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Birding holidays not requiring car (1 Viewer)


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By 'not requiring car', I don't mean refusing even an arranged transfer to/from the airport.

I mean that I don't have a driver's licence and don't want to depend on a guide and their car in order to move around the birding destination. Such a fully guided tour would be a tad too expensive for me.

Please suggest any high-quality examples,

especially in Asia

but also in Africa, Australia and anywhere else.

[EDIT: I should have mentioned that I live in Hong Kong, so I know about the big cities like Singapore or Shanghai. It would be cool to find slightly more exotic locations to consider!]

I have been thinking of visiting Dehradun in northern India, for example, at the start of next month. Ebird suggests that several hotspots at or near the city have a big species count. I imagine that there are enough rickshaws or app-ordered taxis to get me back to the hotel before sundown.

If you have any idea whether a long weekend at Dehradun would be a good plan, do let me know too.

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I have never been to India, but SE Asia in general is often good for car-free birding, simply due to the large population density which means that there is transport going everywhere. Taman Negara in Malaysia is easily reached by public transport and once there, there is no road, so you miss nothing by not having a car :) Other sites in mainland Malaysia are also easily reached.
Kerala. I went in 2017 so hopefully not too different. Though you may have to hire a car and driver to move between towns it’s generally comparable to public transport costs in Europe. Tuktuks were ridiculously cheap and got us to many remote spots and back again.
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Peninsular Malaysia: Fraser's Hill and Taman Negara, as Opisska wrote.

Bornean Sabah in Malaysia: Mount Kinabalu and Sepilok need no guide nor a car if you pre-book a hotel close to the place. Danum Valley Field Center needs a local bus to get you in, and you can bird independently. Kinabatangan River needs a local boat operator and Crocker Range needs a day trip by taxi, which needs not to be a birding guide.

Much of Costa Rica can be done using public transport and without guides. But taxis are often needed to do the last mile, and some places do require a guide.

North-West India and Thailand can be done very cheaply when you do research on less expensive services, pre-book local places directly and travel by public transport in between. Which is a preferred method to do high-quality cheap birding abroad without own driving.

Brisbane, Cairns and Buenos Aires have lots of birds, but are not cheap nor the public transport to birding places is fast.

Hong Kong during migration, possibly? Never been there.
Thanks! I hadn't thought about Bangkok. It seems there's a nice wetland and some rice fields, plus a forest called Khao Yai not too far away.
Taman Negara
I hope to visit at some point.
Thatekkad looks intriguing.

Crocker Range
Do you mean the road going up to Rafflesia Information Centre? How did you bird there? Since closer to Kota Kinabalu airport than other sites, I might do that.

Cheers everyone!
October isn't a particularly good month to visit most of India or Thailand. I would probably look at Malaysia or somewhere in Indonesia if you want to go away next month. It's quite straightforward to bird in most of Asia using public transport.

Sabah is a good suggestion. You can get to the Rafflesia Centre by bus from KK, or from Mt Kinabalu via Ranau. You used to be able to stay at the Gunung Alab Resort, which had cheap rooms, but I understand that may no longer be the case. I birded mostly along the road. However if your time is limited, you are much better off just going to Mt Kinabalu NP which is infinitely better, very easy to get to by bus from KK, and has plentiful accommodation nearby.
Crocker Range is Raflesia information centre. You bird by simply walking on the roadside short distance both ways. You may visit the centre itself if you want to see rafflesias, but better ones are in Poring Hot Springs (another very good no-car place). In Sabah get immediately out of Kota Kinabalu, which is a sprawling birdless town, and head to Sepilok or Kinabalu NP which have lots of birds close to hotels.
I met a couple of hitch-hikers in Thailand, on their way from Europe to Australia, told me Thailand was the best place so far, they never had to wait more than 10 minutes (both young and good looking, that certainly helped along the road!)... once in a national park I think many people will offer you a ride, at least it happened to me when I decided to walk (steep roads, hot temps, it's a pity to see someone endure that).

I was also surprised to find young travellers without cars in some more remote areas than Kao Yai or Kaen Krachan (which are easy to access), when I asked they told me they just came by songthaew, the local transport.
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Yeah we did Khao Yai in 2014 by songthaew and hitching - we took the songthaew to the entrance, paid the fee and the rangers got us a lift :) Then inside it was quite easy. Last year we gave a lift to a guy in Kaeng Krachan. I think it could be harder in less visited places - in Phu Khiao, we were the only visitors ...
I do almost all birding without a car. I use public transport and often lots of backpack/ hiking (and camping if I can).

Done in this style with only public transport and little hiking:
Sri Lanka, India, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Suriname, Thailand

With public transport and a moderate amount of hiking:
Patagonia (Argentina/ Chile)

Mostly hiking/ backpack:
Nepal, northern Sweden, Australia, Western USA
If somebody could provide an example of such a place in Africa, I'd be so grateful!
If you are adventurous enough: I found Ethiopia in 2014 to be fantastic birding, dirt cheap and easy to do by yourself with local transport and without guides. You wouldn't be able to reach all places that way, but there is more than enough to make it worthwhile even when excluding those (I got 333 species of which 282 were lifers - no guides used either). But don't count on many comforts (long uncomfortable bus rides, accommodation without running water (but just a few $ per night), etc. Food is fantastic though, even in tiny towns ).

Many times you can just take local transport to some town and start exploring on foot from there. For example in Bahir Dar and Yabello I just kept ticking off new birds all day long for multiple days. Also found some very local birds by myself (Ankober Serin, Sombre Rock-chat, etc)
If somebody could provide an example of such a place in Africa, I'd be so grateful!

Gambia is the only country I can think of. Public transport in Africa is generally slow, uncomfortable and often not safe. It also does not go to national parks.
Gambia is the only country I can think of. Public transport in Africa is generally slow, uncomfortable and often not safe. It also does not go to national parks.
Tell us more! Easy to do by yourself with local transport etc? Safety OK there?
If somebody could provide an example of such a place in Africa, I'd be so grateful!
It's way back in 1990, but I birded Kenya without a car over six weeks. I based myself in Nairobi and used trains to access the coast and Kisumu on Lake Victoria. I then used local buses and matatus to get to places along the coast and from Kisumu up to the Kakamega Forest. I also used buses to get to Lake Naivasha and up to the vicinity of Mt Kenya. I also hitched in a few places - once getting a ride with 2 missionaries to Lakes Bogoria and Baringo. To get to Masai Mara, I booked a 4 day tour that left from Nairobi.

Now, I understand that Kenya is less safe these days (it wasn't exactly super safe then), but I think most independent travellers use whatever means are available locally to get about: whether it be buses and trains, hired bicycles, lifts off strangers, or local guides and the like who can take you to remoter places for a few days. I did similar things in Costa Rica in 2000 using local and long distance buses, hitching, and the taxis in a few places to take me into parks. I also did a lot of walking - sometimes during the heat of the day, to get to places within, say, 10 kms of a bus stop, or something. I was younger back then...
Lake Naivasha
Thanks! I don't mind one hotel arranging a car ride to another hotel. What I am thinking about is whether I can go around, within the site, on foot, safely. Otherwise, I am completely dependent on a guide and their jeep. The latter is not my preference.

For example, what about Lake Naivasha?

It is so convenient to have Nairobi National Park just outside the capital. Sadly, at least if I'm not mistaken, a car is necessary for travel within the park.

For example in Bahir Dar and Yabello I just kept ticking off new birds all day long for multiple days. Also found some very local birds by myself (Ankober Serin, Sombre Rock-chat, etc)

I gotta research this, thanks!!
I never hired guides in Kenya, though a free guide called Leonard (who may well be long gone) took people out on bird walks from the Kakamega Forest rest house. His eyes were incredible and he found stuff without bins!

Any info I give you on Lake Naivasha is 30 years+ old, as I know the security situation there has changed considerably since I visited. I was able to walk freely around the site during the day and even took a long hike up the road to Hell's Gate National Park, where I was told rather alarmingly, that you could also walk freely as the lions hadn't eaten anyone yet. Whether the local lions have tucked into human since, I have no idea.

One thing I have always liked about African birding is that there just seems to be birds everywhere. I always find Asian birding harder, but maybe that's just my experience. I expect Naivasha and Kenya as a whole have changed a lot since then... Uganda is becoming a popular destination these days. Worth checking out the feasibility of travel around the place.

I also birded the South West Cape of South Africa without a car. I knew I had limited options here, but it was a very hastily arranged trip. My sister, who worked for British Airways at the time, was able to get me cheap tickets to Cape Town. From there, I used the local trains to Simon's Town where I based myself. Just wandering around town got me a lot of the local specialities, including the incongruous sight of penguins on a hot day, sharing a beach with tourists. I hired a bicycle to cycle to the Cape of Good Hope and the reserve there yielded more stuff. Then I took a thing called the Baz Bus along the south coast and did stops at Nature's Valley and Wilderness where I also stayed for a few days getting more local specialities. I didn't end with a ton of species, but I did have a wonderful trip, which is what really matters.
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It's potentially possible to hire a car and driver in Uganda for around £76 per day with Roadtrip Uganda (maybe less in low season).
That might not be what you're after but you'd see a lot of birds.

Otherwise, there should be places you can stay in Africa where there are a lot of birds nearby that can seen either by foot or using short taxi rides. Somewhere like St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal might be a good bet. Lots of places to stay and a very wide range of species on the doorstep.
Otherwise, there should be places you can stay in Africa where there are a lot of birds nearby that can seen either by foot or using short taxi rides.

Such places for me are always very frustrating - you know, you are missing much more just a short distance away. And if you ever go on a true birding trip, you will see all these common birds again on the day one.

BTW, I am not sure what is a good name for common birds thriving in human-transformed landscape, like Speckled Pigeon, Common Bulbul and Bronze Mannikin in Africa, or Woodpigeon, Greenfinch and Blackcap in Europe.
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