Gibbons, Bats, and Bugs, Oh My!

We traveled to Pak Chong, a small town just outside of Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, where we stayed at Green Leaf Guesthouse. The guesthouse offered a combination half-day and full day tour of the national park which we booked with the hopes of seeing some cool wildlife. It would have otherwise been a hassle to get transportation into and out of the park ourselves.

In the afternoon of our first day we visited a natural spring where we could swim. We saw some millipedes and a leaf insect or walking leaf. The walking leaf did a great job of hiding on a leaf!

Posing with a big and a small millipede.

Posing with a big and a small millipede.

Jon is a natural handling the millipede!

Jon is a natural handling the millipede!

Can you spot the insect?

Can you spot the insect?

A walking leaf.

A walking leaf.

Next, we visited Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave. Inside, we saw quite a few tarantulas. It felt sort of unreal, like something out of a movie or video game. They were sitting outside of their little holes surrounded by cobwebs, pretty stereotypically. Admittedly, it was spooky to walk around in the cave knowing that there were so many tarantulas around!

A tarantula den.

A tarantula den.

Next, we walked around to see some different areas in the cave with bats. We saw a mouse bat as well as some other species of bat. We even saw a python lying in wait for a tasty bat to fly near enough for it to snag (sorry, it was too far away and too dark for a good photo).

Bats in the cave.

Bats in the cave.

Bat guano (poop) is collected by the locals for fertilizer.

Bat guano is collected by the locals for fertilizer.

Our guide pointing out a moues bat (the bat is hanging at the end of a string).

Our guide pointing out a mouse bat (the bat is hanging at the end of a string).

The mouse bat a little closer up.

The mouse bat a little closer up.

Our guide found a scorpion spider and a poisonous cave centipede as well, and naturally had us hold them.

Jon holding a scorpion spider.

Jon holding a scorpion spider.

Amy holding a cave centipede.

Amy holding a colorful cave centipede.

Can you tell that I don't want the poisonous centipede anywhere near my face or body?

Can you tell that I don’t want the poisonous centipede anywhere near my face or body?

After our cave visit, we traveled to an area outside of the cave where we would be able to get a great view of the bats departing for their nightly meal. We’ve seen plenty of bats before and were not expecting much, but it turned out to be absolutely awe inspiring! We watched as hundreds of thousands of bats came out of the cave in huge swarms and turned sections of the sky black. It was unreal! The cave houses over two million bats and it takes them over two hours to complete their exodus. This was not what we were expecting and is one of the coolest things I’ve seen.

Bats traverse the evening sky.

Bats traverse the evening sky.

Our guide set up a telescope for us to watch the bats leaving the cave along the mountain side.

Our guide set up a telescope for us to watch the bats leaving the cave along the mountainside.

After watching for an hour or so, we visited a field nearer to where bats were exiting a portion of the cave. The bats were zooming right past our heads – it was hard not to flinch, even knowing that they wouldn’t run into us. In the field a very large dark-colored snake slithered past us, but unfortunately it all happened so fast that we didn’t get a photo or an identification from our guide.

Next, we went back to the spring for a swim. There we saw a white whip snake sleeping in a tree. Naturally, we woke him up to hold him. What else would you expect?

A white whip snake up in the tree.

A white whip snake up in the tree.

Jon trying to keep the whip snake away from his face.

Jon trying to keep the whip snake away from his face.

That was the end of our fun for the evening.

The next day we started out by searching for some gibbons (a specie of ape). We followed the sound of their howling, but by the time that we arrived at their location they had noticed us and became shy. One of them was hanging far above us in the canopy curiously watching us watch him.

A gibbon up in the trees.

A gibbon up in the trees.

We moved onto another area where a few gibbons maintain territory near the road. These guys were less shy and used to having visitors. One serenaded us for a good half an hour. I was sad to leave this location because it was so cool to hear his songs.

We drove past a huge deer (bigger than the white tails in WI).

a sambar deer.

A sambar deer.

We hiked a while and spotted a few huge spiders. I also spotted a stick insect or walking stick!Can you spot the insect?

Can you spot the insect?

Our guide holding the walking stick.

Our guide holding the walking stick.

One of the giant spiders we spotted.

One of the giant spiders we spotted.

A photo taken through the  telescope.

A photo taken through the telescope.

The spiders shown above were the size of the palm of our hands.

We saw a roly poly or pill bug which is actually a terrestrial crustacean.

The roly poly bug in hid defensive stance.

The pill bug in its defensive stance.

Another pill bug.

Another pill bug.

Our guide spotted a hornbill and let us view it through his telescope. It was stunning (and huge)!

This photo was taken while the telescope wasn't properly focused - sorry for the poor quality!

This photo was taken by holding a camera up to a telescope – sorry for the poor quality!

We also saw a few more gibbons, but they were pretty far up in the canopy thus more difficult to see.

A gibbon in the canopy.

A gibbon in the canopy.

Our final treat was to touch a scorpion. We spotted one in the road (it was raining, so it must have been rained out of its burrow) and our guide jumped off the truck to snag it. He calmed it down with his body heat (apparently this makes the ectothermic scorpion tired, woozy, and non-aggressive). We were then able to touch the scorpion’s stinger to feel how sharp it was.

Asian forest scorpion in Khao Yai National Park

Our photo was blurry, so we’ve provided one from Wikipedia. The scorpion was a pretty aqua color.

This macaque was climbing up on all of the cars looking for food. It found a plastic bag in the back of a truck and rand off to inspect his plunder privately.

This macaque was climbing up on all of the cars looking for food. It found a plastic bag in the back of a truck and ran off to inspect its plunder privately.

The only disappointment was spending our last few hours searching unsuccessfully for wild elephants (in the cold/rain). Aside from this disappointment, the tour was a ton of fun and really got our adrenaline pumping!

Mud on this tree trunk was evidence of elephants walking by and brushing up against it.

Mud on this tree trunk was evidence of elephants walking by and brushing up against it. Jon is wearing the leech-proof “socks” they gave us.

This area is normally a good elephant spotting location, but it was devoid of wildlife while we visited.

This area is normally a good elephant spotting location, but it was devoid of wildlife while we visited. The only animal we saw were a few specimens of H. Sapiens.