The park is the third largest in Thailand. It covers an area of 300 square kilometers, including tropical seasonal forests and grasslands. Its altitude mostly ranges from 400–1,000 m above sea level. There are 3,000 species of plants, 320 species of birds, and 67 species of mammals, recording in this, Thailand's most famous National Park.
Last weekend I was in need of some time alone in the forest so I decided to explore a trail I 'discovered' in the past, but had never followed all the way.
As usual my starting time was not exactly early. It was about lunch time when I entered the park.
I was a little worried about what I would encounter, I had a feeling that this could be a poacher hotspot. And even though I have never been shot at by poachers, it is not the kind of excitement I was looking for. But I had a feeling it could be an interesting area for wildlife watching so I just had to explore it.
It was clearly an area often used by Gaur. Footprints all over the place.
After about an hour the trail lead me to a river. I washed the mud off my shoes and while standing on a little sandbank looking downstream I was thinking this would be a lovely spot to put up a hide and just wait what would come accross. I promised myself to do so in the future.
In the meanwhile I had to get rid of some bodyfluids and when just about finished I see movement on a log in the river.
I was thrilled when I found out I was looking at a Crab-eating Mongoose.
I had only seen this species in Kaeng Krachan, but despite often visiting Khao Yai for the last 5 years I had never seen it here. Only my wife had seen it once in the park, but I missed out.
So untill a week ago I could even say I had seen more Clouded Leopards than Crab-eating Mongoose!
Not sure if they are rare in Khao Yai, or just inhabiting areas that I hardly visit. Or maybe I've just been unlucky... who knows.
The list of medium-sized to large mammals of Khao Yai that I have not yet seen is not so long anymore, so it's getting harder to tick the last ones off. That makes an afternoon like this extra special!
There I was standing at close range watching a group of 4 of them sniffing around, wading in the river, and just doing their thing. Despite me standing straight up, clearly visible, they did not seem to notice me.
I shot some photos, but when I tried to slowly go through my knees to get a lower angle, one of them noticed me and after an alarm they all disappeared into the dense undergrowth.
While flicking through my pics on the back of my cam I heard movement in a tree. A female Pileated gibbon swang by, later followed by the black male that was looking afraid, but at the same time curious about that strange primate with that camera in front of his face.
Got a couple shots before also he disappeared.
Back to business, I kept following the trail. Not even 100m further down the trail I heard some squirrels quarreling.
On the forest floor I found fresh fig fruits. So I looked up and happened to look straight at a Binturong taking a nap on one of the fig's large branches. Great!
So within half an hour, and not exactly at prime wildlife watching time (at least not according to 'the books'), 14:00 - 14:30, I ticked off three species that are usually not so easily seen.
That was the good part of the afternoon.
Next I continued but only to find the trail was getting less and less clear. My GPS showed another trail to the West so I decided to head there and see from there.
Next thing I see two little tree stumps cut with a saw. And a little bit further I found a poacher's camp. There was nobody there, but it seemed like it had been used multiple times, and there were some recent (as in week(s)) old tracks.
Sad to see this, but well, not a real surprise.
I continued but 15 minutes later the first symptoms of migraine started to set in. I don't have this often. Maybe not even every year.
Slowly a blind spot started to develope which is not exactly pleasant while walking in the forest. I decided to take the shortest way out of the forest. The headache usually comes later, and luckily only started when I was out of the forest.
A shame the day ended like this, I still would have loved to venture a bit deeper, but well, that has to wait till another day.
Anyway, fInding a poacher's camp and getting migraine could not ruin my great day!
Need luck with those Binturongs. Fruiting figs are your best chance as you know. My experience is that the late afternoon, usually after 15:00 they seem to get active, and night time of course. Wish you good luck, and hope to see the images whenever you get your first Binturong!
Well, I actually believe that in the relatively cool forests of Khao Yai the animals are active throughout the day. It's not like in e.g. Africa, or even in the dry forest of e.g. Huai Kha Khaeng where temperatures make it more or less unbearable for the wildlife to move a lot in the middle of the day.
I usually don't start early, and the times when I did, I've noticed it's good for birdlife as they are more noisy which makes them easier to spot. But in terms of mammals it did not deliver me sightings that I could not get a couple hours later. I love the early mornings, but I don't sleep enough to get up that early :)
I'm off to Kaeng Krachan today, see what we will come accross over there!