Kanab Nam Krabi

krabi

Kanab Nam Krabi, otherwise known as the Krabi river mouth, contains some of the most diverse tracts mangrove forests in the country and is an ecologically important site which supports man and nature alike. The vast mudflats and rich sediment attract thousands of migrating birds each year and makes Pak Nam Krabi one of the most important wetlands on the west coast. The mudflats also support other life forms such as crabs, mussels and fish which are an important source of income for locals .

To educate the local people on the importance of preserving the balance of the ecosystem, the Krabi municipality constructed the Krabi Mangrove Nature Trail, one of the longest mangrove walkways in the region.  However, most locals tend to view the site as nothing more than a municipal park or a place to hang out or catch a short break from a hectic work day. Some locals even bring along a packed meal and have a picnic among the trees. This often results in pollution in the form of styrofoam boxes and plastic bags and cups being littered into the waterways and among the mangrove trees.

The trail offers birders a chance to encounter many of the birds which reside the mangroves.

Crab eating Macaques are also present at certain times of the day and should be respected and given wide berth. A bite from a monkey can be treated at the nearby hospital but exercising caution the first time round can spare you the trouble and pain.


Birding

Main Attractions: Mangrove Pitta, Brown Winged Kingfisher, Ruddy Kingfisher
Other Attractions: Chinese Egret, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Grey tailed Tattler, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Far Eastern Curlew
Extirpated: Masked Finfoot

Birding around Kanab Nam Krabi is divided into two options: the nature trail or exploring the mangroves and mudflats by boat. Both offer different opportunities with one allowing better looks and freedom to maneuver and the other offering a longer bird list.

– Mangrove Walkway: The star attraction of any mangrove forest is the Mangrove Pitta. However, with increased disturbance from boats in the Krabi waterways and fishermen mucking among the mangroves the bird is becoming increasingly wary. The best times to see the bird at this site are during the months of March – May when the breeding season is in full swing.

Another major issue which has impacted the birds negatively is the increased use of playback by birders and photographers. I have personally seen the bird flee at the sound of playback. I feel that the use of playback to attract any is something that should be used with utmost caution, not blasted through the forests in an endless loop for hours on end.

Most of the birders who visit this site are after the big three: Mangrove Pitta, Ruddy Kingfisher and Brown Winged Kingfisher. It is therefore no surprise why all three of these species are now among the most difficult to locate, with some completely unresponsive to playback!

Brown winged Kingfisher is usually easy to find along with waterway (not among the trees as it was in the past) and sometimes it is easy to spot just walking along the promenade on the banks of the river.

Other birds in the mangrove include Ashy Tailorbird, Brown throated Sunbird, Copper throated Sunbird, Collared Kingfisher, Common Iora, Scarlet backed Flowerpecker and Mangrove Whistler. In the winter Stork billed and Common Kingfishers are present and some birders have had luck in finding Ruddy Kingfisher as well.

Striated Swallows and Rufous bellied Swallows can often be seen perched on telephone wires along the riverside.

Birders looking for the Masked Finfoot should be reminded that this bird has not been seen in Krabi for over a decade. Those dreaming of a miracle return of this mystical bird should also consider how the area has changed in the past 14 years: the river is now teeming with boat activity, the mangroves and banks of the mudflats are crawling with fishermen and crab trappers and a new “tourist” town has opened up in the mangroves to promote ecotourism and shed light on traditional lifestyle in the region. – Do you really think the finfoot has a chance of survival here and would it even want to live here?

The walkway is closed after 5 PM but birders who have managed to hang around after dark have found Buffy Fish Owl present among the trees along the riverside. An easier place to hunt for owls would be the Maritime Resort located a few hundred meters north of this site. Here a number of owls are present; most are found around the pools or near the parking lots and mangroves. The hotel operates its own private jetty and some birders have found it to be good for finding pitta in the breeding season. The parking lot is located near the mangroves, making it easy for birders who are interested in visiting just to see the birds.

Pak Nam Krabi is a smorgasbord of shorebirds of all shapes and sizes. Waders are present in all seasons of the year but the best time for finding the specialties are during the migration and between the months of January through March. The sandspit at the mouth of the river is a good place to start and if you time your visit to coincide with the high tide you just might find everything you’re looking for in an hour or two!

Waders are abundant so if you’re not well versed in your shorebird identification, this is a good time to brush up on the skills. The main ones to look out for are Far Eastern Curlew, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Grey tailed Tattler and Chinese Egret.

Terns show up here as well. Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern and Lesser Crested Tern are sometimes spotted roosting on the sandspit and Common, Little and Black naped Terns are plentiful as well.

On the edges of the mangroves upstream there are other birding opportunities in store. In the early morning Chestnut bellied and Black bellied Malkoha are sometimes spotted basking in the morning light. Brown winged Kingfishers sing a mournful song and Greater Flameback, Common Flameback and Streak breasted Woodpecker can be heard knocking on wood.

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, once well-known in these parts, has proven to be elusive to birders in recent years. – Be careful that you don’t mistaken them for a wintering Chinese or Hill Blue Flycatcher!


Directions to Kanab Nam and the Mangrove Nature Trail

To get a better idea of the surrounding area, please zoom out by pressing Ctrl on your keyboard and scrolling with your mouse.

The Mangrove Walkway is located in the heart of Krabi town, down near the pier. Most people access it from the north, coming into Krabi from Petchkasem road (Highway 4) and heading into town via Road 411.

Take Highway 4 which runs outside Krabi town. After passing the Chevrolet Automobile dealership and a Shell gas station, take a right at the T junction. Drive down the road (Road 411) past the first intersection and the Maritime Resort. Keep your eyes open for the Krabi Hospital on your right. After passing the hospital keep to the left. The Mangrove Walkway is on the left and will be marked by a sign with two flags posted on top. The sign is rather small so it would be wise to slow down after passing the hospital so you don’t miss your turnoff.

The road into the parking lot takes a sharp U-turn and can be hard to negotiate for those with large vehicles. Beware of cars and motorbikes making their way up the step incline!

Boats

Obviously the only way to reach the mangrove and estuarine sites is by boat. Longtail boats can be chartered at the municipal port in Krabi town. It’s been a while now since the iconic birdman of Krabi, Khun Dai, has passed away and although his son still plies the trade, his legend has inspired others to take up the challenge of guiding by boat. All that to say, there really is no need to seek out a bonafide “birding boatman” when hiring a longtail; as long as you know what you are looking for, the itinerary should be pretty much simple and straightforward. My experience is that some of the “knowledgeable” boatmen do as good a job as the simple fisherman letting his boat out for the day and paying that extra premium for the skill doesn’t always equate to a better twitch list.  

Prices will vary from year to year and most boatmen will charge by the hour rather than by trip. Best to just head down there and negotiate your fare. Be specific about your plans on where you want to visit and what you are after; this will prevent the anguish of missing your prized bird or spare you from having to rehashing fares due to “misunderstandings”.


Personal Opinion

Pros: Good for Mangrove Pitta in breeding season; Brown winged Kingfisher and Ruddy Kingfisher still present; mangrove habitat mostly intact; easily accessible.

Cons: Pollution problematic; overuse of playback has made many species of birds cautious and highly skulking; unwanted disturbance by locals at all times of the day.

Going by foot has it’s advantages and disadvantages; its cheaper and easier to hear the calls and one has a higher chance of luring out the bird on a boardwalk. Boats on the other hand, are more flexible and can get you greater distances.

When visiting the area, please bear in mind that since this is a public area there will be  groups of people stomping noisily down the path at any given time. One may find it frustrating, especially if one is hot on the trail of special bird. I’ve personally sat for almost two hours trying to lure out a Mangrove Pitta only to have it scared off by a party of obnoxious locals armed with bottles of beer.

Birders who visit Krabi will not want to miss visiting these very important bird sites.

This page was last updated in February, 2018

Useful Links

Nick Upton’s review of the Krabi River
Birdlife International: Assessment of Na Mueang Krabi