× Note: Sanctuaries are different to National Parks in Thailand, Thailand currently has established 39 sanctuaries and access is more restrictive as their role is as a sanctuary for wildlife rather than a park for the nation. Some sanctuaries do allow limited access to tourists.

Trang to Phatthalung Mountain Trek (Khao Banthat Wildlife Sanctuary)

09 Nov 2021 12:13 #5698 by Paul T
Wow what an experience that must have been for them. That is special.

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10 Dec 2021 09:36 - 29 Aug 2022 23:23 #5712 by wvwv
I got down to Trang again for a few days recently and did quite a bit of hiking and exploring.

First stop Wang Pamek Dinosaur Park, which has a short steep trail through forest up to a viewpoint.  To get to the trailhead you have to go through the dinosaur park which was closed when I went, but staff didn't challenge me when I walked through a side path.  Seems more like a small family run operation rather than a big corporate place with security.  I think the entrance fee is usually about 30 baht.  The 'conqueror' sign is not the highest point, you can keep on walking quite a bit further until you reach a phone mast, but there is no view here unless you are brave enough to climb the mast at least half of the way.  There are lots of mushrooms along the trail and 3 or 4 giant concrete mushrooms as rest areas.



The trail starts behind the shelter/gazebo top left of photo:


I twice went to Thung Yai Arboretum, mentioned earlier.  Big sign at entrance saying closed since April 2021, some people are ignoring it and walking in anyway.  Not sure why closed; staff are still maintaining the gardens.  The skywalk bridge thing is now in disrepair, you can still use it but some handrails and floor panels are missing.  Or you can walk underneath the bridge and then continue on the trail as normal.  Two snakes found, a red-necked keelback and an oriental whip snake.  I think the keelback has a tick or some kind of parasite attached to it.




On the way down to Trang (I started driving from Prachuap) I also found a Malayan Pit Viper beside a rural road when I was taking a long detour to a waterfall.  It's the first of those I've found.  And a tarantula crossing the road too.




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10 Dec 2021 11:18 - 10 Dec 2021 11:58 #5713 by wvwv
The rest of the trip was focused on the Banthat Range again, I really like this mountain range, it's easily accessible and not far from Trang City with lots of waterfalls and streams.  The more I research and explore the more possible trails and routes I find.  It seems like there are at least 5-6 from the Trang side.


I mainly focused this time on Phrai Sawan WF route, which I wrote about earlier.  There has been some serious rainfall this rainy season which was evident throughout the trek right from the start - the path was washed away 50 metres from the trailhead by the river and since it had been a couple of years since I was last here, I couldn't remember where the trail went or which side of the river it was on.  It seemed to just dead end.  A few minutes of head-scratching later I went back to the trailhead and took a left on a less clear trail.  And so I stumbled upon an impressive waterfall not labelled on Google Maps.  Marked on my Google Earth screenshot as 'Waterfall A'.



I am classing this sign as the 'trailhead' as this is the furthest point you can drive a bike to.  But the road isn't in good shape so you might have to park 1-2km before, especially if in a normal car.


Eventually I found the trail (past the part that had fallen into the river), just by luck really.  And from there it is a clear and obvious trail for about 4km, not much elevation gain on this section.  Lots of wild boar activity in this area, I saw a big one which grunted and trotted off sharpish.


Then there are a few stream crossings and either I lost the trail or the trail sort of dead ends here.  I searched around and eventually settled upon a minor ridge trail which has not been used for a long time.  Some old pieces of litter present, but I am fairly sure this is not the correct/current way to go.  The higher I got the less obvious the trail was and eventually it was battling through vines and spiky plants, not recommended.  But by then I was only 1km or so away from the summit so I pressed on.


Because I arrived at the summit via an old trail, there were no dirt paths like those you can easily see from the trek at the start of this thread.  I was expecting to be able to find a dirt path into the forest and take an easier route back down the mountain, but I guess I was at least 500m away from where I should have been.  The summit is covered in tough bushes which are about waist height and can't be pushed through.  It makes it very difficult to move from peak to peak.  I scrambled up a peak topping out at 1139m which was the highest one in the vicinity, getting scratched pretty bad in the process, took some photos and settled on going back down the way I had came.  Entering the forest again (which is more like a wetland/mossy type of habitat once you get over 1000m) and found a viper, pretty sure it's Trimeresurus Venustus - Beautiful Pit Viper.  I found one of these before in Phuket.  Their range seems to be confined to Surat Thani, Krabi, Phuket, Trang and probably some adjoining provinces.



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10 Dec 2021 12:13 - 10 Dec 2021 13:04 #5714 by wvwv
Off to one side of the trail I saw a landslide.  Fed up of battling through the jungle I figured that might be an easier way down.  I think this is actually a stream headwater but there is only water flow when you get part way down, I guess it's subject to amount of recent rainfall.  It is steep in places but definitely the easier way to go.  Further down the incline levels off and it's like an adventure playground for adults, hopping from rock to rock and crossing the stream using fallen trees like balancing beams. I thought this was a snake but then I saw the tiny legs, Lygosoma Siamensis - Siamese Supple Skink?

The amount of fallen trees all around was immense, there must have been a large landslide from near the top of the mountain and on the way down it's taken away sides of the riverbank and all the trees with it.

In summary if you are going to attempt this, and like me you can't find the last section of trail, definitely take the river bed route and bear in mind that the summit is not easily walkable, you can't stroll around.  By the way there were a few leeches in December.  If you are in the area and not interested in a long hike, definitely do Waterfall A, especially during/after rainy season.  It's not far to walk at all.

I will only add a couple of photos of the views because they'll be similar to those earlier in the thread.  The view from the summit is 360 degree and you can see Phatthalung and Trang cities as well as the Gulf and Andaman Coasts on a clear day.

GPS tracks for this trek and the dinosaur/mushroom walk: 


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23 Feb 2022 22:00 - 23 Feb 2022 23:17 #5759 by wvwv
I went down to Phattalung again last week for a trail race.  It was split into 10km, 35k and 60k races, but the organiser had issues with access into the forest.  Some conservationists complained that it would disturb the wild animals and despite the organiser going through all the proper channels in the first instance, the DNP didn't want the bad publicity (it made national news on the TV) and revoked permission for them to use any area within the Banthat Wildlife Sanctuary.  I really felt for the organisers because they'd done everything right and planned months in advance and literally 4-5 days before the event they'd been screwed over.  In the end they basically had to run through farmland and on dirt and tarmac roads and the 60km and 35km races were reduced to 20km in length.  On the image below of the 20km route, that pink line is the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary.

And this is the original route for 60km which goes right into the heart of the forest:

Here is an article (need to translate to English) and there are some wildlife pictures on there too.  mgronline.com/south/detail/9650000012539

I had only signed up for the 10k so wasn't affected too much.  I still had some energy after that so I wanted to check out some of the 60km route (which was still marked with ribbons that the organiser had already put up).  I started walking from the race start/finish area, so I walked further than I needed to.  You could get a car 2km closer, it is a new road not yet marked on google maps.  I'm pretty sure you want to turn off the 4122 at 7.45883836035305, 99.92095830922081 and then just follow the road up.  Half way along that road there is a nice waterfall and rest area but you need to make a slight detour.  Waterfall is at 7.452643004863735, 99.91410605923933 .  All the buildings and infrastructure at the waterfall are brand new at time of writing.


And after the road ends, for about 1km there is a concrete and dirt path wide enough for a scooter which ends at a rubber tapper's hut.  Then you enter the proper forest. 


Further up the road are some nice views.


The road turns to dirt and finally a narrow concrete path which passes next to a final small waterfall.


If you look on the rocks next to the waterfall you might see this hive.


Typical section of trail:


It's a hard trail because of the steep incline throughout.  But not particularly long.  No water sources and a few leeches.

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24 Feb 2022 00:05 - 16 Mar 2022 13:12 #5761 by wvwv
First viewpoint about halfway up the trail:


Just before that viewpoint I found this snake, think it's Ptyas Carinata - Keeled Rat Snake.  I read they have really varied colouration.



And a strange caterpillar:


The final viewpoint on the marked race course which is where I also turned around.  It looks towards the spine of the mountain range which is at a slightly higher elevation than this point:


The trail did continue back into the forest here and I'm pretty sure it goes to the top.


I left a trail camera somewhere along this trail so when I go to pick it up in a couple of months I will try and get to the top and update the thread.

Saw quite a bit of wild boar activity at the higher elevations on this trail.  I was looking out for tapir tracks but didn't see anything.


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30 Aug 2022 01:01 - 30 Aug 2022 03:08 #5870 by wvwv
Here are images/videos from the camera, the batteries lasted 5-6 months so I got a lot of images but quite spaced out, sometimes many days passed between each set of photos, and a lot of the time it was rain lashing the camera and trees swaying in storms that caused the trigger.  No tapir!  Lots of boar, quite a few stump-tailed macaques - Macaca arctoides (they have really red faces compared to the other macaques), 2-3 muntjac deer, a leopard cat, a serow and what I think is a crab-eating mongoose - Herpestes urva.  A lot of diversity.  One of the boars looks to have lost a hoof (see video), maybe in a snare?  I am not sure at adult size if they would have any predators in this forest, and it looks to be an old injury so perhaps it can survive hobbling around like that.









As usual I am not sure on the bird ID but will take a stab at crested serpent eagle?

I did continue on to the Trang/Phattalung boundary.  Those blue ribbons were not put up for the race like I thought, they must have been put there by WS staff to mark the trail, because they continue well off the race course and right to the summit - very handy for finding the way.  There is a cleared area at 7.4546290204410735, 99.88511839018504 which is where I stopped last time and where the race was supposed to start coming back down the mountain.  After that point it was very tough going and the leech situation was really bad.  The path had been hacked out and obviously isn't used much, so although marked well with ribbons it was very slow, almost every step was maneuvering over or around an obstacle.

There are two types of leeches here, the normal brown ones which are on the forest floor and crawl up and over your shoe, going for your ankles, and a yellow striped type called a tiger leech, that one is on leaves and foliage off the ground and always seems to attach itself to your upper calf or thigh, so even if you were wearing leech socks they would not help.  They then crawl up to your stomach, or if you were wearing shorts like I was, under your shorts to probably the last place you want leeches to be.  I think it is Haemadipsa picta.  If you google image them, they are always pictured on leaves, rarely on the ground.  That's my experience too.  I've also found them at Doi Mon Chong amongst other places, that time they were in long grass.  I pushed through 25 metres of long damp grass and had literally 20-30 of them high up on my legs.  I'm itching just thinking about it.

I'd recommend this hike but only to the cleared area.  After that when you enter the forest again the trail becomes too technical and the leeches too many for it to be enjoyable in any way.  Before the cleared area there are very few leeches.  Also wouldn't be possible to get to the summit and back before dark.  I took very few breaks and got out an hour or two after dark, using a torch.

The view from the top:


Phattalung City beneath Khao Ok Thalu karsts, and behind those is Thale Luang/Songkhla Lake (a saltwater lake but with lower salinity than the sea), a thin strip of land and then the Gulf of Thailand 70km away:


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30 Aug 2022 03:28 #5871 by wvwv

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13 Jul 2023 16:51 - 13 Jul 2023 16:58 #5902 by wvwv
Last week I did the full walk over the mountain from Nhan Sataw Waterfall to Phraiwan Waterfall which took about 8 hours.  Plan was to sleep at Phraiwan WF and walk back over again the next day to my bike.  I put my tent up and walked to the toilets and a ranger there offered me some food and quizzed me on the trek, he wasn't bothered about me walking alone but at some point before the next morning he had told his boss and his boss came down and was bothered, he mentioned a fine but didn't fine me, and he also looked through photos on my phone and said I could keep them but not sell them?  I wasn't allowed to walk back over the mountain so instead they asked me for 500 baht gas to drive me back to my bike, which is fair enough because it's about 80km each way.

The 'tiger' leeches are only on the Phattalung side of the mountain range, and they're in an area about 2 thirds of the way up, about 600-800m elevation.  The Trang side only has the normal leeches.

The river you follow on the Phattalung side that feeds Phraiwan WF is bigger than the one on the Trang side that feeds Nhan Sataw WF, so even with the GPS track at river crossings it's not always clear where to reenter the forest on the other side and sometimes you think you should cross but actually the trail is just walking along the side of the river bed for 50m or so, staying on the same side.

When I saw this print I thought tapir and the ranger confirmed it.  The toe either side of the middle toe is much more splayed out than I expected; easy to distinguish from a typical hoof print of boar or deer.  The only thing that made me unsure when comparing with google images, is the heel of the print is not really indented in the sand.







Phraiwan WF above.




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13 Jul 2023 17:06 #5903 by wvwv
The two images below are from the Khao Banthat WS Facebook page, the first one is the Nhan Sataw to Phraiwan Trek, and the second one is the trek near Kong Ra where that trail race was going to run.  They are running both these treks at the moment, I assume you would need to book in advance.


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