Edit Blog Post
Published: August 1st 2014
these imponderable beauties shoot straight up out of Chiao Lan Lake, half of which is in Khao Sok and the other half of which is in Khlong Saeng
On July 14th I hopped into a boat for a 3-hour one-way trip into one of the most remote areas of Thailand's Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary
with renowned wildlife photographer Bruce Kekule
. But this wasn't just ecotourism (as great as that is). We were there to set up motion-triggered camera-traps in order to obtain footage of rare wildlife to prove that this park is a world treasure and deserves full attention and protection from the Thai government and wildlife conservation NGO's -something it is currently sorely lacking. The group that I helped found, Habitat ID
, supplied several Bushnell Trophy Cams, and conservationist Kurt Johnson with Falcon Recon kicked in a couple more cameras and supplies, while Bruce came through with the DLSR professional cams. Khlong Saeng is contiguous with several other "protected" areas (PAs, and I put "protected" in quotation marks because like most parks in Southeast Asia it is a "paper park" -meaning it gets little or no real protection, it's status as a PA being little more than a document in some office) in the area, among them the popular Khao Sok National Park
, the lesser-known but magical Sri Phang Nga National Park
, Kaeng Krung NP, and Khlong Phanom NP. Taken together these PAs form an area of rain
more limestone crags
these limestone formations belong the the Permian Era when they were coral reefs, pushed up above the surface when the Indian and Asian plates collided
forest that covers more than 4,000 sq. kilometers, making it one of the largest tracts of jungle in Mainland Southeast Asia. In fact, Mongabay.com
just published my article about this place and you can check it out here
After 3 hours of spellbinding views of the ancient coral reefs that are now limestone crags rising up all around throughout Chiao Lan Lake we arrived at our floating bungalow -Khlong Ya, the remotest digs in the jungle. 3 Swiss tourists were staying there when we arrived, and they had the exquisite privilege of seeing a young male elephant come down to the shoreline 2 out of 3 of the mornings they stayed there (we weren't so lucky, but we smelled and heard him). One of my favorite thing about camping out in the jungles of Southeast Asia is hearing gibbons singing in the morning, and in this Khlong Saeng did not
disappoint. Several families of white-handed gibbons shouted out their morning wake-up calls/love songs each morning. To the uninitiated they might sound like the eerie cry of banshees in the hills, or a contingent of native rebels kicking up a war whoop ahead of an attack. To me these early morning concerts are
anyone in there?
mysterious caves pockmark the majestic peaks
simply enthralling. On top of the gibbon concert are the honks of Great hornbills which often begin or end in bizarre, prehistoric growls as they land on tree (to hear what this sounds like, listen to an audio recording
that my friend Adrian Stoger recorded of a Great hornbill in Cambodia's Virachey National Park
Other animals we saw included dusky langurs, wild pig, barking deer, monitor lizard, crab-eating macaques, pied hornbills, white-bellied sea eagles, lapwings (the alarm bell for gaur
, according to Bruce), osprey, blue-eared kingfisher (see photo), greater cuckoo, and others. Siamese crocodiles
once lived in the Khlong Saeng River, but became extinct soon after the Rajaprabha Dam went up. Tigers once swarmed the area, but are probably extinct (though there is a very small chance that few hang on in the almost impossible to reach mountains deep in the interior -an area that nobody seems to know much about). Rhinoceros were once found here as well, but, alas, "game over" for them.
Which leads me to our camera-trapping project. What do we hope to find here in Khlong Saeng and what do we we want to do with our footage? We are hoping to get video and still footage of: marbled cat
flooded forestclouded leopard
Chiao Lan Lake was formed decades ago when the government decided to build the Rajaprabha Dam, inundating what is now Khong Saeng WS and Khao Sok NP
, Malayan tapir
, black panther
(leopard), elephant, and Argus pheasant
(for a look at Bruce's previous photos of Khong Saeng's wildlife, click here
). Our cameras will be checked in September, and we want to use the footage to show that Khlong Saeng is a world treasure and deserves full protection and attention from the Thai government and wildlife conservation NGOs. Thailand probably has the best wildlife habitat and animal populations in Southeast Asia, with forests that are more intact and better protected (though, granted, this is not saying much) than in neighboring Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia -and probably better than Peninular Malaysia too). You can have a look at the Preliminary Report that I published on Habitat ID's site here
***UPDATE: Bruce has just returned from checking our cameras and is working on putting together the videos, which include: a herd of elephants, clouded leopard, golden cat, the rare Flea's muntjac, sun bear, and many more. In the meantime, have a look at this clouded leopard photo and Bruce's write-up
It was pretty tough going in the jungle with the heavy downpours that we experienced, though those hard showers did not last all day (though they did last for a couple of hours on several occasions). This made it more difficult to
Khlong Ya floating bungalows
this is where you want to stay!
set up the cams, but we managed it. 8 cameras are now secured to trees in excellent locations and are probably shooting wildlife footage as you read this! For the record, if we do
get footage of a tiger it will NOT be publicized (for the safety of the cat). Practicalities
I imagine many Surat Thani tour operators sell packages that include a stay in "Khao Sok's floating bungalows" but really at least some of these tours are actually going into Khlong Saeng, as Khlong Saeng and Khao Sok both share Chiao Lan Lake. You can ask them if you can stay at Khlong Ya floating bungalow if you'd like to get deep inside Khong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary. If you prefer not to travel with a group (which I try not to do under any circumstance), then you can consult Travelfish
writer Dave Leuken's excellent piece on doing Khao Sok NP solo
. As far as Surat Thani town goes, we stayed at the very nice (if dated) Wangtai Hotel
(0-7728-3020-30, firstname.lastname@example.org). Make sure you bring plenty of insect repellent (which is also handy for leeches), long sleeved shirts and pants, some form of anti-malaria tablets (I use doxycycline) and a mosquito net (I had to sleep for 5
bring whiskey and beers here!
nights without one though I never got bit).
Check this blog again for updates. I've got some videos to upload to Youtube that I'll post later, and if I think of anything I've missed I'll post it. Travelblog seems to have some kind of problem with posting videos so for now I'll just leave these Youtube links. This one
is a 42-second stroll in the forest with gibbons singing up above in the canopy, while this one shows a panorama
from the awesome Khlong Ya floating bungalow station.
Last but not least: bring some booze if you like to enjoy a nightcap or a little something in your coffee at breakfast. Just throw it in the boat! Be sure to scroll down below to see more pictures...!
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