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This is the third part of our adventures with Greenleaf Guesthouse and Tour near the Khao Yai National Park.
When you finished with this instalment, if you want to read the others then just click below.
It was an early start today (well by our sabbatical standards!) for a day of animal watching and trekking in the jungle of Khao Yai National Park – Up, showered, eaten and ready to go by 8am! Go us!
We were joined by a four other couples from Poland, Italy, France and Belgium. Nothing highlights the British way of travelling more than this scenario, being the only ones (driver and guide included) who couldn’t speak another language. ‘Learn French’ was quickly added back on to my to do list.
Entering Khao Yai National Park
We all hopped in the back of a converted Toyota Hilux, the go to vehicle for rural pursuits around the world, and motored off towards Khao Yai National Park.
The park was fairly close by to our accommodation and we got there fast, what struck me as we drove into the park was the similarity in style to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. From the grand entrance to the rangers in full camo gear, this had a very familiar feel and quickly send tingles of anticipation down my spine.
After battling our way up some pretty serious gradients, we stopped off at a look out point. Here we could see the vast scale of the area we were later to explore looking for the few wild elephants left (200-300 within this park). It was a sea of green, rolling mountains heading off long into the distance.
From here we climbed back into our truck and headed out looking for adventure. The way things generally work in national parks, is that whenever something cool is spotted, a minor traffic jam builds out as everyone hops out to have a look. Sure enough, a bit further up the road we stopped beside a few other vehicles to join a group of people pointing up into the tree canopy.
Gibbons!!! Wow, what a sight.
Up in the trees a long way up, a family of Lar gibbons were, quite literally, hanging out. Our guide set up the viewing scope, but we also borrowed cameras from some of the local amateur photographers, who were out in the park, enjoying their Labour Day national holiday.
We had a good few hours in the vehicle, stopping off numerous times thanks to the well-trained eye of our guides and the helpful animal-related traffic jams! The highlight was the spectacular Great Hornbill, the largest hornbill in Asia. It has a huge wingspan, and its wings unmistakeable whooshing sound when flying. For those of us with an over-active imagination it’s easy to imagine pterodactyls up there, swooping through the treetops.
Trekking into the Jungle
When our bums had gone numb, our guide decided a nice two hour trek through the jungle was much needed. Ok, ok, it was clearly marked out in the full day tour, and something we were looking forward to, but personally I’d been really enjoying sitting at the front of the pickup, overlooking the cab with the wind blowing away the last of the early-start cobwebs,
We pulled on our leech socks – a big cotton tie up guard you wear over your normal socks and trousers to keep the little biters away (super-sexy!) – and headed off into the darkness.
What first struck us was the noise, a mixture of shrieks, buzzing and bird calls. We proceeded in ant fashion, one after another in a single line following the guide.
We battled up muddy paths, and through springy branches that did their best to block the way. The landscape seemed to change every 50 metres or so, with the eternal battle for light that takes place in dense forest creating pockets of species grouped together.
This is the kind of place you could walk through everyday and see something different. The forest was so thick in places you wouldn’t know if there was an elephant standing a stone’s throw away.
In a quest for the energy that sunlight provides, some trees had grown to truly incredible sizes. Occasionally we’d find one with enough space around it to get an idea of how far up they went, but even then it was hard to truly comprehend how something can grow this big.
Imagining the things that have changed on this planet in the time this tree has been alive is mind-boggling. It’s amazing how little respect mankind gives to plants that have been alive so much longer than any human being. As we edge further and further into the countryside, trying to find space for ourselves, let’s not forget how long it’s taken for these forests to find a space of their own.
We stopped for spiders, birds and bugs, but the most impressive creature that showed itself today was this pit viper, hanging lazily from the branches of a tree.
After the walk we hopped back in the truck and carried on through the park. After a spot of lunch at one of the rest camps We ventured on to a couple of waterfalls, both impressive sights after the rainfall from the last few days.
One of them, is actually quite famous.
Haew Suwat waterfall featured in the 2000 movie The Beach, where Leonardo DiCaprio and his co-stars jump from the top of it whilst on the run. The film is set on the island further south in Thailand, but there is no such waterfall in Phi Phi Leh or in Maya Bay so they had to film in Khao Yai.
The second one required a climb of two hundred steps, which was a task with the ever increasing humidity! It was worth the trip though, with some beautiful old bridges along the 1km route.
After the walk out to the final waterfall, we chilled out at a rest spot some saw Crab-Eating Macaques, though these ones seemed much happier feasting on the leftover mango and watermelon that the cooks had thrown out into the bush.
Unfortunately one of the big goals of today didn’t happen. Despite lots of searching, we didn’t get to see any Asian elephants in the wild. Although we saw evidence of them, dung and footprints, all the guides and rangers said that the last spotting was three days previous. With so few in such a big area our chances were low, but we held out hope right until the last rainstorm forced us out of the park. It was a shame, but this is one of the realities of National Parks. If you want a guarantee, then go to a zoo!
Despite not seeing the elephants, this has been an incredible day. Thanks do much to Greenleaf Guesthouse and Tours for nearly 12 hours of amazing experiences.
And one last bonus on the way back….
It’s amazing the lengths so people will go to for their Instagram account!