One of the must-experience things to do in Malaysia is Bird Watching in Cameron Highlands, in Pahang. This birding adventure is surely going to give you a very different and unique experience in Malaysia.
For the locals, Cameron Highlands is a perfect bird watching location due to the cooling climate and the overall highland feel. This place serves as a win-win for both birder and family as you can do both in one go.
Bird Watching in Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is located in Pahang and takes about three hours drive one way from Kuala Lumpur city and could take up to four hours if you take a casual stop-and-drive method.
The area here is known as the montane rainforest, shared with the main Titiwangsa Mountain Range. The elevations at Cameron Highlands range from 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,603 metres (5,259 ft) above sea level.
There are also eight towns found here: Ringlet, Tanah Rata, Brinchang, the Bertam Valley, Kea Farm, Tringkap, Kampung Kuala Terla, Kampung Raja and Blue Valley. The highlands was also named after a British explorer and geologist called William Cameron in 1885.
Bird watching in Cameron Highlands has been quite popular over the last few decades but not as popular as in Fraser’s Hill due to the isolation and quietness offered. Cameron’s has and still is a top-rated tourist destination among the locals and foreigners.
As for bird guides at Cameron Highlands, there may be one or two available, but they need to be pre-booked before you head there. Most of the tour services here offer general hiking or trekking tours and see the Rafflesia flower or visit the Orang Asli villages.
On how much it will cost for a bird watching guide in Cameron Highlands varies from RM150 to RM180 for four hours. This usually includes transport there and often a minimum of two persons.
How Many Bird Species in Cameron Highlands?
To date, there has not been any updates to the number of birds found in Cameron Highlands. The last count was done by the Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (REACH) in 2012.
According to REACH, there are 177 bird species found in Cameron Highlands, and the number could be a little more. Until there is an updated checklist, we will assume the number of species is 177.
One of the best places to see birds is the Brinchang Lookout Tower, a telecommunication tower located near the Mossy Forest. Many trails are easy to use, but if you are on a serious bird hunt, it is best to engage a bird guide.
Type of Birds Found at Cameron Highlands
In general, you can find most of the common montane rainforest bird species here, and some of the notable ones include;
Black Wing Flycatcher-shrike
Asian Emerald Dove
Little Pied Flycatcher
However, if you are a list hunter and seek out rare species like the Mountain Peacock Pheasant, you will need to spend a little more time to explore Cameron Highlands for this. You will also need a good bird guide.
Overall, most birders that come here are casual birders or bird photographers looking for that killer shot. At the end of the day, I always find that luck is one of the main factors in spotting the birds.
Bird Watching Climate at Cameron Highlands
The good news is that you can expect a cooling climate through the highlands, and the higher you go birding, the cooler it becomes. On average, you can expect an average temperature of 18 °C (64 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F) in the day, and as low as 9 °C (48.0 °F) at nights.
This means that birders are required to bring along jackets or windbreakers when they go birding. While it may be a certain temperature outside in the main areas, it could drop a little when you go into the montane rainforest areas.
Best Time for Bird Watching in Cameron Highlands
This is a crucial and valid question that most birders will want to know, and not to worry, I will share the best and worst times to go bird watching in Cameron Highlands for you.
Again, Cameron’s is well known as a local tourist destination because of the cooling climate. When it is the Malaysian school holidays, this place becomes chaotic and congested, so you must avoid visiting here during this time.
Best Time for Bird Watching at Cameron Highlands – Any weekday as long as it is not a public holiday. Usually, come in on a Sunday or Monday and spend a minimum of two or three days until Wednesday or Thursday. This is the optimum time without the tourist, and the entire place will be peaceful and quiet.
For timing, it is also recommended that you go from 7.00 AM to 10.00 AM and then again from 4.00 PM to around 6.30 PM. This is if you are the casual type that loves a break in-between your bird watching.
You can start birding at around 6.30 AM for the extreme bird watchers all the way to 7.00 PM. You can also take a quick lunch break or get some re-supplies at any of the towns here. Some claim that from 11.00 AM to about 3.00 PM, the rainforest goes silent, but you never know.
The months of May to July are migratory bird season, whereas September to March is the resident bird season.
When to Avoid Cameron Highlands – Malaysia school holidays, public holidays, and super long weekends are the three main times that birders should avoid Cameron Highlands as you will regret it. Hotels will be full capacity, restaurants full, trails busy and noisy. And the worst part is moving around as the roads up here will be jammed up with bikes, cars and trucks.
What is Available in Cameron Highlands?
This place is a top-rated tourist destination for foreigners and locals, and this place can be a birders nightmare on weekends and school holidays. And because of tourism, there is a lot of development done all over the highlands.
You will be able to find hotels, motels, Airbnb, and homestays for accommodations, but you need to book them in advance. Avoid trying to go there and book because it may be full. There is also one or two luxury resorts available at Cameron Highlands and apartment rentals.
There is plenty available in terms of food and beverage, including a Starbucks and some fast-food joints. Some local restaurants serving Asian or Malaysian food are available, while some European and Western restaurants also. A small hawker food centre is also found around the Brinchang area.
On Friday and Saturday nights, there is a night market or Pasar Malam at Golden Hills, an area in Brinchang. The Golden Hills Pasar Malam operates from 4.00 PM to 11.00 PM on weekends. Expect a lot of local Malay food, snacks, strawberries and cacti for sale here.
Towns like Brinchang are fully equipped with banks, mosques, church, hardware store, convenient stores, mini markets and just about anything you can think of in terms of general consumer goods. No, you will not find a bird watching shop here, so please bring all you need for this.
There are plenty available for attractions that even spending three days here will not allow you to see them all. The most popular attractions in Cameron Highlands are the famous Mossy Forest, Boh Tea Plantation and the Bharat Tea Plantation.
How to Go to Cameron Highlands?
If you are local, then it is best to self-drive to Cameron Highlands. There are four ways you can get here, depending on where you are coming from.
From Kuala Lumpur and the South – Use the NKVE to Tapah, then take Highway 59 via the Ringlet way.
From Ipoh, Penang and the North – Use NKVE Southbound and then take Highway A181 (185) to Blue Valley.
From Gua Musang, Terengganu and Kelantan – Use Highway 185 via Gua Musang to Blue Valley.
From Pahang and Kuantan – Head to Sg Koyan and use Highway 102 all the way to Ringlet.
For foreigners visiting, it is best to rent a car and self-drive up to Cameron Highlands. This is provided you are comfortable driving on the road’s left side and are confident with our road system. Honestly, it is not too hard as long as you abide by the road rules.
For those who cannot drive, you can always engage a bird guide that will go with you or engage a tour company that can send you up to Cameron Highlands and bring you back down when you are done.
Cameron Highlands is truly one of the beautiful places to do bird watching and photography but must be done during the non-peak times and on weekdays. Again, I strongly recommend you do not come here during the weekend of any school holidays or public holidays as the place will be extra crowded.
At the end of the day, we all want to do some peaceful bird watching in Cameron Highlands, and any other distractions will come in-between this, which will give us a bad experience.