Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s oldest National Park, and a World Heritage Site.
We spent 2 and a half days exploring the area, including spending one night camping in the middle of the park.
On our first afternoon our guide took us to a protected cave, where we could see millions of bats roosting in the caverns. It was incrediable – being this close to them, hearing their high pitched sonar chit chat.
Our guide also located two tarantulas which was pleasant!
We caught a tantalising glimpse of the cave’s local boa constrictor – the part i saw before it disapeared into a hole was huge! With all these bats around no wonder it looked so well fed.
At dusk we watched the spectacular display of the bats leaving for their nightly forrays – we have seen this twice now and it never fails to impress.
There were three eagles busy picking off the stragglers, watching them hunt was brilliant – they’re so quick and agile.
The next day we headed off into the National Park with our group, in the back of a 4×4 pick up truck. We were all excited and apprehensive as to what we might see – as it’s dry season it is notorioisly harder to find the animals, who dissapear into the depths of the forest in search of shade and water.
Our guide informed us that there were elephant heards in the forest, however she hadn’t spotted them recently, also the shy wild dog which she hadn’t seen since last year. There are apparently still tigers in this park although no one has seen any evidence of them for a few years.
As we were driving into the park we saw a Hornbill flying in the distance – a good sign of things to come!
We kitted up – leach socks on, lots of water and mozzie spray, and off we went for a 4 hour trek.
Within the first 10 minutes we had our first stroke of luck…..
we are all happily walking along, eagerly following the calls of a gibbon we can hear in the vast canopy above us, when suddenly our guide starts urgently whispering to us to go back – an elephant is up ahead! There is some confusion at first as the complete message doesn’t reach the back of our line, people are just told to ‘ssshhh’ – suddenly we hear the crashing of undergrowth up ahead of us – there actually is an elephant up there! We couldn’t quite beleive it – our first 10 minutes!
We all back-tracked a little, and crouched together and waited.
It was a large male, on his own, eating everything in sight. Our guide informed us that we were lucky he was eating as he would be concentrating on his food more than us. As our eyes adjusted to the foilage infront of us, this beautiful animal came into focus.
We watched him for some time, and he gradually came out of the undergrowth and ambled down the path ahead of us. What a sight! He was so well camouflaged too.
So we continued our trek in high spirits – we lost the gibbons who had obviously made a swift exit as the elephant gatecrashed their morning chorus, but we had a throughly enjoyable day spotting some colourful birds, plenty of deer, and just enjoying the beauty of nature.
Later on at about 5pm, we were on our way to our campsite when our guide got information about another elephant which had been spotted nearby. We sped along to track it down – and suddenly emergency braked when it appeared strolling down the road! This one was another male on his own, and he had only one tusk. Out in the open you can appreciate just how huge these animals are – we are so insignificant compared to them. We watched him on his dusk stroll, he kindly let us all take many pictures of him – what a sight he was.
We arrived at the campsite exhausted but in awe of the day.
Our tents were set up by a lake, with a view of the thick forest on the opposite side. There were deer everywhere, enjoying the cooler temperatures for grazing. They weren’t fazed by our presence at all.
We ate our curry under the stars, enjoying the noises of jungle.
We woke about 3.30am to the sound of panting outside our tent, which we later found out from our guide was most probably a porcuipine! We didn’t have a look – i don’t think suddenly unzipping your tent and startling a possibley dangerous animal is a sensible thing to do?!
The jungle’s inhabitants woke up about 5/5.30am, with an exotic chorus of bird song and monkey hooting.
After breakfast, and sharing eachothers nighttime expereinces (it seems we all hears the panting), we were back in the 4×4 and off to find the gibbons before they took refuge from the midday heat.
We were in luck again it seemed – just as our guide decided we may have to try another area as it was a little quiet where we were looking, hooting erupted from the surrounding trees. We had found them, or more likely they had found us!
Our guide started running through the undergrowth on hot pursuit – and we followed! We were rewarded with our efforts – a family of black gibbons were swinging through the trees, hooting and singing. Such a mesmorizing sound. We then realised that the reason for all their hooting was because a white gibbon was in a neighbouring tree, maybe encroaching into their territory. The black gibbons also had a young baby in their group so they were being protective too. Fascinating to watch.
We left our gibbon family and continued our trekk for the day – another 4 hours. We headed to a renowned location for crocodiles. Now as it is dry season, many if the rivers and streams have dried up, so there aren’t many places a croc can hide….you may think! They proved to be very hard to spot, we were looking for a good hour or so. We saw some lizards, dragonflies, and birds along the way, but no crocs….until our eagle eyed guide spotted one across the river! You would have just seen a half sunken log if you weren’t looking closely – the camoflage is outstanding! We were in for another treat however – it started slowly swimming towards our side of the river, and stopped next to what we thought was a boulder in the water. Whilst watching the croc we noticed alot of flies around it, and as the croc moved it knocked the boulder…and a deer’s head floated to the top of the water!
It wasn’t a boulder but infact a very bloated deer carcass – the crocs lunch! While we are all still reeling from the fact we had been staring at this deer for ages not realising what it was, the croc took a bite from it’s stomach, and dragged out some intestines. It then swam away with the ‘snack’ trailing behind it. In an attempt to tear the intestines up a little so it could swallow it, the croc rolled over, then came up to the surface of the water and snapped it’s jaws shut.
We were all so amazed at what we had just witnessed – feeding behaviour you only ever see on television. Just awesome!
We had all been so lucky – even our guide hadn’t seen the crocs feeding before.
On our walk back, the river gradually dissapeared to the odd puddle, and we walked along the dried riverbed inspecting the small rock pools which are the only remainder of the river which flows through here in rainy season. Plenty of tadpoles and small fish to be seen, waiting for the rains to start. Quite a surreal feeling actually, walking along a riverbed!
Just when we thought we had used up all our luck, we got another lucky break. We had just stopped for lunch when a ranger saw our guide and told her a wild dog had been spotted nearby – naturally we left our lunch and went to investigate! Across the river, we could see the wild dog – she was resting in the shade.
However she was quite skittish so heard us and ran off. We decided to make ourselves comfortable and wait it out – we had a feeling she’d be back. After about 20 minutes she returned, and settled in. Now our guide was very excited as she hadn’t seen a wild dog since last year – notoriously shy carnivores, they are rarely spotted. We watched her for a while, and enjoyed this rare sighting. We think she was pregnant as her belly looks a little large and her teats swollen.
Just to top our amazing couple of days, the one tusked elephant made another appearance, at the same time and same place as the day before – he obviously likes his routine!
On our drive back to our lodge on the outside of the park, dodging the macaque families strolling across the roads on their evening food jaunts, the feeling of just how privileged we all had been really set in.