Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary is close to the Chulabhorn Dam and the nearest large town is Chumpae in Khon Khaen. It has an area of 1,560 square kilometres. The geography consists of a sandstone mountain range with high cliffs. It is one of Thailand's premier sanctuaries that allows limited tourist access.
I had a quick run to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary for a long pre-weekend but, photographically, was defeated by the weather. Someone had told me there was a quicker route from Bangkok so I headed up to the Chumphae Major Hotel for my night stop before heading to the WS in the morning. This time I took Route 21 heading Phetchabun and then cut across through Chaiyaphum and up to Chumphae. Quicker? Still took me nearly 8 hours... its a long and tiring drive. Next time I will try the 201 to see if that is any faster - I really like Phu Khieo but the drive from Bangkok is just too far to be a regular visitor.
The Sanctuary was very quiet. Both people and wildlife hiding from the rain. As always masses of sign and track in the forest. Especially elephant, gaur, sambar and muntjac. But theres standing water everywhere so no good chance of a decent sighting (hide) spot in the forest periphery. The HQ area still has its pseudo tame hog deer, peafowl, and sambar. One of the rangers told me keep an eye out at dusk in the camp site as a jackal with young had been sighted there quite frequently. I had an inspect in the day but all animal access routes seemed to be sodden and swampy. After coming back late from the grasslands in the evening, I thought I would just have a quick flash of the torch and there sat two grown jackal on the periphery of the camp site in the tree line. As soon as I tried to get closer they were off.
I had a nice surprise at the Phrom river bridge. I always stop the car and peer over, its a nice view looking up the boulder strewn river bed. I looked down and there was a 5 meter (I kid you not) burmese python swimming up the creek. Biggest snake I have ever seen in the wild.
Up at the HQ area theres been a new pond created at the extremity of the grasslands and jackal were moving around in the day in this area (sign after rain) but I never caught a glimpse. I spent quite a lot of my time up there as my previously preferred haunts were seriously leech infested. But I saw very little and prior nights sign was limited as the rain just washed it out. I had a nice experience with a large male sambar who could smell/sense me but not see me - but on looking closely at my photo he was tagged - so not fully wild.
Altogether it was much quieter than previous visits, but I think this was just a weather issue.
Theres also 3 new watch towers gone up. They are a nice design but not really suited for serious wildlife opportunities IMHO. More to assist with their educational role with younger and casual visitors. One next to the crane pen but the previous inhabitants have been released already. I think its always great to see changes that are aimed at letting people see the wildlife - to be commended in every way.
ED NOTE : the crane pen was dismantled and removed in April 2016 so now no longer exists
Wow, a 5m Burmese Python, that's something I would love to see! Congratulations!
The Burmese Pythons don't grow as long as the Reticulated Pythons (6m vs 10m), and also not as commonly seen! Though, generally the Burmese Pythons are more heavily built. At that size it will prey mostly on deer. I remember a local photographer in Phu Khieo showed me a video of a Burmese Python eating a Hog Deer.
Good to see attempts to make the park more interesting for visitors. A bit a shame, that they did not really make a tower suitable for wildlife watching.
And judging from the picture it will be a little more complicated than the towers in Huai Kha Khaeng to fit shade clothing for more 'privacy'.
Besides that, it seems like the roof is not wide enough.Looks like if there is rain and a little bit of wind, the visitors will get wet...
What I would love to see is that they open up a few more trails for the public, especially in evergreen forest (which Phu Khieo has enough).
On my visit, quite a while ago, I sneaked out on some of the research trails used mostly by the Assamese Macaque researchers, and was greeted by fabulous forest, and lots of animals and their tracks.
Would love to go back soon!
BTW: Beautiful shot of the Clouded Monitor lizard!
Haha, well I certainly did not intend to say that you might have wrongly identified the species! I think Burmese Pythons might actually be relatively common in the area of Phu Khieo, compared to other parks. No reason to doubt your sighting, though if you are unsure, I would love to see the picture ;) . The largest Burmese Pythons I have seen were around 4m; in Khao Yai NP.
On Friday night I saw a 4m Reticulated python on the road in Khao Yai (quite a succesful evening btw with three separate elephant sightings, a Leopard cat, the 4m retic, a few Small-toothed Palm Civets, a couple Asian Palm Civets, porcupines, large-tailed nightjar and of course loads of deer. Daytime was not great due to constant rain.).
The pattern of these species is quite different. And so are the heads.
Reticulated Python has a black stripe centred on the head, the head color varies, could be yellow or brown.
Burmese Python has a dark-brown arrow-shaped marking on the top of the head, Light-brown on the edges.
I will add some images for ID purposes ;)
This is the Burmese Python, Python bivittatus. In this image the arrow shape on the top of the head is clearly visible, as is the characteristic pattern on the body.
Specimen found in daytime in Khao Yai, I nearly stepped on it. This is 'in situ', the snake was photographed as it was found, though it started looking at me, judging if I was of edible size.
And this is the Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus (genus has been changing all the time, I lost count and just stick with 'Python', I think some call it Malayopython or Broghammerus)
In this image you can see the black stripe on the top of the head (also on the side of the head, by the way). This specimen (about 3m) has a brown head, I will add the yellow head below. Shot in Khao Yai national park, also an 'in situ' image. Two days later I checked and it was still on the same rock.
Orange-yellow head of the Reticulated Python (5m specimen; the larger the snake, the smaller the eye is relatively to the head's size.). This specimen blocked both lanes of the road when I was on my way out of the park (Khao Yai).