Wat Tum Seua, literally translated as “Tiger Cave”, is a temple built on top of a towering limestone karst and houses a relic worshipers refer to as “Buddha’s Footprint”. A staircase winds up the steep sides of the karst, allowing visitors to climb to the pagoda. The staircase features a total of 1,237 steps, a climb not recommended for those with heart problems, high blood pressure, knee injuries or those who are easily fatigued.
The lower temple is built in the shadow of limestone karsts and is a spiritual place where people devote time to the purification of spirit and mind. During the Buddhist Lent, monks from around the country converge here to hide away from the world and spend their time in meditation and prayer. The monks live in little huts located around the meditation center, a patch of forest surrounded by walls of limestone, similar to the “hongs” of Ao Phang Nga National Park.
A word of warning to the wise: macaques are present in the temple and reside on the lower cliffs near the staircase which winds up to the stupa on top of the cliff. These monkeys can be aggressive towards people with food, so be cautious with your belongings, especially your backpacks, cameras and anything with straps! Feeding the monkeys, though popular as a form of almsgiving, is actually discouraged as these primates are not vaccinated and feeding frenzies often turn violent and cases of bitten merit makers do appear in local hospitals from time to time.
Main Attractions: Blue Whistling Thrush, Streaked Wren Babbler, Fulvous chested Flycatcher
Other Attractions: Banded Kingfisher, Blue Rock Thrush, Orange headed Thrush
Most birders may be skeptical as to what birds would choose to live in such a an odd place, a site bustling with tourists, chanting monks and the cacophony of exploding fireworks. If given the chance, one may discover that a few interesting species actually call this site home.
The main site of interest here is the meditation center, a patch of primary forest which has been left untouched since the founding of the temple. Here the trees grow to immense heights and walking along the trail makes one feel like a tiny leprechaun in a world of giants! This old forest is home to many species of birds, reptiles and mammals, all of which thrive in this peaceful sanctuary. The temple acts as a sanctuary for all creatures great and small and with strict rules prohibiting the hunting and persecution of animals many species have thrived here. Visitors often comment that this area is like stepping back in time to the southern Thailand of our ancestors.
The meditation center is located near the large Chinese shrine at the back of the temple.
The main attraction birders are after is the Streaked Wren Babbler. These social yet uncommon birds can be seen in forests and parks which contain limestone karsts and Wat Tum Seua is one of the most accessible places to find them. Being a terrestrial bird, its best to look for them among the low foliage or on the ground near the limestone walls. These birds are usually not shy and are best found by moving silently along the trail and listening for calls. They are usually not responsive to playback.
The most conspicuous bird of the temple has to be the Blue Whistling Thrush. This large, robust thrush is a common resident which often allows birders to get close enough to admire their beauty without the aid of binoculars. The southern species differ from the northern species with their stockier appearance and brilliant yellow bills. A handsome male sunning himself in the morning will also reveal a coat decorated with tens of silver buttons adorning his wings and mantle. – Elvis has not left the building!
There are other thrushes as well: Blue Rock Thrush are also tend to lurk around the limestone cliffs, often sitting silently in nearby trees for hours on end. In the winter Orange headed Thrush, White throated Rock Thrush and Eyebrowed Thrush are known to reside at the temple and I would not be surprised if Siberian Thrush could also be seen from January – March.
The forest trail holds a number of surprises for the keen birder such as Banded Kingfisher, Fulvious breasted Jungle Flycatcher, Dark throated Oriole, Greater Racket tailed Drongo, Green billed Malkoha, Plain backed Sparrow, Emerald Dove, Hill Myna and even the occasional Black and Yellow Broadbill. In the wet season both Hooded Pitta and Blue Winged Pitta can be heard calling from the trees as well.
Dusky Langurs and Lars Gibbons are two primates which are usually associated with dense virgin forest yet both these species can are often encountered here. Clouded Monitor, Siamese Golden Tortoise and King Cobra are two other magnificent creatures which have been encountered on the jungle trail within the meditation center.
Another area some birders have visited is the pagoda at the top of the mountain. Getting to the pagoda requires visitors to hike up 1,237 steps to reach the summit, a trek which is both exhausting and time-consuming. Birding along the steps to the pagoda is rather dull with little of interest. The path goes through a lot of thick scrub and vegetation which gives way to dry soils and steep rocky cliffs as one gets higher.
From the top of the cliff one can get good views of swifts and swiftlets in flight, such as Pacific Swift and House Swift. Black nest and Edible nest Swiftlets are both residents at this site, making this a good place to note differences between the two species. One has a thinner wing than the other and the flight patterns are also a good telling point as well. On occasion one will also find Rufous bellied Swallow, Grey rumped Treeswift and Whiskered Treeswift gliding on the gentle breeze.
Peregrine Falcon are often seen around the vicinity of the cliffs hunting for swiftlets.
Other raptors which are encountered around here include Brahminy Kite, Crested Goshawk, Crested Honey Buzzard, Grey faced Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Crested Serpent Eagle and Black thighed Falconet.
Directions to Wat Tham Seua
To get a better idea of the surrounding area, please zoom out by pressing Ctrl on your keyboard and scrolling with your mouse.
Wat Tham Seua is located about 10 kilometers past the town of Krabi. Heading south on Highway 4 towards the town of Klong Thom and Trang province, one should look for a T-junction with a traffic light shortly after passing the municipal sports center. Take a left at this junction and the temple is a mere kilometer or two on the left hand side down the dusty street. Signs are posted along the way.
The intersection is located right before the Ford Automobile Dealership, Big C Supercenter and Krabi Airport. If you passed any of those landmarks, you’ll know you’ve gone too far and will need to head back to the nearest stoplight.
Pros: Easily accessible; perhaps the best site in southern Thailand for finding the Streaked Wren Babbler and other limestone specialties; birds are less skulking, approachable and fairly easy to find; good for bird photography.
Cons: Overcrowded on most days; fireworks add to the problem of sound pollution; feral dogs are a threat to many terrestrial bird species; deathly silent on some days.
Wat Tum Seua is a temple that provides protection for all creatures, allowing it to remain rich in diversity. On the downside, it is a very disturbed site and receives many visitors, a fact which can sometimes be annoying for birders hot on the trail of a sought-after species such as Banded Kingfisher or Streaked Wren Babbler. Birding here can be rather unpredictable at times, depending on the crowds. On some days you’ll find good birds and on other days it will be eerily silent.
Nevertheless, the temple is a good place to stop off for a visit while in Krabi and a great place to take in the local culture, customs and perhaps spend some time reflecting on the meaning of life.
This page was last updated in February, 2018.