20.05.2007 - 20.05.2007 32 °C
There were three of us on our day tour of Khao Yai Nationap Park. Katherine, myself and a sombre Israeli guy called Zach. Our guide's name was Ruang and we had a driver as well. We stopped at the park entrance to pay the fee. Technically, according to Thai law, the fee rises from 200B to 400B for a foreigner in November this year (and from 20 to 40B for locals). But practically, most of the parks are already charging the higher rate. At 400B the park has to be spectacular otherwise I won't be visiting them anymore.
We stopped half way up the windy, steep road to see a clouded (or Bengal) lizard warming itself on a branch. The lizard was 100m across the valley and blended in so well with it's surroundings we wondered how on earth Ruang had spotted it. This was the tone for the day, many times he spotted something that we had trouble seeing, even after it was pointed out to us. Luckily, Ruang had a scope with him that gave great close-up views of the creatures we saw.
Our next stop was at the viewpoint to put our leech socks on. They make you look oh so silly but they are oh so necessary. Nasty, little creatures. Katherine took a liking to them but then she hasn't had one attach to her so you can't get it off.
Then Ruang spotted a hornbill, a Great Hornbill. It was huge and was sitting on a branch outside it's nest. These are the birds where the female encloses herself in a hollow in a tree while she lays her legs and the male feeds her through a small hole. After three months she breaks out with the chicks. So, if the male dies, so does the female and the chicks. We saw the male too.
We stopped again to see a squirrel. Squirrels are quite common and we had admired them at several places include Baan Lotus, right back at the beginning of our trip. But this was a Giant Black Squirrel and it was large, much bigger than the regular squirrels. It was eating fruits on a branch over hanging the road.
A bit further along we heard a family of gibbons so we took a walk into the jungle to hunt for them. (Thank goodness for leech socks as the horrible things were everywhere.) We finally spotted the gibbons, sometimes stationary on the branch, sometimes swinging through the trees. There were at least two black ones and two white ones. The colour of the gibbon doesn't matter, the breeding pair can be any combination of black/white and they produce any combination of black/white offspring.
While we were happily absorbed in watching the gibbons we heard a noise and about 10m away was a black shape on the ground. It was an Asiatic Black Bear. After a moment to admire it Ruang told us to retreat quietly and quickly as the bears can be dangerous. He told us stories of people who have had their faces scarred from the bear raking them with their claws. It was a good sighting though as he has only seen them one or two times before. Later in the day Ruang showed us claw marks on the trees where the bear has tried to get honey or insects from the inside. Also, he pointed out a sleeping platform made by a bear. It was way up high in the branches and there were the distinctive points of bear claws going up the tree.
Next we went to the Park Headquarters for a toilet stop and to look around the Information Centre. We saw an Indonesian Water Dragon (a small one) perched on the end of a branch and some kind of longtail bird (I forget it's full name).
Now it was time for our trek. Katherine had been worried about this but I think Lek from our guesthouse had primed Ruang and we had an easy 6km walk of about three hours. We went slowly so as to spot wildlife but we only saw a horned spider, slaters (curled in protective balls like marbles) and some birds. Ruang did point out mud marks on a tree where a wild elephant had rubbed itself while walking by.
Finally, we came out to the grasslands where it immediately became much hotter. After 10 mins we arrived at a hide at a watering hole. There was a saltlick nearby too, but no animals. They were all on holiday, it seems. The hide was a like a treehouse with small windows to observe the animals. It was coolish with the breeze and we had a rest and ate our lunch. Poor Ruang was carrying our packed lunch (rice and veges), two books on birds in Thailand and his scope.
After lunch and a rest we walked a further 10-15 mins through the grasslands to the road where our driver was waiting. A driver for another company had cunningly slung a hammock between his vehicle and a tree. We drove on to Hew Suwat waterfall slowly so as to spot more wildlife but the only thing of note was a family group of pig-tailed macaque monkeys. Some were swinging in the trees like the gibbons, some were at the side of the road. The alpha male came and did some posturing, checking us out and hoping we would throw fruit. It's a bad practice as they should be fending for themselves but I suspect many people do throw them fruit so they come to expect it.
I had been to this waterfall before, last time I was in Thailand. I think there was less water this time but it is still good to see. We had a drink and a wander around. We took off our leech socks here as we had finished treking for the day. On our way back from the waterfall we stopped to look at a water monitor lizard.
Our next activity was searching for wild elephants. We drove along the road that bisects the park. It goes from Prachinburi Province in the south to Nakhon Ratchasima Province in the north. I biked this road last time so was glad to point out to Katherine the places I had been. I looked very carefully for elephants. There are many trails onto the road. In fact, the road (and the walking trails) was originally an elephant trail. Katherine searched for elephants with her eyes closed so afterwards I told her I had seen three. But, alas, we didn't see any. November is a good time to go, apparently. Ruang said they see wild elephants just about every day then.
We took a side road that goes to a radar station for the airforce and stopped at another grassland area to see if any animals would appear. No, they were still on holiday. We did see a woodpecker and a little bird (I forget the name) chirping away with all it's might. I would expect more animals to appear at dusk but we weren't having any success (just a wild chook and a pheasant and a mongoose, but I didn't see the mongoose). We drove up the windy road to an excellent viewpoint of the setting sun.
That was the end of our day tour of Khao Yai National Park. Now we were on the return journey to our guesthouse. The driver still drived slowly so when I saw two wild dogs I banged on the cab. It was a pair of jackals. Our last animals for the evening.
Our 12 hour tour was definitely worth every baht even though we didn't see snakes, scorpions and elephants. We were very pleased to see the animals we did and would gladly do it again. A fantastic day had by all.