Koh Chang National Park

20 Jun 2019 15:42 #5243 by wvwv
Koh Chang National Park was created by wvwv
I go here a lot so thought it was worth a thread...  By far the most pristine large inhabited island in Thailand.  Koh Tarutao is the only other large island that might rival it but no shops or hotels on Tarutao and that's 'closed' in rainy season.  Chang is 7 hours on the bus/ferry from Bangkok (Ekkamai bus station), plus the transit to hotel, so needs a few days to make it worth the travel time (1-2 hours less in a car).  You can fly to Trat but the flights are expensive because Bangkok Airways owns the airport.  Once you've got to the airport flying only saves 2-3 hours anyway.  Some offshore islands are also included within the national park such as Koh Rang which is a great snorkeling spot reached on a daytrip boat tour from Chang.

Koh Chang doesn't have many large wild mammals but has a fairly rare langur - the silvered leaf monkey which can be found deep in the jungle.  It's much more shy than the macaques which hang around by the side of the road.  I've seen it a couple of times walking 2-3km into the jungle from behind one of the elephant camps in Kai Bae.  I've seen hornbills in the jungle interior but not easy to see them here; population must be small.  Other people report seeing boar though I've never come across any.  Park rangers seem mostly concerned about collecting your 200 baht at the waterfalls and local small-scale poaching does seem to be a problem (I've read about hides in the branches of trees where poachers wait for wild boar to come past) and I've seen a few small traps baited with live mice, I think they were after snakes.  Recently I did come across a smart patrol group of 4 rangers in the forest, which was good to see.

I won't list gps files for tracks because there are lots around, try searching gpsies.com .  Also if you download backcountry navigator app (the free version will do) that has some tracks preloaded on the main map display.  Note that none of the trails on Koh Chang are marked and there is little-no enforcement of hiring guides - this means a lot of tourists get lost.

There are a lot of snakes on Koh Chang.  Mountains everywhere means there are so many valleys with streams and waterfalls.  Some scrubland at the bottom of the mountains.  Mangroves... A nice mix of habitats.  It's the wettest island in Thailand; frogs, lizards everywhere.  Lots of snakes means more cobras which eat mostly other snakes.   Most snake hunters find a snake about every 2 hours in Thailand but on Koh Chang you can average about one an hour walking along the streams and driving around.  Locals found a 8 metre python here a few years back which had just eaten a dog:   https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g580110-i20008779-Ko_Chang_Trat_Province.html

The below pics are from various trips over the last few years...


Laotian wolf snake


Caterpillar of atlas moth, found one of these in the mangroves and another in mixed forest near Klong Prao school


A big rhinoceros beetle, these are attracted to the big shops like Big C because of the lights and you can find them dead and dying on the carpark.


green pit vipers, these are really common on Koh Chang and some herpers go there just to find this snake.  I'm not sure which variety it is, possibly white-lipped pit viper.  They are really timid and never strike, you can hold them no problem.  I've found other pit vipers in Thailand like the Phuket pit viper which are much quicker to strike if you touch them with a stick.


You can't get these unbroken forest cover views on any other island in Thailand.  Koh Tarutao has unbroken forest but no viewpoints; it's a flatter island.


Klong Nonsi waterfall, this is the 5th level which is hard to reach.


A view over the west coast.


The water is very clear in Koh Chang streams.  I'm not sure why.  Possibly because most of the water is ground water and not surface run off?  Or maybe because the soil is more packed in by the dense forest and there's less soil erosion.


Another pit viper in front of Kai Bae waterfall.  I didn't put it there, honest.


An Oleander hawkmoth found next to the road.

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20 Jun 2019 16:07 #5244 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Koh Chang National Park

It's not a leaf


Visibility is not usually very good around Koh Chang, but this was a rare day conditions were good.  Koh Rang is a much safer bet.


lesser false vampire bat, found in a drainage tunnel, always a good place to look for bugs and snakes and bats.


jumping spider on a window


golden tree snake


a view from the mountains over Klong Son village.


stick insect, lots of the green ones around but not so many brown ones


brown scorpion.  it was in a kayak which I'd left turned over so rainwater didn't get in. when i turned the kayak over something stung me.  i didn't know what, just that it hurt.  I looked inside the kayak for a while to try and find what it was but after 30 minutes I just started paddling.  Only later did I find the scorpion still inside right next to my leg.  I got it out by overturning the kayak in seawater and then left it on a very long pier with 500 metres to the beach to teach it a lesson.  I've not been stung by a black forest scorpion but apparently their sting is not as painful as the brown ones.


A view over Salakphet Bay.  The very furthest island you can see is Koh Kood, with Koh Mak just in front.  In the dry season you can't see Koh Kood from Koh Chang even with a good zoom because of the haze.

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20 Jun 2019 16:44 #5245 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Koh Chang National Park

A big red tailed racer which had just had it's dinner by the looks of it


this is my mean face


mock viper i think, not venomous


a view across salakphet bay from the scenic road to long beach


banded krait, 2-3 metres long.


one of the mangrove walkways (concrete) and the other atlas moth caterpillar I mentioned


the other mangrove walkway, wooden this time


common keelback at klong neung waterfall, the tallest waterfall on Koh Chang but you have to walk up the riverbed to get to it; no path


a much bigger keelback at klong son


i forget the name of this bug

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20 Jun 2019 22:57 #5247 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Koh Chang National Park
The vipers are Trimeresurus cardamomensis, Cardamom Pit Viper. Closely related to the Large-eyed Pit Viper found a bit further North.

And what you guessed to be a Mock Viper is actually a Speckle-bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis chrysarchos). Some species in that genus, e.g. the Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) have a very potent venom. Not sure if the venom of the R. chrysargos has been tested, but could potentially be quite potent too. But since they lack a proper delivery system, only chance for serious envenomation would be by letting it chew a prolonged period on your finger (or wherever). Not recommended to test ;-) But anyway most species in this genus usually don't bite. But anyway, best to be a bit careful.

Also, I know it is up to everyone to play with danger as much as they wish, it's your life, not mine, but free handling a viper like you do in one of the pictures is NOT recommended.
Again, it is up to you, but it is asking for trouble, and I don't know how far you are from medical care, but not a wise thing to do whilst in the jungle.
Trimeresurus bites are usually not too bad. Most people get away with minor swelling/ scars. But it could get more serious especially when you receive a full dose of venom. I know people who got in anaphylactic shock after receiving antivenom for closely related species, and even though everything worked out fine, it is not something you would want to experience ;-)
Anyway, I assume you knew you were handling a dangerously venomous species, so I guess you know what you are doing. They are usually not too bitey when calmly handled, but still I know too many stories where it went wrong.
So stay safe!

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21 Jun 2019 17:32 #5248 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Koh Chang National Park
Thanks for correction and advice, noted.  The speckle bellied keelback, I've never managed to grab one, they're too fast for me.  I went on a jungle trek a long time ago in Koh Chang and the guide picked one of those up and let everybody handle it, I have the pictures somewhere.

I've found 15+ of the green vipers in Koh Chang (can average one every few hours along the streams) and usually spend a few minutes coaxing them onto a stick and generally gauging their temperament.  I've also seen a dog play with one and carry it in its mouth (without much care) before dropping it to the ground.  I've never seen any of them strike or make any movements like they were going to strike.  They don't seem to have any aggression at all.  I did some basic reading before handling and everywhere said the same thing, similar to you, that their venom is rarely deadly especially to healthy individuals, and that pit viper bites take hours/days to become life-threatening.  So that's good enough for me.  The ones I pick up I always let them get used to me first.  Nearest antivenin is probably Trat hospital a good 1-2 hours away.

Some people talk of unpredictable snakes which change their behaviour quickly like some kraits, I wouldn't get too close to any of those.

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22 Jun 2019 13:14 #5255 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Koh Chang National Park
Of course the choice is yours, it's just that personally I never see the need to freehandle, regardless how small the risk might be. If there's a need to move a venomous snake I will use a hook. But again, that's just me ;-)

But either way nice find. I have never found the Trimeresurus cardamomensis. I never herped in that region. But like you say, I expect it to be easy. Probably same as Trimeresurus macrops. Just a matter of a trip to the right region.
It's a long way from home though and there is not much else in that region that I have never seen. And especially since it is so similar to Trimeresurus macrops the urge is not so strong.
But hopefully I will find myself in the region someday to give it a try.
Actually, those Indochinese Silvered Langurs would be another reason to go, but I expect those to be a bit harder to find.

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22 Jun 2019 17:17 #5261 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Koh Chang National Park
I guess there is a sense of risk when you are holding a venomous snake that gets the adrenaline pumping a little. When we are in the jungle we use 3 of our senses all the time - sight, hearing, smell, but taste and touch more sparingly. Sometimes I find the touch sense to be more evocative than any of the other senses - you can get a totally different perspective on that object than you would by looking.

I like to summit mountains so even though Koh Chang doesn't really have any big fauna, overall with the snakes and general stuff like insects it's a good destination for me. I know the website is called wildlifethailand so it stands to reason, but most of the posters on these boards have a passion wholly for animals; mammals, birds; you can tell with their supreme knowledge and photos. They're perhaps not as interested in the vistas etc.

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23 Jun 2019 11:58 - 23 Jun 2019 13:11 #5263 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Koh Chang National Park

wvwv wrote:

I won't list gps files for tracks because there are lots around, try searching gpsies.com .  Also if you download backcountry navigator app (the free version will do) that has some tracks preloaded on the main map display.  Note that none of the trails on Koh Chang are marked

.


Interesting apps, I did not know about BCN. As I have an apple phone I downloaded the GAIA app because BCN is Android only. Both systems seem to use the same base map. Some places are well represented (Khao Yai, and Koh Chang are) whilst others lack. BUT if they could get their system to work as an export from Garmin Basecamp I would be a happy camper indeed. Garmin Basecamp is slowly dying and these apps seem to be showing the way forward. Cheers I have learnt something today ;+)

If one wanted to visit Koh Chang with a specific side wish to visit the interior, where's the best location to stay (i.e area not hotel/guesthouse)?


__________________

I stand corrected you can import from basecamp ... and for a small fee it all works off line with nice maps and sat imagery as well
Attachments:

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26 Jun 2019 13:42 #5274 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Koh Chang National Park
The trails are really spread all over.

There is an across the island trek from Khlong Phlu waterfall to Than Mayom Waterfall (middle of west coast to middle of east coast or vice versa).
Trek to waterfalls and up mountain from Kai Bae (further down west coast)
Across island trek along south coast going past Wai Chuek Beach, partly along abandoned road (can start from either coast)
Salakphet Peak trek (700m+ elevation), easier to start from Khiriphet Waterfall (south of east coast) but can also be done from Bang Bao (south of west coast), or you can start at one side and finish on the other side.
Khlong Nonsi and Klong Nueng Waterfalls are both short treks on the east coast.
Klong Son trek - turn at the 7 11 in Klong Son Village and drive to end of the road where there is a waterfall (land owner charges 40 baht to walk across their fields). After about the 7th or 8th level of waterfall path starts to travel uphill away from the river and continues uphill for a few hours until you get to the summit.

If anybody wants more specific directions feel free to post below and I'll try and provide co-ordinates for the trailheads. Most trails on Chang are easy enough to follow once you have found them. Most of them are used by private guides almost every week so they're maintained.

The UTKC Trail Race runs every February and this can be a good time to find new trails as they mark the routes with red and white tape every few metres. They take the tape down a week or two after the race.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Paul T

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