Nice report, Jonathan!
Too bad not everything worked out in your favour.
It reflects my experiences in this park. On many of my visits there was some sort of group around, often students, occassionally 'VIP' guests of the big boss.
Since there is not much to do, even if there is just one other group in the park, it could ruin your plans. They always go to the first tower, Haw Nok Yeung. I think it is the most productive for Banteng, but I have seen this species at all three towers. When these groups visit, you are either not allowed to go, and even if you are, it is the question if you really want to. Though, the students usually leave early, 16:30, so that means there are still 2 hrs of light for things to get quiet and animals to get back. On my last visit Banteng came out as early as 14:30, that coincidently was exactly the time when we walked out of the forest under the tower. I was surprised to see the Banteng that early, and they were just as surprised and ran off. But they came back a couple of hrs later.
Typically Thailand! that the employees of the bank are allowed to just walk around in the clearing. The rangers are not afraid to tell us what we can not do, but they won't dare to say it to bank workers ;) . Time to get a job at a bank, haha
And often the home of the tiger trail is walked by these groups and that indeed includes walking into the clearing to the mudpool/ salt lick.
The only place that seems to stay clear from these groups is the Haw Thon Peung, the second tower. Not sure which ranger you've asked, but I've had a similar reply in the past from one of the rangers. A ranger that instead accompanied us to the Haw Nok Yung, 1st tower, but wanted to leave at 16:30 and did not let us stay longer. I've learned not to ask him anymore, haha. Though, I have to say he was the most cautious when walking up to the tower and when staying in the tower. But leaving at 16:30 is just way too early IMO.
You need patience, and swallow a lot of frustrations when visiting this park, haha, but still I believe it is worth it!
I'll be back there in a couple of days.
BTW, I think the rabbit is a Burmese Hare, but I might be wrong... I've seen it run off a couple of times, but did not get to photograph it.
Looking forward to your images!