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!
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!
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).
Our guide found a scorpion spider and a poisonous cave centipede as well, and naturally had us hold them.
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.
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?
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.
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).
We hiked a while and spotted a few huge spiders. I also spotted a stick insect or walking stick!
Can you spot the insect?
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.
Our guide spotted a hornbill and let us view it through his telescope. It was stunning (and huge)!
We also saw a few more gibbons, but they were pretty far up in the canopy thus more difficult to see.
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.
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!