For anyone who plans to go bird watching at Gunung Raya in Langkawi Island, you should know that this can be done by engaging a local bird guide or even by yourself if you rent a car or bike.
In this review, I enjoyed visiting one of Langkawi’s popular birding site, and I had a local guide named Fendi, who took me up the mountain to do my inaugural bird watching here.
Bird Watching at Gunung Raya in Langkawi
Gunung Raya is the highest mountain in Langkawi Island and is 872 meters (2,860 feet). Not only that, the location is smack centre of the island. While you may think there is some climbing or hiking to do, fear not, as there is a road that leads all the way up to the peak of Gunung Raya.
This way, you need to rent a car or go with your bird guide who will have a car, making birding quite easy here. I was doing some nature photography work for this trip, and I stayed at the Tanjung Rhu Resort for a few days.
I had booked a bird watching tour from the resort, and they contacted Fendi, who is one of the three top bird guides in Langkawi Island. On my birding morning, Fendi had come in his car to pick me up from the resort at 7.00 AM. He took a nice and casual drive towards Gunung Raya.
When we arrived at the entrance, we were greeted by a beautiful White-throated Kingfisher on the power lines. Slowly making our way up, we stopped at the spot where the Mountain-hawk Eagle is usually spotted.
Unfortunately, the eagle was not present on that particular day; hence we moved on towards the peak. Along the way, we made multiple stops spotting dollar birds, a brown shrike, red-eyed bulbul and some Dusky Langurs.
The journey from the foot to the peak takes about 20 minutes to drive up the 12-kilometre road. The elevation of the peak is around 881 meters too. Arriving at the peak, I noticed an abandoned resort that once catered to holiday-seekers on the island. It seems that the resort closed somewhere in the last couple of years too.
There is an amazing viewing tower which is about six storeys high and was closed too. From my judgement, I believe the views would be pretty amazing from the top of the tower. Apparently, the resort operator used to charge RM10.00 to go up the tower when it was once in operation. However, it is such a shame to see this place run-down.
Anyway, I managed to spot a beautiful Crimson Sun Bird and a Crested Goshawk together in one spot while up here. The usual swallows and swifts are also commonly spotted around.
What Birds to See at Gunung Raya?
There are quite many bird species to be spotted from the base to Gunung Raya’s peak, and I usually recommend spending at least a few hours to see as much as you can.
A notable star bird to spot here is the Mountain-Hawk Eagle, endemic to Langkawi and often sighted by many people halfway up the mountain. But you need someone who knows where to spot it.
On average, you can spot anywhere from 15 to 20 birds in one visit. However, I have heard that some managed to spot up to 30 species for one morning. It is all luck from my experience, and I have heard that some birders have even spotted up to 30 species of birds at Gunung Raya.
During my bird watching trip to Gunung Raya, I spotted the following birds;
Thick-billed Green Pigeon
Asian Fairy Bluebird
Asian Palm Swift
Crested Serpent Eagle
White Bellied Sea Eagle
What are the Best Options for Bird Watching at Gunung Raya?
I would strongly recommend you engage one of the expert bird watching guides in Langkawi for this. Why? Because they know exactly where some of the endemic birds can be spotted.
Unless you have been in and out of the island, you can do it on your own, but if you are a first-timer like me, I would suggest contacting Wendy or Fendi, some of the top bird guides in Langkawi.
How to go to Gunung Raya?
You can self-drive from Kuah or Pantai Cenang by renting a car that cost around RM120 and above per day. The map system is straightforward, and most local printed maps list Gunung Raya in them.
Gunung Raya’s entrance is also by the Ulu Melaka Road or Highway 112, and signboards indicate the entrance area. When you are near, keep a sharp eye out for the signboards.
What to Expect at Gunung Raya?
Overall, this location is considered an easy bird-watching area. Roads are tarred all the way to the top making travel via motorbike or car very easy. The only set back up here is that there are no shops that sell food and drinks, only an abandoned resort closed off to the public. There is a resort keeper in the vicinity that looks after the place.
During the rainy season, from June and July, it can get a little chilly; hence it is best to prepare yourself before coming up. Your guide should inform you about all of this. If you need the bathroom, you can find some when you exit Gunung Raya as there are numerous shops and restaurants available along the main Ulu Melaka Road.
Overall, Gunung Raya is one of the recommended places to do some casual bird watching which is very easy and suitable for all kinds of birders. This also means you can bring your kids and introduce them to birding.
You can be a beginner or an expert birder, and the entire mountain provides some spectacular birds to check off your list. Even if you are travelling with your family, this would be easily manageable here.
While here, I also managed to explore some other bird watching locations. At one of them, Darulaman Sanctuary, I spotted my first lifer of the Striated Heron in Langkawi.
Again, for anyone planning to do some bird watching at Gunung Raya in Langkawi, I will strongly recommend getting a local bird guide, and half a day is more than enough.