Exploring Thai national parks
Elephants, tigers, tapirs, gaur, gibbon, sambar deer, mouse deer, macaques (monkeys), cobras and hornbills were on our list of animals we would like to see in their natural environment, sadly it isn’t the list of animals we saw though.
Snaking our way north and east through Thailand we visited Khao Sok National Park, Kuiburi National Park and Khao Yai National Park to try our luck (and patience). Almost every national park lists the big animals as their drawcard, but the chance of seeing animals like tigers and tapirs is pretty small. Some say you have a better chance of winning the lottery…
In Khao Sok we took our torches out and went for an early evening walk to a beautiful swim hole, our efforts were rewarded with a great swim, a few monkeys and some gorgeous little frogs, but nothing bigger than that. It was however also a great camping spot, with a great shower (the little river next to our camp site).
Our next opportunity took us to Kuiburi where we arrived too late for the elephant viewing tour, but with the help of one of the tour guides we managed to convince a ranger to take us out the next morning at 6AM.
The ranger is armed, the driver is armed and neither of them speaks a word of English. After about half an hour driving (and spotting a gaur in the forest) we jump out of the back of the ute and our driver disappears. The elephants are not in their usual 2 spots, so we go for a short hike. We spot a mouse deer and a sambar deer. We hear a loud snort and then Jon spots a lone elephant in the bush below us. We are lucky, he is still feeding in the open area and we can easily see him for about 20 minutes before he disappears into the forest.
Khao Yai is meant to be a mecca for wildlife watching with most visitors coming in the weekends from Bangkok. It’s worth avoiding these crowds, but we timed it perfectly and were there with hundreds of Thai tourists.
It’s a huge national park and there aren’t many walks, but we visit some waterfalls, view points and a watch tower. We spot 2 elephants just as it is getting too dark to see anything through the binoculars, so we go to the campsite where we find plenty of deer enjoying the grass of the camp sites and a lone firefly.
We decide to go for an early morning walk behind the visitor centre and strike gold! We can hear their singing during the whole walk, but close to the end we see some movement high up in the trees around us: gibbons!
We watch them and listen to them as they dangle from tree branches and swing from one tree to the next, effortlessly and gracefully with their long arms and legs. With the binoculars we can easily see the details on their cute faces and we spot one female carrying her baby on her chest. Again we are privileged to be able to watch them for at least half an hour, we even manage to take some photos! Pretty hard as they move so quickly and only seem to hang still for a few seconds at a time. One of them hangs in the tree directly next to us and is only about 10m away, wow!
We’ve also made a video about this time in Thailand, it also has our diving in it: Sun, Sea, Sand and Scuba (3.58 min) – enjoy!