Afloat in South Asia

Afloat in South Asia
Reclining Buddha; Rangoon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Langkawi - Sun., Jan. 24th

One of our favorite family vacations during our Hong Kong years was our trip to Langkawi. This beautiful island on the west side of Malaysia provided us a terrific beach holiday in the midst of a rainforest. Monkeys threw coconuts on the roof of our elegant little hut to wake us up in the mornings; Teddy fished with the locals and the butterfly “museum” down the road was, in fact, a huge aviary devoted to butterflies.

I was always sad that I never did one of the bird walks offered by the Datai, where we stayed. As part of this trip I got a second chance – and what a morning it was! The Clipper Odyssey carries experts in all manner of wildlife and the resident bird-nut, Jonathan Rossouw, is as amazing in his enthusiasm as he is in his knowledge.

Jonathan assured us that we would drive up to the top of the mountain and make our way back down gradually. Well….he had not counted on finding a stash of about a dozen great hornbills playing around at the halfway mark! We all hopped out and, by the time we were done, we had wandered nearly to the top, surrounded by amazing birds the whole way. In this photo, you can see one of these magnificent hornbills on the wing and another on a branch (lower right). They are so large that you can hear their approach by a characteristic “whoosh” in the forest.

We also saw an Oriental Pied Hornbill at his nest, where he had walled up the wife and kids (ask me about this one!), as well as the Wreathed Hornbill.

Here is another beautiful little Langkawi denizen – a chestnut-headed bee eater. We saw five or six distinct sorts of bee eaters in the course of our trip, all of them compact and petite like this one. They were nothing like the scarlet bee eaters of Botswana, with their long drongo-like tails.

Along the way, we were entertained by several gaggles of macaques. We also saw a family of langurs, though they were very shy and scooted away before I could get my camera open.

By the time we finished, the bird count for the six-hour jaunt was 33 varieties. It was an all-together entrancing morning and I felt that I had, indeed, made up for lost time in Langkawi!

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