching
A group of Hornbills perched on a tree at Taman Negara
Bird Watching in Taman Negara

To do bird watching here, you should know that Kuala Tahan will be your main gateway into Taman Negara National Park. Kuala Tahan is a small village town that offers accommodations, local restaurants, floating restaurants, tour desks and convenient shops. 

There is no modern cafes, restaurants or shopping malls found here. There are also no ATM machines or pharmacies found here. So, if you need to get any supplies or special items, make sure you get them before you leave the larger cities.

From Kuala Tahan, visitors will take the boat taxi service across the Tembeling River into the national park. Read this article on the best way to go to Taman Negara for those wanting to find out how.
Bird Photography at Taman Negara
A Great Hornbill seen at the Mutiara Resort
Bird Watching Places in Taman Negara 

Below is a list of places for bird watching in Taman Negara, Pahang which is narrowed down for you. Some of these places are very popular while one of it is a new bird watching spot.

If you are looking for Broadbills, Taman Negara is home to many, which include Green, Banded, and Black-and-yellow Broadbills. And if you are a fan of Barbets, look out for the Gold-whiskered and Red-throated Barbets.

When you are here, your bird guide would most likely bring you to the popular ones where you can see the most birds. Again, this all depends on luck, weather and timing.
Taman Negara Hornbill Valley
Hornbill Valley in Taman Negara, one of the new bird watching spots here
The list of bird watching places in Taman Negara are;

Lata Berkoh (Berkoh Waterfalls) - This is one of the good places in the mornings or afternoons where the journey there will allow you to spot many birds. It is a short ride from the main area of Taman Negara. 

Hornbill Valley (Lembah Enggang) - One of the very new areas for bird watching in Taman Negara where you can spot hornbills, barbets and many other birds. This location is actually by the main road and about 10 minute drive from Kuala Tahan. Your bird guide will drive you to the area where you alight from the vehicle and do bird watching by the road. 

Best time is just before 7.00 am and in the late afternoon. A total of 173 species of birds was spotted here on a bird count in April 2017. One of the star birds is no other than the Helmet Hornbill. The Hornbill Valley in Taman Negara is also gazetted as a conservation area.
Burung Taman Negara
Lembah Enggang or Hornbill Valley in the morning
Taman Negara Forest Loop Trail - This is the easiest trail where it loops around the back of the Mutiara Resort. The walkway is boarded therefore it is an easy walk without worrying about leeches or bugs on the ground. 

Taman Negara Swamp Loop Trail - Another easy trail at the other end of the resort which is also boarded. Walking here requires silence in order to spot the birds in the bush or canopy. At one section, a swampy area is seen where birds are often spotted, but you need to be silent and slow here. 

Tahan Hide Trail - This trail connects from the Forest Loop Trail and takes you all the way to the Tahan Hide, a loo out point for wildlife. Along the way, birds are spotted in the canopy and mid-canopy levels. 

Jenut Muda Trail - This is one of the very popular and best trails and is relatively easy. The Great Argus Pheasant is often spotted here along other star birds like the Banded Pitta, Gould's Frogmouth, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers and many others. Watch for the leeches here though.
Canopy Walk at Taman Negara
The Taman Negara Canopy Walk
Canopy Walk Trail - This is probably one of the active trails, from the park to the canopy walk. However, there are more birds spotted along the walk, versus the canopy walk as sometimes, there are many people on the canopy walk which distracts the birds. 

Bukit Teresek Trail - This is the furthers trail at 2.5 km away from the park quarters. However, the journey here will bare fruit as many birds have been spotted at the first part of the trail. The unique Crestless Fireback is also spotted on this trail. 

Beyond The Batek Orang Asli Village - This requires you to take a long boat ride upriver, passing the popular ethnic Batek orang asli tribe village. The boat ride will take about 20-30 minutes through mild rapids to a spot upriver.

Hornbills are often sighted around here among other birds. But to be honest, I am yet to explore this part, therefore I will update this once I have visited this spot. 

Around The Mutiara Resort - This is the best for beginners as you can do some casual birding around the resort grounds. There is a local resident Great Hornbill by the name of Abu who is frequently seen in the trees around the resort reception area or the park headquarters area.
Tembeling River Bird Watching
A Coucal spotted along the Tembeling River during a boat trip
Along The Tembeling River - Usually, when you depart Taman Negara, you will take a two hour boat ride down the Tembeling River to Kuala Tembeling, where your van transfer will be waiting to take you back to KL. It is on this boat ride that you will spot a number of birds along the river. 

On my journey back, I managed to spot broadbills, kingfishers, raptors, swallows, water birds and a few others. The trick is to sit behind the boat nearer to the boat captain, and he can slow the boat down when you want to photograph the birds. And no, he will not stop the boat for you, unless you are the only passenger. 

Star Birds of Taman Negara

Most bird watchers or bird photographers come here in search of the many star birds of Taman Negara. They are mostly found at most areas while some of them require some serious trekking and just to highlight, you may not see them all in one trip. Perhaps less than half of the birds below. The list of star birds are;
  • Malaysian Rail-babbler
  • Malaysian Blue Flycatcher
  • Short-toed Coucal
  • Blue-winged Pitta
  • Gould's Frogmouth
  • Large Frogmouth
  • Ferruginous Wood-Partridge
  • Mountain Peacock Pheasant
  • Crestless Fireback
  • Barred Eagle Owl
  • Bay Owl
  • Masked Finfoot
  • Great Argus
  • Malaysian Peacock Pheasant
  • Black-and-white Bulbul
  • Rufous-tailed Sharma
  • Red-legged Crake
  • Storm’s Stork
  • Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle
  • Bat Hawk
  • Jambu Fruit Dove
  • Rufous-collared Kingfisher
  • Olive-backed Woodpecker
  • Great Slaty Woodpecker
  • Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker
  • Trogons
Taman Negara Birding
Some birds spotted sitting on a tree along the Tembeling River
Best Time For Bird Watching in Taman Negara

For the avid birder, there are of course the best and worst times to do bird watching. From my point of view, as an amateur bird watcher, the worst time for this is during the school holidays, weekends, public holidays and the rainy season. 

I would advise to book your visit for a weekday, as the best bird guides would be free and there would be very few people around the national park. This way, you can fully enjoy your birding in Taman Negara without distraction and noise.
Chalet at Mutiara Taman Negara
One of the chalets at Mutiara Taman Negara
Where To Stay In Taman Negara

The golden question for birders. Depending on your budget, there are basic air condition rooms from the many budget hotels in Kuala Tahan. Even cheaper, there are homestays available. But for the optimum relaxation, there is the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort.

The resort is located in the national park where the park head quarters is. This is luxury in the rainforest and an average room would cost around RM350.00 (USD 80.00) per person, but you know you will get a good nights rest here.

Your second choice would be the general guest houses which cost around RM120 to RM140 per room. They are basic, with attached bathroom, hot water and air condition. 

What is the Weather in Taman Negara?

Just to get you in the right attire, the weather in Taman Negara is pretty hot and humid with temperatures around 74°-88°F (23°-31°C).

Humidity gets really high in the late mornings and afternoons and expect random showers, unless it is the rainy season from October to January, it is not recommended for bird watching during the rainy season. 

In general, you need to be as comfortable as you can be. Shorts, T-shirts or short sleeved light material clothes are recommended, along with comfortable hiking or trekking shoes. A hat is optional as you would most likely be in the rainforest under the canopy. 

What to Prepare For Taman Negara

Just like any other rainforest, you need to have a poncho or raincoat, lots of drinking water, leech socks (if you truly are scared of them), very basic first aid kit, energy bars and insect repellent (the local ones please). Other than that, you will perspire quite a bit, so you may need to bring along a towel or tissue for this.  

If you are lugging a bazooka lens with massive tripod, I would recommend you use a comfortable shoulder pad to carry your gear. a good pair of binoculars are recommended as the thick rainforest can be tricky to spot these birds.

For me, I use the mid level Omicron Savvy IV HR binoculars to spot birds. They are affordable and very easy to use, as I have brought the binoculars around the world with me.

During my last trip for bird watching in Flores, Indonesia in late 2016, the binoculars served me pretty well as I managed to spot quite a lot of birds.
Taman Negara Birds
Some of the river birds around Taman Negara
Booking a Bird Watching Tour in Taman Negara

For those interested, you can make a booking through Ivy Holidays, a specialist based in Kuala Lumpur, who does Taman Negara tour packages, daily transfers, overnight stays and bird watching tours.

You can contact Ivy Holidays at: +6 010 900 8699 or email them (transport @ ivyholidays.com) . They offer bird watching tours in Taman Negara with some of the best local bird guides there. 

There are many other places to do bird watching in Malaysia, while over the years, I have been pretty much active doing bird watching in Sabah and Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.

So, for the Peninsular, this place was an eye opener as the many birds spotted was quite interesting. You can also read this article for a complete list of birding events in Malaysia, for the serious birders. 

My recent trip to Taman Negara was done with the company above where it took a four hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. I stayed at the Mutiara Taman Negara and explored the many places around here.

This is also my first time doing bird watching in Taman Negara and it was a fruitful one and after that, I am planning to go back for another round of birding here. 

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