Posted: under Thailand 2012.
After 3 great nights are Erawan, I was ready for my next park, Sai Yok National Park. I took the 12pm bus to Kanchanburi. As soon as I arrived at the station, the next bus I needed was literally pulling out. I managed to get on though, there were hardly any seats left. I got the last one behind the driver where a guy was taking up 2 seats. Thankfully he got off shortly and I had the 2 seats to myself. It took about 2 hours to reach the junction for the park. From here a staff member at the restaurant on the corner gave me a ride on her moto the last 5km to the park. I went into the park HQ and it was really relaxed. They didn’t want my passport or need me to check in. They just directed me to the camping area. As I learned, the 2 waterfalls of Sai Yok are very popular for busloads of package tourists. This meant that they walked through camp to get onto a huge floating raft pulled by a boat. None of them lingered in camp or hiked any of the trails in the park. As they passed I heard them speaking Russian. Seems after Erawan, they come to Sai Yok. The 2 waterfalls of Sai Yok are not that huge or impressive and pale in comparison to the Erawan. I was more interested in the park than them.
Most of the campsite was on level ground under huge teak trees that were nearly leafless. This meant hardly any shade. I managed to find a shady spot on a small island, just before one of the falls emptied into the river. It was a really cool spot away from the HQ and parking lot. My own private island with the bathroom and shower just a minute away.
Across from the HQ are a row of food and drink stalls. Unfortunately only one of them was serving any substantial food and I was forced to eat there every night. After dinner I did a short nighthike but didn’t see anything. I lie on a table in the picnic area stargazing. It was a super clear night and I saw a satellite and a few shooting stars. For all the water around, there were surprisingly no mosquitos.
I ate a greasy omelette and had a terrible instant coffee for breakfast. After I hike 1.5km to the bat cave. Sai Yok is home to the world’s smallest mammal, the Kitti’s hognosed bat. I really wanted to see this little guy, with a wingspan of just 4 inches (10cm). I went into the cave and was shortly surrounded by large bats. They were perched upside down but began flying around as I got closer. The air was filled with the ‘wind’ type sound of the bats flying around. It wasn’t a huge cave and the bats were flying right past me! These were way to big to be the hognosed bat and I found some smaller bats hanging on the wall. I got a photo of them and a guide at the park identified them as the Stoliczka’s trident bat, still not the hognosed. These were the only 2 types of bat I saw though the guide said there were 4 species inhabiting the cave. Not far into the cave the passage became long and very tight. I wasn’t quite in the mood for extreme cave exploration and turned back.
I hiked the few nature trails in the park. A lot of the vegetation was bamboo and much of it had been recently burned. Some of the larger dead trees were still smouldering. Not exactly prime habitat for wildlife. I didn’t see any animals but I did see a deep sinkhole and old remains of a Japanese bridge from World War II. The infamous ‘Death Railway’ ran through the park. There are also remnants of old Japanese cooking stoves. A natural spring comes right out of the limestone mountain and it was this water that I drank the whole time in the park. Water doesn’t get much cleaner than coming right out of a mountain!
There was a small stall called Coffee Corner and I went there for lunch. The woman made a mean ice cappucino. One of the best I’ve had. I had some ice cream and chips to go with it. I know, not the healthiest lunch but I wasn’t that hungry. The HQ was also kind enough to let me check my email on their computers. I was ecstatic to see my Golden snubnosed monkey spotting from China was chosen my National Geographic as Spotting of the Week on their Facebook page. This is the second time one of my spottings was chosen. The first was just a Giraffe necked Weevil I saw in Madagascar. My dream job would be to get paid to be a spotter for Project Noah/National Geographic. In the meantime, though, I’m more than happy to keep self funding my own explorations.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring around the island that I was camping on. I walked and swam in the water and looked for any cool creatures. Besides being home to the world’s smallest mammal, the park is also home to an endemic regal crab, a small red, white and bluish crab discovered in the 1980′s. I saw a few of them but they were deep in their holes. I figured the evening would be a better time to look for them when they are out and about. After dinner I did just that. I walked around in the water with my camera and found plenty of crabs of all sizes. I was able to get close and photograph many of them. As I learned the next day, none of them were the regal queen crab. They aren’t found in this area of the park. Either way it was cool to see them and a frog. It was also the first time I’ve spent a nighthike wandering around in shallow freshwater streams.
After my night wading, I relaxed on a picnic table. I went back to my tent to get my pillow and was thrilled to see a gorgeous black snake with yellow bands just a few steps from my tent! I ran back to get my camera and got some good shots. It’s only the second snake I’ve seen on this trip. There are a couple of tokay geckos living in the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Tokays are bluish in color with large red spots. At 1′ (30cm), they are one of the world’s largest geckos and I never tire of seeing them or photographing them.
With the sound of rushing water all around me, it’s easy to sleep in. I go to Coffee Corner for breakfast and have an excellent ice mocha and instant rice porridge. I check out Kaew cave after, a small cave which is also home to Kitti’s hognosed bat. The entrance to the cave is very narrow. I hide my back in the bushes and go into the cave with just my camera, macro lense and tripod. A couple of steel ladders bring me into the cave, all still very narrow. It finally opens into a medium size chamber. I look around for the passage. There is only one way to go. I’m very cautious while exploring any cave. I definitely don’t want an accident to happen in here! I follow the passage to another chamber and then don’t see another way to go. There is a small map of the cave at the entrance and it doesn’t appear that large. I must be at the end. I saw a lot of cave crickets, spiders and tailless whip scorpions but no bats. I didn’t smell, hear or see any bats at all. This was disappointing. Just before I left the cave I looked around and found a cave dwelling gecko which was very cool.
I went to HQ in the afternoon with camera to see if they could identify any of my photos. Turns out one of the guides was extremely knowledgeable and had a few great books to translate the Thai name into the latin. In all, he identified 10 species for me! I won’t know if they are all correct until I research them at home, but it’s a great start. He pulled out a big cardboard sign with the mammals of Thailand on it. He pointed out which species were in the park and where they were found. He said pangolins and civets can be seen around the bat cave at 9pm. So that evening that is exactly what I did. I left for the cave around 8pm. I got there at 8.30 and watched an episode of Simpsons while waiting and listening. At 9, I slowly walked back to the campsite. This was the area of forest I walked through yesterday which was burnt. I didn’t expect to see anything here and I didn’t. Only saw a sleeping bird on the ground. Oh well, nothing lost in trying. I’ve always liked nighthiking but now I’m beginning to really love it and feel comfortable and have no problems hiking at night in the forest for hours.
The next day I left for Ayutthaya.
Comments (2) Feb 24 2012