I spent 2 days at Khao Yai national park with the incredibly lovely Greenleaf Guesthouse and tour. Based in Pak Chong, the Greenleaf guys offer reasonable rates for rooms and tours around the park. You can choose a half day tour, a full day tour or take both at a discounted price. You can also arrange to be collected from the bus or train station. Value and service all round. Here’s my account of my days in the wilderness.
I started with the half day tour. The schedule says you will see a natural spring water pool, visit as sacred cave beneath a temple which is home to bats (and other creatures) before watching two million bats exit a cave at sunset. Sounds good, right? It was so much better than advertised. For a start the guides were fantastic. They were knowledgeable and could spot wildlife a mile away. The first cool think was this beetle. Look how unamused he appears!
We spent a little time at the natural spring pool but it wasn’t all that interesting. I’m going to dive into the good bit, the temple cave. The cave really is used for worship and meditation so there were shrines inside. It was pretty warm and stuffy down there. It’s also used by bats as their home. There are a few hundred bats living in the cave. They hang on walls and ceilings but, because of the dark, it’s hard to get a good picture of them. I managed to get a picture of bats in flight which I like but none of them just ‘hanging’ around.
The cave floor was covered in guano from the bats. This is collected every few months and sold. I was impressed with the variety of creepy crawlies we saw in addition to the bats.
The first was a spider. I do not like spiders. They are scary and sinister. This one is a tarantula just sitting around in his web, waiting for a sucker to fly/crawl into his trap.
I was quite brave because I crept right up to the spider in order to take that photo. Points for me!
My bravery didn’t stop though. We found two arachnids in the cave. The first was Glenn (who you just met) and the second was Sid. Sid is as scorpion spider. He has two fake legs that mean he doesn’t look altogether spidery but, he is. I held Sid. In my hand. I didn’t drop him or scream. Here’s Sid.
The creeping and crawling has barely begun dear reader. It goes on and on! Next was a type of centipede. I’ve forgotten the name of this particular centipede so we shall call him Frank. You can tell Frank is as centipede because he only has 2 legs per body section. They’re lovely long legs attached to a svelte, colourful body.
Girly parts of my brain think Frank is a bit of a looker (I mean just look at how he pulls off that colour combination) but the rest off my brain thinks Frank is f?!$#*g scary.
Now, let’s talk about Adam. Adam was the least scary thing I saw over the whole day. He’s a millipede. He has 4 legs per body section. I held Adam for a while. He tickled me terribly. I’m Adam’s pal.
Who’s next? Well that would be Lee! Lee is a very attractive lizard seen here in powder blue and orange. Isn’t he just dashing?!
Here is where I have to halt the personalised introductions because there’s a couple of million bats in the next photo. I wasn’t you to look for the patchy black swirl and line in the sky. That smoky looking line is thousands upon thousands of bats all flying out of their cave to feed.
There were 2 lines. One came from a cave to the rear of the mountain and then joined with the line from the front cave. These two lines streamed from their respective caves for a good forty minutes. In that time we saw approximately two million bats set out in search of an evening meal. We stayed until the sun had well and truly set so that we could witness the feast. Bats dived down very close to our heads in order to eat the flying insects emerging from grassy fields around us. Simply amazing.
Another highlight of being so far away from civilisation was the moon. Just look at this.
Beautiful beyond compare and a great way to conclude a day of terrifying bug hunting.
The full day tour began the next day at 8am. I readied myself for another day if amazing nature. I was not disappointed.
First of all, there were monkeys all over the road. Their novelty soon wore off as there were just SO many of them! This fellow took a liking to us and stalked us down the road for a bit.
The Khao Yai national park is very large but it didn’t take long for our eagle eyed guided to spot some wildlife. To be more specific, it was a great hornbill bird pair, male and female. The male did a rather better job of hiding behind branches and trees than the female so I have a picture of her to share with you.
There are other species of hornbill living in the park but this is the largest one.
Not much further down the road we heard strange calling. Our guide was quite excited because we’d happened upon a family of white handed gibbons crossing the road above us in the trees. There were three in the family: Dad, Mum and baby. We saw them swing right across the top of us. I managed to get this photo of Mum and baby before they vanished into the jungle.
The whole day tour involves a three hour trek through the jungle before lunch and I was obviously anticipating much more nature to attack me. We had been provided with leech socks for the occasion which instantly made me feel at ease…….
Leeches were seen and picked off the socks during the course of the trek but they weren’t the interesting things. About half an hour into the trek, we heard gibbon calls again but, they weren’t from the same white handed gibbon family as before. These calls were coming from a black gibbon family. I couldn’t tell the differene between the two family calls but I could hear the difference in the male and female calls. The males have much shorter, sharper ‘whoop’ noises than the females. The ladies tend to ‘woooooooooooooooooooop’ and the men ‘woop’. Women gibbons like talking as much as all other females it seems. Here’s a picture of a black gibbon making his way through the trees.
I was constantly looking at the trees, vines and plants during the trek as it’s hard to believe that nature actually works like that. I thought a lot of it looked like a film set but, it wasn’t a film set. The beauty of nature had been busy at this jungle for thousands of years. Honestly, just look at this tree branch. It looks like something from a Lord Of The Rings film but it’s real in the jungle!
There were obviously many animals in the jungle. We saw many of Adam’s relatives crawling through the leaves beneath our feet. We also saw an impressive specimen of Sid’s kin. This is Sally. She’s rather more deadly than Sid so we left her alone on her web in what I presume is a foul mood.
Once again, our hawk eyed guide spotted a gem for us. The next picture is of a sleeping snake. It’s a white lipped pit viper and he was snoozing in a tree about 10 feet above the ground. Our guide assured us that the white lipped pit viper is one of the less deadly in the park as you had 48 hours to get to the hospital before the venom would kill you……a cobra’s venom can kill you in 3 hours and they live here too. Fabulous.
We all made it through the jungle alive and not having been attacked by anything. There are still a few tigers and elephants in the park. The tigers are very rarely seen. The elephants are seen more often but still not all that regularly. We did not see either during our trip despite our guides best elephant finding efforts but I was not disappointed at all.
There are other beautiful things see at Khao Yai that won’t poison or bite you. We went to see one of them. It’s a rather lovely waterfall but as we visited in the dry season, it is not as spectacular as it normally is after the rains. I think you’ll agree it’s still a sight worthy seeing.
The Greenleaf guesthouse and tours team truly were faultless. I have not a single bad thing to say about either tour or the guest house room I stayed in. They are all friendly and accommodating. Move over, they truly love their jobs and the creatures they hunt for day in, day out. I cannot recommend them highly enough if you are shopping for a tour in Khao Yai book with Greenleaf, you will not be disappointed.
So that is it, I shall leave my last word to Simon. Here he is, just chilling on my shoulder.