Famous montane and hill birding. Easily accessible forests with a good chance of almost all montane Sumatran endemics.
Key bird species:
Red-billed Partridge; Salvadori’s Pheasant; Bronze-tailed Peacock-Pheasant; Dusky Woodcock; Barred Eagle-Owl; Short-tailed Frogmouth; Salvadori’s Nightjar; Schneider’s Pitta; Graceful Pitta; Blue-masked Leafbird; Sumatran Treepie; Cream-striped Bulbul; Sunda Bulbul; Chestnut-crowned Warbler; Sumatran Cochoa; Chestnut-winged Whistling-Thrush; Shiny Whistling-Thrush; Sunda Laughingthrush; Sumatran Wren-Babbler; Rusty-breasted Wren-Babbler
Kerinci-Seblat National Park includes around 1.6 million hectares of forest, but from a bird watching perspective has only three well known sites: The Gunung Kerinci summit trail, Danau Gunung Tujuh and the Tapan Road. Details are given on each of these below, but for those interested there are many more places could be explored in the region.
Gunung Kerinci Summit Trail
This famous trail stretches from tea plantations near the village of Kerisik Tua, to the summit of Gunung Kerinci at 3,800 m. The lower section of this trail, from the forest edge to around 2,000 m is famous for its birding potential. It is here that the ‘Kerinci Trinity’ of Salvadori’s Pheasant, Schneider’s Pitta and Sumatran Cochoa can all be found. This is also the site to look for Chestnut-winged Whistling-Thrush; Shiny Whistling-Thrush, Sumatran Wren-Babbler and Rusty-breasted Wren-Babbler. The forest edge area is a good option to look for Salvadori’s Nightjar at night, and the lower sections of the trail are good for Short-tailed Frogmouth.
The only downside to the summit trail is the fact that it is a single trail. It is hard to access the forest on either side, so in a stay of a few days you will find yourselves forever walking up and down the same route. For Schneider’s Pitta and Salvadori’s Pheasant your only real chance of seeing them well is if they are on the trail, and if you are not at the front you might well miss them. On the rare occasions when there is more than one group birding this site, your job will get harder. Tour groups will try and avoid the schedules of other tour groups, but if you are visiting independently you might be as well to check the schedules of the tour groups and avoid the same time. Or go to BBS, where all the same birds are found and you will have the place to yourself.
This famous road rises first from the town of Sungai Penuh, then drops down through forest for around 15 km to the lowlands at. It spans forest in an altitude range of 1,700 m to around 400, making it lower than the Gunung Kerinci summit trail, with different birds to match.
Typically birders would look to get dropped near the top of the road and then spend the day birding down to lower elevations. There is not much traffic on the road so there is generally not much disturbance. If you have a few days then it would be good to try dawn at a 2-3 different elevations. The Tapan Road is the most reliable site for things like Graceful Pitta, Blue-masked Leafbird, Sumatran Treepie and the laughingthrush (although the latter have been heavily trapped). A scope can be useful at this site, as there are plenty of opportunities to look up and down into the canopy of trees.
Danau Gunung Tujuh (‘seven mountain lake’)
This site is a short drive/ride from Kerisik Tua and generally supports many of the same birds that are present on the Gunung Kerinci summit trail, although it is less reliable for some of the key species (such as Salvadori’s Pheasant and Schneider’s Pitta) and more reliable for some others (such as Blue-masked Leafbird). If you are short of time this site can be skipped, as everything can be seen at either Tapan Road or the summit trail.
Access and Accommodation:
The nearest airport is in Padang, about a 5-7 hour drive from Kerisik Tua (for Gunung Kerinci and Danau Gunung Tujuh). This can easily arranged by taxi direct from the airport, or if you stay the night in Padang your hotel would normally be able to arrange a hire car of taxi. Once in Kerisik Tua, the most famous place to stay is the Homestay Pak Subandi (Tel: +62 748 357009 or +62 812 74114273. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The owner, Pak Subandi is a legend at providing for visiting birders. He can arrange local transport, and even pick-up/drop off in Padang. He will bring packed lunches up to you on the mountain and guide you to see birds. He sells beer and makes great chips. The guest house is pretty basic, but who’d complain with all of the above.
For the Tapan road, you can reach it with a very early start from Kerisik Tua, but it is more convenient to relocate to one of several hotels in the town of Sungai Penuh lower down in the Kerinci Valley. From here get your hotel (or Pak Subandi) to arrange you a car for the day, or simply get a motorbike taxi to drop you off on the road and come and find you later.
Note: there are wild tigers in Kerinci-Seblat so you should be aware of the risks when out birding. In particular tigers are frequently seen along the Tapan Road. Ideally take a local guide and follow their advice, and also read the advice here.
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