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Guide for Khao Sok, Thailand?

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#1 xyz99

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 09:44 PM

Does anyone know and can recommend a wildlife guide for Khao Sok, Thailand? We'll be there in January 2018.

Thanks



#2 pault

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Posted 27 April 2017 - 12:00 AM

Where do you want to go? Just Khao Sok or Chris Lan Lake too and what are your specific interests?

And you are specifically looking for a specialist private guide rather than a tour agency right?

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#3 inyathi

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Posted 27 April 2017 - 11:39 PM

@xyz99 I have been to Khao Sok but it was quite a long time ago now, so I can’t really advise on guides, if you’re booking tours/treks through wherever you staying then they would obviously provide a guide. But I assume you know that and that what you are asking for is a specialist private guide to accompany you to the park as @pault said, you may have already done so but I think this is a question that would be better asked on a Thai travel forum, I don’t think that many other people here have been to the country never mind to Khao Sok. However enough people visit the country that there must be a few sites purely dedicated to Thai travel besides the obvious options of looking at Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet and the like, but I can’t recommend one of the top of my head.

 

However I’ll offer what general advice I can, I stayed at a place called Our Jungle House which is not far from the main entrance to the park, from there I went off trekking in the park along the Sok River, I didn’t go with a guide, I didn't have to have a guide so I opted not to. It wasn’t a bad place to stay but it was a little bit of walk to the entrance mainly through farmland, although there’s forest around the lodge itself, the walk is unlikely to have changed, but I imagine the accommodation may have done a bit. Primarily I was looking for whatever birds I could find because I didn’t expect to see any other wildlife, there are wild elephants, gaur, sambar deer, muntjac, serow and Malayan tapirs, and also Asian black and sun bears still living in the park, but tigers are long gone. In the early morning when I was trekking I heard the distant calls of white-handed (lar) gibbons but never saw one or from recollection any other mammals and only relatively few birds because it wasn’t really the right time of year for birding and I wasn’t with a bird guide. I did go on one night walk with a guide; this produced a couple of common palm civets, a wild boar which I never really saw as it crashed off into the bushes and lots of green pit vipers and a fair bit of rain.

 

Concluding that there was little chance of seeing any other wildlife I decided to try my luck at Cheow Lan Lake. In 1982 a huge area of Khao Sok’s rainforest was destroyed when the Rajjaprabha Dam was completed, the resulting lake Cheow Lan is one of the most spectacular places in Thailand it’s surrounded by jungle covered karst cliffs and has numerous little islands formed from what were once small mountain peaks, despite the destruction it is said to be one of the best places to observe wildlife in the country. I stayed on the floating hotel there, as I was really there at the wrong time of year I didn’t have much luck, the planned evening boat trip to look for wildlife had to be cancelled because it was pouring with rain. I was able to do one boat trip the next morning but it was still raining though not so hard and also I went out in a canoe, however the only wildlife I saw were some long-tailed macaques and some distant hornbills that I wasn’t able to identify. I did see a few birds when at one point I was taken ashore next to the hotel to try and spot some. My real problem was that I was there in August during the wet season which was really not a good time to be there. At a better time of year I very likely would have seen gibbons and dusky leaf monkeys (langurs) from the boat.

 

It should be possible to do a proper wildlife tour of the lake and perhaps if you can go out at night you might get lucky and see a loris or other nocturnal species. Generally I think you’d need to be pretty lucky to really see any of the larger wildlife, but it is a possibility that could perhaps see elephants or other animals. The lake is definitely the better area for wildlife, during the day I don’t think you’re very likely to see many mammals on the Sok River other than perhaps macaques and possibly leaf monkeys, you could I’m sure see some great birds with a bird guide, however Khao Sok isn’t really on the Thai birding circuit so not many serious birders go there. Perhaps this is because although there is very nice rainforest much of it is really inaccessible as there are only a couple of trails, from memory I think I just walked the main one along the river. If you are interested in birds then there is some information on the Thaibirding website.  Having returned to Thailand at a better time of year to do a birding tour and had some great wildlife sightings in Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai NPs I would be inclined to rate these two parks as better for wildlife viewing. But it’s  a bit hard to make a fair comparison as I didn’t visit Khao Sok at the best time of year, if I’d seen gibbons, monkeys and hornbills from the boat as I’d hoped I would, I’d likely feel differently.  

 

I wasn’t aware until I decided to try an offer an answer to your question, that there is what’s described as a luxury African style tented camp in Khao Sok called Elephant Hills apparently it’s the only such camp in the country. From what I can see they have two camps, a camp in the forest and a floating camp on the lake. This looks to me like it might be the place to stay if going to Khao Sok, I don’t how much wildlife anyone actually sees on the tours that they offer, looking at their website they have a great collection of camera trap videos which shows there is still plenty of wildlife in the park, more than I’d expected, the difficulty is actually seeing any of it. Although I’m absolutely certain that there are no tigers there anymore, they do still have the smaller cats including clouded leopards, but you’d be very unlikely to see any of these cats. I’m impressed seeing these videos particularly at the number of gaur; at the time that I went to park I feared that there were probably very few left it seems perhaps I was wrong.

 

 

 

There are as I say in my view no longer any tigers in Khao Sok, unfortunately almost all of the websites you will find on the park still claim that there are tigers, because of course they know that tourists are more likely to come if they think there are tigers. I assumed that there couldn’t be more than a couple if any at all when I went there and I’m absolutely convinced there are none at all there now. Elephant Hills have a video explaining about the camera trapping, the woman presenting the film mentions tigers, but if there really were any left in the park they would surely have filmed them, as they have filmed almost all of the other animals that are still there, including plenty of other cats. If there were any left then there should be not only camera trap footage but also people should be seeing pugmarks and scratch marks on trees and other signs and they’re not. Tigers are sadly pretty scarce in Thailand these days, although are still a couple of places where they seem to be doing okay, a female with some good sized cubs was recently filmed with a camera trap in another part of the country, which offers some hope. I think possibly the only place left in the country that has an almost fully intact ecosystem with all of the large herbivores and the carnivores including tigers is Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary; I’ve never been there and don’t know what’s involved in getting there. I think to see the animals you have to spend a lot of time in hides, I'm not aware that it's possible to do this in Khao Sok. There are some camera trap video compilations from HKK Wildlife Sanctuary on YouTube.

 

I don’t know if you would be able to get a copy and it’s probably very out of date but there’s a nice guidebook to Khao Sok called Waterfalls and Gibbon Calls by Thom Hendry, I had a look on Amazon not expecting to find it at all, but in fact it did come up but is unavailable, you might be able to get a second hand copy or maybe find a copy in Thailand.

 

I hope this is some help.


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#4 pault

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 12:18 AM

Thanks @inyathi Yes, that covers everything I was getting at and more. Definitely it is a seasonal place both in terms of weather and tourism (it can be quite crowded especially on the lake (I am not even going to try to type it again because my autocorrect clearly cannot tolerate the name). Guides are an issue here and I think it is definitely worthwhile seeking out someone specific.

Edited by pault, 28 April 2017 - 12:22 AM.

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#5 pault

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 01:46 AM

I didn't really finsih as I completed my journey.

 

... in particular finidng a good guide for wildlife is not easy. You can do it (according to anecdote - I have never found one but I am looking and am sure I will succeed with more effort), Not that Khao Sok is very good for wildlife anyway - other than macaques and tree shrews I have seen nothing at Khao Sok in two visits, just like @inyathi.

 

 

I have used Limestone Tours for my visits (coming from the Surat Thani side rather than the Krabi side as flights were more convenient for me, and a third of the price) and they were very good although really they specialise in the lake and not the forest. However, I speak Thai so I was able to communicate with the boatman/ spotter on the lake and while he certainly knew what he was doing I have only had an English speaking guide along when my Mum was there and I left them to it so I couldn't really say how good she was - certainly not a birder, but Mum didn't need one. Anyway, they are (were - I haven't been since 2008) a very good company to deal with and honest and straightforward.You could probably get an idea as to whether they are still consistently good from internet reviews.

 

I've stayed at Khaosok Tree House and took a tour with them and it was pretty poor (the tour, not the decent accommodation - but it's nowhere near as 'wild" as you might expect), but again that was many years ago.

 

I'll be out and about again in the Thai forests this year after a long time away (just can't stand the fact that @inyathi knows more than me :P)  so if I get any "fellow guide" recommendataions for guides for Khao Sok I'll try to remember to post info here. I am unlikley to make it to Khao Sok this year  with the rains coming soon.. But I'd recommend you get someone asap - even if you get someone who is just "okay" that may be a lot better than you will get if you leave it any later or (especially) try to book something when you turn up - a lot of peopke coming in January.Just my opinion, but possibly what you are thinking!.

 

Not convinced about Elephant Hills, although I keep an open mind. Thailand is very much about pampering, romance and families at that price range. The "adventure" is usually more than a bit contrived and tame.


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