Monday, September 5, 2022


By Mr Yap Sue Chew

Kenyir Bird & Nature Quest is an annual event organised to promote Tasik Kenyir as a bird watching and nature oriented destination. However, in 2020 and 2021 it could not be held due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This year, a scaled down event for a limited number of 50 participants was held on 26th and 27th March. It was an impromptu decision to join the event because my wife, I and 2 friends learnt about it a few days before the closing date. As accommodation was on our own, we hurriedly made our homestay booking at the nearest town, Kuala Berang (45 min drive away from Tasik Kenyir)

Day 1

Since the event was to commence at 3 pm, we decided to arrive early so we can have more time for birding, which meant departing from home at 4 am for the 5 ½ hours’ drive. To avoid time wasted searching for lunch, we packed some nasi dagang along the way which proved to be a wise decision as it really tasted great and authentic.  

Our first birding session was most fruitful as bird waves seem to come one after another.  We practically didn’t know where to point our binoculars or cameras. I have learnt about the location from prior research. It was along a quiet road called Sungai Buweh Recreational Road (or Jalan Pengkalan Utama) at the northern edge of the lake known as Bukit Lawit. The road is also mentioned in the book, Birds of Terengganu by Anuar McAfee. In fact, Mr McAfee (this year’s speaker) personally took the participants on a guided tour at that location later in the evening. Along this road there is a small scenic waterfall and a spot called Hornbill Valley where we heard hornbill calls.

The event started around 3:30 pm at Pengkalan Gawi (or simply called Gawi) with the opening ceremony and speeches by VIPs followed by tea break. It was during the break we spotted 2 Oriental pied hornbills on a nearby tree. Next, there was a talk by experienced birder and author, Anuar McAfee on birds found at Tasik Kenyir and Terengganu as well as Tasik Kenyir’s potential in becoming a major birding and tourist destination. After the talk, participants were told to meet at a parking area along Sungai Buweh Recreational Road (10 min from Gawi) and there Mr McAfee showed us the sites where hornbills and forest birds were often seen. Not many birds were sighted as it was getting late. However, participants managed to see a whiskered treeswift and a gibbon on Mr McAfee’s telescope. 2 hornbills flew by at Hornbill Valley but could not be identified as they were too high up. At another spot where hornbills were known to roost for the night, no hornbills appeared although calls were heard from afar.

Day 2

Early next morning, since the boat cruise was to start at 9:30 am, some of us together with Mr McAfee returned to Sungai Buweh Recreational Road for another quick round of birding. We encountered more bird activities that morning compared to the previous evening.

Our scenic journey by speedboats to the Terengganu portion of the Taman Negara took about one and the half hour. At Taman Negara, we trekked about 40 min to a huge Melunak tree, which according to the guide is one of the oldest trees in the country. Along the way, the guide also showed us wild boar and tapir footprints near a stream. We had packed lunch before taking a short boat ride to Bewah Cave where we were greeted by strong smell of guano (bat droppings usually found in caves). From the jetty, one has to climb steep stairs to reach the cave entrance. Once in the cave there are raised walkways and solar powered lightings to enable visitors to see the beauty of the cave with formations created by stalactites and stalagmites. It was in this cave that archaeologists discovered human remains dating back over 16,000 years. Near the floating jetty at Bewah Cave, we spotted a lovely blue bird, a Blue rock thrush which is not often seen except near caves.

Although the event officially ended upon returning to Gawi, Mr McAfee offered to show us a newly discovered Great hornbill nest.  All of us were very excited at the prospect of seeing a Great hornbill’s nest.  At the site which was not too far from Gawi, we waited for quite a while for the Great hornbill to appear. Unfortunately, we did not see any Great hornbill except for a tall tree with a narrow slit midway on the tree trunk.

As we did not want to miss the opportunity in seeing the nesting hornbill, my wife and I decided to stay another night at a nearby kampong homestay. Later that evening we went back to the site and after waiting for a short while, the male Great hornbill came briefly to feed the female inside the nest through the slit on the tree trunk.

Day 3 (Extended)

Next morning, we did not have to wait long before the male hornbill arrived and this time it stayed longer. It flew to the nest 3 times to feed the female. It perched on nearby branches in between feedings which gave us many rare opportunities for taking photographs. In total, we counted more than 60 regurgitated red fruits (most likely fig) were fed to the female during that morning visit. After that we returned to Sungai Buweh Recreational Road for a final round of birding before leaving Tasik Kenyir for our next destination, Pulau Kapas.

Overall, it was a memorable and fruitful birding trip despite it being an unplanned outing. Tasik Kenyir definitely deserves better attention from birders and nature lovers; especially locations that can be easily accessed by land.

Other places of interest and related information

A.     By land

  1. Elephant Village located opposite Bukit Lawit, 2 km from Gawi. Here relocated elephants are kept in a large forested area with a river. In the afternoon visitors can watch elephants bathing in the river.
  2. Felda Aring Road or the main road from Gawi to Felda Aring, Kelantan (and further on, Gua Musang) is also a good way to see some wildlife and beautiful view of Tasik Kenyir (at 50km from Gawi). Birdwatchers can stop anywhere along the way to view forest birds, raptors and hornbills.
  3. Rafflesia can be found at Bukit Lawit with several known locations. However, you will need to find a guide to show you the sites as there are no signage or trails.
  4. A new bridge has been constructed to link up Gawi to Poh Island where it will soon serve as the main entry point to Tasik Kenyir with a modern jetty, a duty free complex and a new hotel expected to open soon.

B.     By boat

  1. Kelah Sanctuary is a 45 min boat ride from Gawi. Located on the upper reaches of Sungai Petang. After a 20 min walk visitors can sit on the river and feed the fish.
  2. Lasir Waterfall is 15 min boat ride from Kelah Sanctuary and is the largest easy access waterfall in Kenyir.
  3. Saok Waterfall is smaller than Lasir but much closer to Gawi (15-30 min boat ride). Here visitors need to climb stairs to reach the waterfall.
  4. Herbal Island is a 10 min boat ride from Gawi and the island has been planted with a variety of traditional plants with medicinal properties.
  5. Butterfly Island is 10 min from Gawi and has a collection of butterflies housed in aviary houses where visitors can mingle with free flying butterflies.
  6. Fishing is permitted and very popular at Kenyir. There are operators who specialize in fishing outings in small boats and houseboats.
  7. Houseboats are good for large groups that want to spend more time on the lake. The houseboats can reach all the lake destinations but travel much slower.


I would like to thank Mr Anuar McAfee who has graciously allowed me to use materials from his short write-up on Tasik Kenyir that he has shared with me. And, most of all for showing us the hornbill nest which enabled us to have the rare opportunity to witness at close range a male Great hornbill feeding its mate in an enclosed nest. 

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