Thanks to all the others, in particular Tom, who have posted details of their Thailand herping trips. They were extremely helpful when planning my trip so I wanted to try and post the sort of detail I think will help others similarly. Michael, Vern and Tony all provided useful advice prior to, and during, the trip as well and I hope they don’t mind me including some of their advice in the trip report.
I’ll break the trip reports down into Southern Thailand (Phanom Bencha and Khao Sok), Khao Yai National Park, Erawan National Park and the Kaeng Krachan area but I’ve posted an overview here to help others pick where and when to go and some general advice. I’m sure others who live there or have been there longer will have some better advice but I haven’t been able to find anywhere that brings all the information together in one spot in the format I was looking for, so here it is. On this note, these are my opinions and I welcome others providing theirs to that we can gain the most from everyone’s experiences.
I’ve presented the reports as a diary as I find this type of reporting more informative than a list of species found – it is then easier to get a real idea of how easy/difficult it is find beasts, where to look and what the general herping conditions are. When to go?
I travelled in late May as this is the start of the rainy season throughout most of Thailand and appears to act like Spring in the non-tropics. Others recommended leaving it a bit later to guarantee the rains were well underway but May is when suited my travel plans. There was rain most days and except for one stormy night, there really wasn’t enough of a difference between the observed reptile activity to make any comments on the effect of the rains. The best night I had (5 snakes), there was a heavy storm nearby (within 1-2 kms) but no rain where I was. Where to go?
Southern Thailand was the best for herps – Phanom Bencha for snakes, Khao Sok for frogs. Khao Yai was the best overall in terms of number of trails, herps, other mammals and facilities. Kaeng Krachan National Park was pretty average (unless you’re a birder) but was the best in terms of good roads in the surrounding area for night driving. General herping notes
When herping in the National Parks, there are a range of issues to deal with. Most of the park headquarters had a large number of staff doing not much (I am definitely not a fan of how the various HQ staff conducted themselves) who are very quick to exert their authority on tourists. Most of the National Parks have curfews for road driving and there are some valid reasons for them not wanting you walking outside of the camps (i.e., elephants), but the staff seem to extend the road curfews to spotlighting around the camps themselves (I was told to ‘go to bed’ when walking around Khao Yai HQ at 7.30!). In contrast to the HQ areas, I never saw a staff member out on the roads or trails (perhaps they are afraid they will have to do some trail maintenance?). There is now only one useable trail in Khao Sok for example (which is actually a road). As it was the rainy season, I stayed in bungalows rather than camped. From what others have said, you have more freedom to wander around campsites at night and the toilet lights are good for bringing in the geckos. Getting around
I drove myself and hired a 4WD (Vigo) so I could road drive at night. Surprisingly the 4WD was one of the cheaper vehicles available. The Thai roads are pretty good and if you are a confident driver, the traffic is also fine (noting I did not drive in Bangkok itself). While there are a good number of road signs in English, I would highly recommend using a SatNav. I bought the Thailand map for mine before the trip and preloaded all the points I was going to. This was actually a really good idea as I still have no idea how to enter the Thai format of address into it (and failed miserably when I tried during the trip).
One thing I did have difficulty with when driving around was finding somewhere to eat. I wasn’t prepared to just stop anywhere and found it very difficult to spot a decent restaurant. Supermarkets were generally plentiful on the other hand so I typically bought something from there (chips, biscuits etc) and ate that instead. Acommodation
I’ve tried to find some detail about the accommodation as well to help pick where the best places to stay are (for herping that is). Accommodation within the parks themselves is handy but brings with it the curfew issues and the accommodation is fairly basic and generally in need of some maintenance. I also had difficulty finding English speakers among the park staff. One thing to note with going at this time of year is that there aren’t many other tourists around. I had some of the resorts completely to myself which was nice at times but also meant that you had to be a bit more careful with the food as some of it had been around a while. Daily activity
Based on advice from others, and my observations, a good daily pattern is herping in the morning, a siesta after lunch and then herping from the early afternoon through to about midnight. A lot of the snakes are frog hunters and streams are your best bet as is herping when it is warm and rainy. I did quite a bit of both trail walking and night road driving (partly to give myself a break from trail walking) and found road driving more productive (6 snakes v 3). This was also one of the preferred techniques used by one of the resident herpers in southern Thailand Species identification
There’s not too many choices when it comes to herp guides – A photographic guide to Snakes and other reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand is your best bet. I also have A field guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia but this is almost useless when trying to id reptiles. Both were available at Bangkok airport. Michael has advised that there is a frog guide available out at the Museum but I unfortunately didn’t end up making it out there. Photographs
I’ll put some photos in the blogs but didn’t want to make it too picture heavy. I’ve also pasted a number of pictures on my Flickr account and welcome any correction of misidentified species (or in the case of the frogs – I welcome any identifications).
I’ll only post herp photos on the forum but there are some mammal and invertebrate shots on Flickr for those interested in what wildlife you might see more generally. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33102730@N02/sets/ Trip Reports
Southern Thailand - Phanom Bencha viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13083
Southern Thailand - Khao Sok viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13084
Khao Yai National Park viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13085
Erawan National Park viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13086
Kaeng Krachan area viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13087
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13088
A couple of my favourite photos from the trip: IMG_0026 White lipped pit viper (Cryptelytrops albolabris)
, on Flickr IMG_0584 White lipped pit viper (Cryptelytrops albolabris)
, on Flickr IMG_9630
, on Flickr IMG_9939
, on Flickr IMG_9725
, on Flickr