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Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014

26 Aug 2014 21:59 - 16 Sep 2014 13:20 #2199 by jonathanbkk
Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014 was created by jonathanbkk
Well I finally had a mini vacation from work and decided to go up to HKK for a 4 day trip during the rain season so I thought I would write up a trip report for the benefit of all

As previously listed Lan Sak is the closest town to HKK thus I drove up Friday night and stayed in a hotel in town as well as hit up the Mini Tesco Lotus for last minute things. My plan is to camp 3 nights and so needed enough supplies to supplement the very basic food that the headquarters has. A massive storm hit Friday night with high winds and a heavy rain, good decision

Saturday - Arriving at the park at 5:30 am I was surprised when the ranger said that there was a "bus" coming that day for KTB bank, I thought the rain would keep the park somewhat empty...wasnt going to happen.

Started off the morning on the Khao Hin Daeng trail to compare rain season vs when I have usually seen it in dry season, a great trail to warm up on.

Afternoon we drove down to Haw Nok Yeung tower but was told the KTB people had walked all over the land and there most likely would be nothing to see that day. Seeing this I drove back and I went over to the tower off the Home of the Tiger Trail. After setting up my camera and seeing a few Sanbar arriving I saw a ranger leading 30 of the KTB staff right into the mud hole and into the field at 5pm! why are they doing this now? With the area totally blown with human smell, I packed up and left.

Camping was a bit of a blowout as well, with an evening rain I found an overhang and two others requested to join after seeing a hard rain start. I reluctantly welcomed them in only to have them stay up till 2am and then snore so loud it was hard to hear anything else.

Sunday - early morning we drove down to Haw Nok Yeung and with the gate open drove in. I had previously got permission at the second gate to go at the request of the ranger the day before. Spent the day here seeing a herd of Bateng and Green Peafowl, both seemed skiddish and didnt get that close to the tower itself.

Ranger mentioned that there was a decent Tiger and Leopard population in the area and he was seeing them both as frequently as weekly walking past his station. He even told a story of having 10 students and seeing a tiger walk not farther than 150 meters away, what luck for the students! All these stories inspired a full day at the tower.

Sunday night camping was completely quiet of people but absolute chaos for animals. to start I was awoken by a herd of pigs over 20 deep surrounded my tent area hoping for a hand out, it got a bit nerve wracking as they seemed intent. Secondly a pack of dogs decided to sound off, guessing they were Jackals but could have been Dholes. This and other predators moving around caused more Sanbar barks than I have ever heard, and caused several deer stampedes around the camp ground (eventually a large group posted up 20 meters from my tent for about an hour). Saw two types of Civet cats to add to the night list. So many night sounds makes this place an A+ for camping on the wild side!

Monday I went back to Haw Nok Yeung again and saw the same animals as previously, hoping to add Elephants. To note I asked for permission to visit Haw Thon Peung for Monday but they declined it, saying there were fallen trees in the road.

Night time was just as chaotic, including seeing a rabbit, and two Jackals out and about. Being completely alone you could really feel the circle of life happening in the park, I can only imagine leopards, dholes, and tigers moving the edges of the headquarter area triggering skiddish prey. Somewhat off in the distance around 1am we heard the panic and probable death of something, causing another deer stampede. No idea what it was but it had a major wow factor!

Tuesday we woke up early and decided to walk the road next to the parking lot after gate two which leads to Haw Thon Peung tower. This is a great road, lots of animal tracks even after the recent rains, although a bit confusing we managed to find the tower which had a 12 deep Bateng herd with a few recent calves and a few Pea Fowl which quickly saw us and flew out. Managed to take photos about 25 min before I was spotted and the alarm call given for the herd to disappear into the jungle. On the way back saw 4 Gibbons, havent seen them previously in HKK.

I should mention that as far as towers go, if you dont have a "golden ticket" your really only restricted to the tower at the Home of the Tiger trail. You can request access to Haw Nok Peung tower at the second gate guards (best if its the day before) and they will inform the Ranger there your coming. This seems quite simple a high percentage chance of them saying yes to you visiting. As I mentioned I was denied to drive to Haw Thon Peung and rightly so, you really will most likely need a 4x4 and probably a ranger to show you the way. The walk is 2.5 km, 30 minutes if you walk fast, or up to 1 hour if you stop to look at tracks. There also seems a strong chance you could also run into Elephants on this road, be advised. If you just "walk it" without permission like I did you are risking issues with the Ranger, but seeing the first 0.5 km the day before, one I was willing to take

I have a few pictures to add later this week

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26 Aug 2014 23:47 - 27 Aug 2014 00:20 #2200 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
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!

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27 Aug 2014 08:37 #2202 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
Great trip report and info, Jonathan! Keep em coming!

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27 Aug 2014 15:05 #2205 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
Yes I have some experience with Rangers over the years and funny how the same lines come out from them. The Elephants always seems to be the default, but once did get Cobra nests as an excuse, that was different. I seem to get unlucky with talkative rangers or ones that cant sit still in towers, consequently not seeing much. While on trails I have sometimes had to ask if we could be "more quiet" but that rarely works long. The Ranger at Thon Peung was a very nice informative guy though I must say, brought him food on the second day for all his help.

For the Banteng at Nok Yeung the first day they appeared at 1:30, about an hour before the rain started and then again towards 4:30. They were scared off by the Double Decker tour bus honking its horn on the way out the first time. Second day they didnt show up at all due to them repaving the roads and all the heavy machinery involved in that process (roads looked fine to me). For Thon Peung they were there when we arrived at 8:00am which was surprising, both second gate rangers said "there is nothing to see at Thon Peung" on top of them remarking about fallen trees in the road

Heads up and you may already know but they are ramping up for the big party this weekend at HKK in honor of Khun Seub and they are expecting possibly hundreds in attendance. There was a lot of basic maintenance going on when I left on Tuesday for it starting on and around the 29th of this month.

I do believe you are right on the burmese hair, funny part was I thought I had inadvertently caused an issue with the Jackal and the Hare while shining a light on both, luckily it didnt trigger a hunt response nor affect one to my knowledge

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27 Aug 2014 18:54 #2206 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
Yes, it always amazes me. One moment they tell you there is nothing to see, next time they advise you not to go due to the danger of elephants.
Are they really told by the superintendent to say these things?
I like the Cobra-nest-excuse, almost can not believe they made that up..., then I would definitely have entered! Never found a King Cobra nest, but really would love to see it.

It's indeed hard to find a quiet ranger, and that's one of the reasons I always try to go by myself.
In HKK I like the ranger called P' Hua. He likes to talk, but has been helpful for us. And when we visited a tower with him, he just took a seat somewhere in the back and either quietly looked around, or fell asleep, haha.
On our visit to Phu Khieo a ranger showed us around on the trail to the Mon Lake. I really don't see the need for a ranger to come along on a track wide enough to drive by car, but well we were new there and tried to stick to the rules for as far as possible. It was a very friendly man, 20+ yrs experience, but despite this he had little knowledge about the animals. Even basic knowledge about e.g. which primate species occur there was something he did not know. But he was very interested, an avid national geographic watcher ;) . He hasn't been quiet for a minute. My wife fueled him maybe, haha. While they were talking I tried to walk as far ahead as possible to stay ahead of the talking, haha. It was just an inspection trip, and i basically just wanted to judge the forest quality and look for some tracks, find proof there would be wildlife. Was not too much bothered by it. He still had some interesting info to share about the park. Despite him talking, still got to see several animals. And found out it was a very interesting area. Next time hopefully either without ranger, or with a quiet one.

Thanks for notifying me about the Seub festival. Somehow I thought this had already been a few months ago, but apparently I was wrong.
I'm very bad at these things. What a terrible planning!
I will go anyway, but at least this will save me half of the frustration, just knowing it up front and being prepared I won't be able to do what I plan to.
Am interested to see though how busy it will get.

I had plans to put up some shade cloth (permanently) to make sure wildlife can not see if there's somebody in the tower. That will allow some more freedom to move around.
Somebody on this forum actually asked if this would be neccessary. At that point I thought it would be easy to just hide behind the screens, but if you are sitting there for many hours, a bit more freedom to move around, stretch your legs, would be pleasant so this should help.
I plan to do the Haw Ton Peung tower because I believe this is the most interesting place; most quiet, and I've found Tiger tracks in the area, and both a researcher and a ranger told me about tiger and leopard visiting the area; their personal observations, and by camera traps.
But if I still have enough shade material left, I might do the same at the other two towers. But obviously I will have to discuss this with the rangers. Hope they are not too busy with their Seub memorial weekend... Or actually maybe it's better if they are busy, as long as they don't visit Haw Ton Peung ;-)
We'll see how it goes.

BTW was the info about the fallen trees, true? You told you walked the trail. Anyway, don't mind to walk, or perhaps drive half of the trail by car.
Your expectation of elephants in this area is sure correct. I've seen elephant a couple of times at this tower. Not on the actual track, but can imagine that would be quite a bit of a problem. Well, I'm prepared to take the risk that one day we will get a dent in our car...

And interesting to learn that the Banteng came out that early, 13:30. I haven't really tried it at the middle of the day. Good to know there is always a chance.

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27 Aug 2014 19:48 #2207 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
The King Cobra nesting excuse was for the Huai Pratun waterfall in Khao Yai, I to have wanted to see it as well as I have never seen a king cobra as of yet

Thon Peung road was pretty much clear all the way from the second gate parking lot, didnt show much of any sign of anyone driving it as of recent. There is a tree down about 200 meters before the tower but thats no real issue.

I took the left turn with the tree marked "33" before the second gate and within the first 100 meters there was a tree down, but with some simple work I was able to pass it (I think the rangers left it down for their "excuse"), the issue for my truck was the stream crossing about 1km down that road. Seemed that the bumps and water cut sides were a bit too risky so I turned around. I do think now I could have made it but I wasn't knowledgeable at that time on how far I was away from the Thon Peung tower and wasnt interested in getting stuck.

I think you would be safe taking that 33 Tree left turn, crossing the stream and at that left turn 200 meters at the top (where 3 roads converge 200 meters after the stream) and parking there. I timed it to be a 15 min walk from that point to the tower. Also to note from the second parking lot, its a 30 min fast walk to Thon Peung tower, and 45 min-1 hour if your like me and get stuck looking at all the animal tracks accumulated in just one day between the rains (this road seems to be an animal highway).

Shade cloth is a great idea, they have it at Nok Yeung and that ranger says its necessary for the Peafowl or they simply wont come close. Thon Peung has nothing at the moment and it needs it to settle for a bit. Apparently when they put it in at Nok Yeung it took a few days for the animals to adjust to it (especially the peafowl). I dont think the animals at Thon Peung see people very often, even more need for it. Heard the same thing about Thon Peung about the tigers and leopards, I am also keen to spend more time there if I can.

On a side note the ranger at Nok Yeung said he had weekly been visited by a herd of 6 elephants, that got too curious and caused him to sleep in the tower twice so far lol. He has a log he keeps of what times the Banteng are arriving, it seemed to change daily with the elephants arriving every few days to a week. He also mentioned there were 3 herds of Banteng that arrive, almost always only one at a time interestingly so that increases your chances as well. Couple of their calves are very young and amusing to watch as they bounce around. There is also a new born hog nosed dear at the camp grounds, very cute and photographic, hoping she can fight the odds for these first few weeks.

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28 Aug 2014 08:46 #2208 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
I got the idea for shade cloth from my last visit to the Nok Yung tower, ;)
The peafowl are quite skittish, but I think especially the fact that the shade cloth was moving a lot in the wind is what might have caused it to take more time for them to adjust to it.
I was planning to tie it up a bit better to prevent it from moving around too much. Not sure if that is going to work out, but we'll see. The wind is my biggest fear, will it stay permanently or just gets ripped apart... We'll see.

That little stream crossing on the track to the Ton Peung tower has caused me some trouble on my very first HKK visit. My license plate broke. But on the last visits I noticed they had fixed the road a bit (and I brought a differnet car that has higher clearance), but I suppose that with the rains it must have gone back to bad again...
I will see how far we get, and just park and walk the remaining distance. There are not so many big trees around there so maybe it works to just bring a saw and clear the road by myself?

Last time I indeed did see a herd of Banteng with two young calves, and was lucky when later a large solitary bull Banteng walked out into the open.
Thanks for the tip about the young Hog deer, I will try to get some shots of that.

Good luck with finding your first King Cobra ;)
Difficult snakes to find. I've met Matt Goode in Khao Yai, a researcher who has done some radio tracking research on King Cobras in India together with the most well-known King Cobra researcher Rom Withaker. And right now the same thing is going on in Sakaerat near Pakthongchai. He just came to Khao Yai for a visit not research.
It's amazing what they've discovered with that project in India. He told me some Kings have territories of up to 50km2 ! So no wonder you hardly see them.
I've been lucky quite a few times, but there is hardly a pattern in when and where. Well, perhaps piles of dead branches are good in the mornings, maybe used as hiding spots for the night, and then they bask nearby before going out on the hunt. And most of my sightings were near streams/ rivers. I've seen some juveniles, which are very pretty! But never a nesting site... Would love to get a picture of that with a female guarding it.

Thanks for your info, I will jump in my car later this day and see for myself.

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03 Sep 2014 00:04 #2251 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
One of the shots from Thon Peung tower shot from the ground floor and even hidden behind the bathroom they still found me and ran soon after this picture was shot

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03 Sep 2014 00:11 #2252 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
Mother and calf relaxing, she has already seen some of my movements but has not yet sounded the alarm


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03 Sep 2014 00:17 #2253 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Huai Kha Khaeng Trip Report - August 2014
Quite close to my camera, very surprised they didnt smell me


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