Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bat cave Buddhas and bats

To make the most of our visit to Khao Yai National Park we stayed two nights at Greenleaf Tour's guesthouse. We took a van from Bangkok, arrived in the afternoon and after lunch a small group of us piled into the back of a pick-up truck outfitted with benches and a roof and set out with a guide to see the bats.

Whip snake along the road

We hadn't gone five miles when, unexpectedly, the truck pulled over and our guide jumped out. We scrambled after him into the trees and when we caught up he was gently lifted a long, thin silver snake off a branch. It blows my mind that he actually spotted it from the truck at about 40 mph. but he really did have eyes like a hawk.

Another amazing earthling

But more impressive to me was how carefully he handled every creature he found and showed us along the way, and there were many.


Bat and Buddha cave near Khao Yai National Park


The first cave we visited was a huge underground world. There we had the pleasure of meeting phantasmagorical insects, an enormous cave dwelling serpent and some subterranean Buddhas serenely residing in the perpetual dark beyond the bottom of the stairs.


Bat cave Buddha

Bat cave resident

Another bat cave Buddha

Another bat cave resident

At one point, pure luck, we saw a colony of tiny bats emerge from their tiny cave within the larger cave's wall.



Twilight in the bat cave

I don't know if we disturbed them or happened upon them just as they were leaving for the night's hunt but according to our guide, even for him, it was a rare sighting.

Snacking on pineapple, waiting for twilight

The big event was watching some two million wrinkle lipped bats leave their hillside cave at twilight, and leave they did, like a rushing river. We watched for about an hour as they wound their way out over the fields for the night's hunt. They consume billions of insects a night and a few hawks swoop through their ranks hoping to consume a few of them. When we left, they were still streaming out.



Two million bats leaving their cave at twilight

The sound and rhythm of their wings resembled breathing and, mixed, with the singing of the insects, it was like nothing I've ever heard before yet it was comforting and familiar like the sound of the ocean or the nearness of a beloved.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Monkeys too!

He immediately came over to check us out. Yes. That's blood on his beard. And the fabulous alien eyes? It's not eye makeup.


He is bad ass all the way.


He has family to protect and he's very serious about it.

The Dude
I doubt he'd mind teaching us a lesson if he thought we needed it. But we didn't. We just took a lot of photos, which didn't seem to bother him. In fact, I suspect he rather liked posing.




The mamas and babies by the road barely seemed to notice us at all. Lucky for us.We snapped away and they went about their business.




We saw two kinds of monkeys in Khao Yai, macaques and gibbons. These by the road are macaques.


Just doing what monkeys do.






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yes! An elephant!

Khao Yai National Park.



YES! We did see an elephant in the wild. One. And, after repeated reminders that it not a given, one was one more than any of us thought we'd see. Khao Yai is a huge park and the elephants there roam free.




There are no elephants for people to "pet". There are no elephants for people to ride. The park rangers do put salt blocks and some hay out by the road in hopes of occasionally attracting them into view but, for the most part, they are off on their own in the tall grass and forest deep.




We just got lucky. One of the guys in our group, Paul from Wyoming (the guy in the blue shirt), spotted him from the back of the truck as we were driving. Then we all started shouting at once. I pounded on the roof of the cab. Our guide immediately stopped, threw the truck in reverse, backed up, pulled off the road and parked.




Everyone, including the guide, jumped out, cameras in hand, and ran up the path after him. Of course rule number one is don't harass the wildlife and we were good. In spite of our excitement, we did keep our distance.




It was a lone male returning from the road after enjoying the salt block, ambling slowly along the path through the tall grass heading back to the forest.




We all managed to get a few photos before he strolled up over the hill and out of sight.






Our guide explained that because elephants in the wild can graze all day in the delicious tall grass they are, in general, much fatter than elephants in captivity. This fellow certainly proved his point.