I had made a brief stop here in the past so knew how to get there and where to camp.
Stopped at visitor center and was told just drive the 14km up through the forest to Glang Dong, ranger station 4 where we set up camp close to the toilets. They told us someone would come round and collect entry (200b) and camping fees which they did on the second day.
Power is by generator in the evenings and water supply comes from a spring a fair way up the hill.
Extensive camping area and several houses for rent, main places of interest for birds are around the camp area in the morning, Gaur Plain morning and evening and up the track to the water supply and beyond.
As this is the same forest as Tap Lan and Pang Sida there are many animals present. We were told that Gaur and deer at times come down to graze the camping ground and I saw tracks of Gaur and deer on the track to the carved stone and up the water supply track where I was barked at by a Muntjac, I also saw Elephant droppings close to the water supply spring.
There is a 600m nature trail through what is called dwarf or drought forest it is an easy gradient and easy to follow, the information boards are great with both Thai and excellent English I learnt a lot from them about this very different type of forest. I can tell you it’s not very often I get to write something like that about a nature trail.
The track to the water supply is up quite an easy gradient and easy to follow, from there it is supposed to continue to lookout spots on top of cliffs but I failed to find the track from there on. I got brief glimpses of a group of Fireback on the way up and another ran down the track ahead of me on the way down. The forest changes at higher elevations to mature evergreen with many birds, that area needs more exploration time than I put in.
Gaur Plain is an interesting area with a drivable road right round and a pond in the middle. I spent most of the mornings and evenings there and saw a lot of birds including House Martin flitting around for most of the day and at least 3 different species of Swifts in the evenings. Also good numbers of Venous-breasted Starlings which are a new species for me.
A lot of Red Junglefowl in the area and on the road a Simese Fireback and the biggest Clouded Monitor I have seen.
There is a drivable track off the road to a group of odd trees that look like cactus or succulents which continues on to a carved stone. There are also many tracks on both sides of the road which go to areas that are in the process of being reforested, the boss man told us they are using a lot of fruiting trees to attract birds.
The park continues to the east on the other side of the main road (348) and goes right to the Cambodian border, there is a road (3446) through this part of the park whether it is possible to go there and explore that road I don’t know for there are said to still be a lot of land mines in that area.
We were talking to the staff at the visitor center on the way out when there was series of crashes on the road, an 8 car nose to tail pile up, someone’s Songkran stuffed up right at the start.
A place I will definitely want to return to possibly with a visit to Pang Sida then on to Ta Phraya.
Asian House Martin
Thick-billed Green Pigeon
Vernal hanging Parrot
Khao Soi Dao Wildlife sanctuary 11th to 14th April 2018
Arrived there 2 days before the start of the Songkran holiday and set up camp close to a toilet block near the HQ to be as far away from water throwers as possible. Good toilets and showers, mains power with plenty of lights at night.
No charge at the gate someone will come round later, they did and told us not to walk around at night as it was dangerous. Seems there are farang who go there looking for animals after dark and the staff don’t like this practice.
Had a drive round to work out where the trails I had read about were so I wouldn’t be hunting around next morning for places I wanted to go starting with the nature trails.
After walking the road to the waterfalls before the barrier opened I started on the new (2015) nature trail, Information boards are unreadable, got to the forth which was broken by a windfall, shortly after that the trail disappeared against a fence which I presumed had once been a captive breeding pen. Decided to head up a dry stream bed in the hope of finding a waterhole which may be a bathing and drinking place, no such luck so back down to have a go at the old nature trail, on the way I spotted the fifth information board, broken, almost covered by vegetation against a large tree.
If the new nature trail was derelict it didn’t take much imagination to work out what the old one would be like and after crossing a rickety swing bridge I didn’t have to go far to find out. This time the stream had water in so I followed it for a way and found a bathing place but seemingly for bulbuls only.
Back at camp there had been more birds visiting a fruiting tree above the toilets than I had seen all day including a group of Dusky Broadbill a bird I had wanted to get photos of, Ying got the photos while I got very little.
Next morning I had planned to climb up the waterfalls which as a mistake as it was the first day of Soongkran and the hoards arrived. So after a wander around it was back to camp where all the birds were yesterday well they must have gone somewhere for Songkran as they never appeared that day.
Late afternoon a group arrived and set up camp almost on top of us, in spite of being told by a staff member who came round to collect camping fees to be quiet and respect others they talked and laughed loudly till late. I eventually got pissed off with the noise and told them to shut up which surprisingly they did.
In the morning I again set out to walk the road to the waterfall car park but was soon overtaken by chatterers so it was back to camp and pack.
Food and snacks are available close to the gate and outside there are stalls selling food fruit and other things.
I should go back there at a better time but after that experience. Well we will see.
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Barwinged Flycatcher Shrike
Chinese Pond Heron
Crested Serpent Eagle
Thick-billed Green Pigeon
Vernal Hanging Parrot
I had thought that as this is about as far from civilisation as it is possible to get without ending up in Cambodia or falling in the sea that it may be free from Songkran revelers. Mistake, I should have known with Namtok (waterfall) in the name it would be an attraction for water throwers.
We arrived to loud music lots of food at the restaurants and lots of people slopping around in the waterfall stream and were told to set up camp in a building across the stream from all the activity. A good place to camp with tables, chairs and even a large fan to keep us cool, vehicle access was by a rough track that crossed the stream, there are new toilet blocks and new youth accommodation. There are also rental houses down by a pond on the other side of the main parking area.
Next morning I walked up the waterfall track before the gates opened to the crowds, the track is paved with picnic areas up to the second fall, not many venture farther although it is a good enough track easy to follow up to the fifth level and a lookout spot which is the end of the track.
There are several roads to the south shown on Google maps heading to the border and I had GPS marks for them so we went for a drive to explore. The first road has a barrier and army post before the road gets to the forest so that was no go. The second led to a large reservoir and stopped as did the third road we tried.
This place is right on the Cambodian border and has great mature evergreen forest that has potential to hold some uncommon bird species and is one of the few places in the country where the Bar-bellied Pitta has been recorded. However access as we found is not easy with a boat across one of the reservoirs possibly the best way to get into the forest.
There was rain most afternoons and it was amusing to see people who had been throwing water at each other and slopping around in the stream run for cover when the rain started, must be a different kind of water.
This is a place I would like to spend more time exploring and will probably go back at a better time.
Blue Bearded Bee-eater
Great write up Robby! More places for me to follow you to ;+)
FYI the eastern side of Ta Phraya "The park continues to the east on the other side of the main road (348) and goes right to the Cambodian border, there is a road (3446) through this part of the park whether it is possible to go there and explore that road I don’t know for there are said to still be a lot of land mines in that area." is off limits.
I once ended up in it by driving, by accident, across country and through the old refugee camp site - theres a host of military check points if you attempt it by the main road I later found out when leaving. To cut a long story short I was threatened by a drunken black shirt ranger who then shot across my car whilst standing 1 meter from me to prove his point that he was "totally in charge" and any return by me could have the obvious dire consequences.
This was to be our next stopping place, on arrival at the gate I thought I made it clear I wanted to go up to the Buddha footprint hill and eventually after a lot of ‘which hill (mountain), where’ as if they didn’t know, I got pissed off and said we would stay and I would go look the next day. As soon as they had our money things changed ‘you cant go up the mountain the only place you can go is the waterfall’ Happy I was not so we turned round and headed out the gate. I wont be going back.
Khao Sip Ha Chan NP 18th to 21st April 2018
We got about half way there from Khao Kitchakut and it absolutely hosed down so we stayed in a roadside hotel for the night of the 17th. Next morning it had cleared and we drove the 6km up the entrance road arriving at 7am to find nobody at the gate and the barrier up so we drove up the road to the waterfall parking area and looked around for a good camping site. 8am the staff started to arrive and we were told it was dangerous to camp in the camping ground as there were animals roaming around including an elephant that had pushed over a tree just yesterday night ‘see over there’. We were shown an old sala behind the visitor center where we set up camp which suited me as if we can camp in a building I don’t have to set up a full camp.
Then drove up to the waterfall car park and went up to the firth level of the fifteen level fall, quite a bit of birdlife about including 2 hornbill (wreathed?) which stayed out of sight calling to each other across the stream, also some old elephant and deer sign.
Back at camp it would seem I have been assigned 2 minders who explained how dangerous the place was, don’t go here, there, don’t walk around at night, must be at least 2 people go together to the waterfalls, if one gets hurt the other can come back for help. The staff have all recently done courses in first aid and water and mountain safety and are ‘overly cautious’ paranoid even and dumb farang are the most dangerous of all for they know nothing about the animals and the forests and are likely to get lost, injured, trampled by elephants or otherwise killed.
Ying told them of the places we have been the forests we have been to and animals we have encountered but they had their orders so they hung up hammock in the visitor center where they could keep an eye on our camp.
A generator provided power in the evenings and when needed by the HQ and visitor center, a squat toilet served our sala and western style in both the visitor center and a toilet block on the other side of the camp ground.
Next morning I snuck away early when the minders were still sleeping and wandered around the camp ground then across to and around a large grass area and up to what is apparently accommodation although it and the access track don’t look to inviting, sooked a Sambar on the way up and saw several other deer tracks. There is an easily drivable road that goes from the grass area up a valley to more grass areas one of which has an old broken watch tower at one end. I started up this road and got chased down by a minder on a motorbike ‘bai mai dai, bai mai dai, andarai’.
The next morning I had an idea (why didn’t I think of it before) and showed one of the minders my old trail cam and some of the photos it had taken and suggested I put it up the forbidden road. He thought this was a good idea and accompanied me for about a kilometer to the end of the road seeing several birds, a crab-eating Mongoose and fresh Gaur, Deer and medium size cat tracks. I put the trail cam at a salt lick on the way back and next morning I had caught a Muntjak and a pair of eyes that were probably a Sambar, now if I had put the thing there the first night.
In the afternoon I went for a sneaky look up a side road partly blocked with logs that goes off to the left before the waterfall parking spot, this goes for about a kilometer to a stream and possibly farther, some good birds along there as well as a pig wallow, old elephant and deer sign.
Next morning my friendly minder was nowhere to be found seems he got told off for taking me to that dangerous place and reassigned. Told the HQ fella I had to pick up the trail cam and could easy drive there but no I might get stuck on a flat dry road but I was allowed to walk to get it.
There is a nature trail that starts close to the waterfall parking area but as I didn’t attempt to walk it I cant report what condition it is in.
We were told that there are a herd of around 20 Hog Deer that regularly come out to graze at the camp ground at night and a herd of elephants that do a circuit which includes the grass area across from the camp, also a couple of loan elephants including the one that pushed the tree over.
They have an elephant task force squad that tracks the elephant herd and is on call if farmers have problems with their crops being raided, not an enviable job.
The place has some fantastic sunsets, red and gold and in spite of all the ‘danger’ it has an ambience I like and I will be quite happy to go back when possibly some of their ‘keen’ will have worn off.
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Thick-billed green Pigeon
This should really go in other places because it is not a national park but as it is part of the trip I will put it here.
Ko Man Nai Island
I had read a bit about this island which a hosts a turtle conservation and breeding area and is also used as a bird banding site as it is a stopover on a main bird migration route. It also has some resident specialities in particular the rare Fairy Pitta which I was keen to look for.
First job on arrival at the small fishing port of Ao Ma Kham Pom was to arrange a boat to get us to the island and back the next day. Not having been there before it was a matter of asking around and we were put on to a young fisherman who had not planned to fish the next day and would take us there and pick us up for 1500b. A bit steep but after asking elsewhere and being quoted 3000 to 4000b we went with the 1500b and arranged to meet at 7am next morning. We were to find that a group of about 10 others arrived on a bigger boat and if we had got in with them we would have probably got there and back cheaper.
There are tour boats that stop at the island before going on to the 2 other islands but it is not really practical to use them as you are tied to what they do.
After overnight in a basic room at one of the many hotel-resorts we arrived at the pier at 6-30am to find him waiting for us, an ordinary small fishing boat with an inboard diesel motor but OK to get us the 5km to the island on fairly calm sea with a slight swell and gentle breeze.
After being dropped at a beach at the north end of the island I wandered around then did a circuit of the island on the paved walkway getting a few photos and finding my way around. It wasn’t till afternoon that I heard cameras clicking and followed the sound to where some of the group from the big boat were feeding mealworms at a stakeout for Fairy Pitta. I got a few photos from a distance then when the group packed up and left I moved in closer and when a Fairy Pitta arrived I got some really good photos.
The Fairy Pitta stake out is on the right between the two buildings then look to the left.
I then had a look up a track that led up into the forest and to a dam which is the islands water supply. I should have gone up there earlier as I had seen what appeared to be a Pitta fly up the track but well hindsight.
Some of the group were up there at another stake out but I carried on past them and around the dam where there is a noisy colony of Flying Fox probably Pteropus vampyrus as they are said to prefer coastal areas.
Trying to get good photos of Paradise Flycatchers when Ying caught up with me, ‘the boats waiting hurry’ so back to the mainland and the end of a great trip with only a small list of new species but a vast increase in knowledge.