A enshroud of mist hangs over the jungle equally the showtime forenoon rays penetrate the dense leaf below. We stand upwards gazing out, shivering over a loving cup of hot java – an expected but welcome sensation inwards tropical Thailand – soaking upwards the vastness earlier us, in addition to allowing the quiet to penetrate our souls.
This is Kaeng Krachan National Park inwards Petchaburi Province,Thailand – the country’s largest national commons at 2,915 foursquare metres, yet also 1 of its to the lowest degree visited, despite beingness merely 3 hours’ motility from Bangkok, Thailand in addition to 2 hours from Hua Hin. Bordering Burma, the commons is 1 of the largest remaining stretches of uninterrupted woods inwards South-East Asia in addition to 1 of Thailand’s richest biospheres.
We’ve driven to Phaneon Thung – the park’s 2d highest peak at 1207 metres – to greet the dawn, having arrived at the park’s eastern entrance at 5.30am. With merely a rutted single-lane route to the peak, traffic is restricted, alongside the route opened upwards to incoming traffic from 5.30-7.30am in addition to 1-3pm, in addition to outgoing traffic from 9-10am in addition to 4-5pm. We in addition to then transferred into an opened upwards jeep for a bracing ride to the misty lookout.
En route nosotros saw enough of prove of wild elephants; the commons is dwelling solid to some 200 pachyderms, equally good equally other endangered species including Sun bears, leopards, gaur (a wild bison), Sumatran rhinoceros in addition to even, reportedly, tigers. Unfortunately, the commons made headlines of late when the mutilated carcasses of iv wild elephants were institute inside commons boundaries, indicating that poaching of animals from the wild is soundless rife.
We, however, are on a specific wild animals spotting mission – plane watching. Kaeng Krachan is 1 of Thailand’s birdwatching havens, dwelling solid to many rare in addition to endangered species equally good equally some of its most spectacular birds. It is the entirely house inwards Thailand where the Ratchet-Tailed Treepie tin dismiss hold upwards found, spell other ornithological prizes include Giant Pitta, Grey Peacock Pheasant in addition to Grey Slaty Woodpeckers.
As novice twitchers, whatsoever plane sighting for my grouping of journalists is a coup, alongside our conduct Amorn Liukeeratiyutkul – Chairman of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand – excitedly showing us colourful species such equally Flavescent Bulbul through his $3,000 Swarovski scope.
After an threescore minutes or therefore of intensely scouring the treeline for birdlife – alongside ample rewards in addition to lots of excitement – nosotros retire to a nearby eating seat for breakfast. Just when nosotros intend the birdwatching is done for the morning, nosotros are inwards for the biggest surprise of all…
Like a stealth bomber, a giant plane glides overhead. One of our local guides, dressed inwards khaki, runs in, pointing to the heaven similar Tattoo from Fantasy Island. “It’s here, it’s here!” he cries. We aspect up; in addition to flight into view, its huge two-metre wingspan most blocking the sun, is a Giant Hornbill.
Although non the rarest plane inwards Kaeng Krachan, the hornbill is 1 of the most impressive, in addition to sure enough a prize for birdwatchers. White alongside dark in addition to yellowish feathers, its most prominent characteristic is its brilliant yellowish casque, an armour-like protrusion dominating a pterodactyl-like skull.
We ticker spellbound equally the enormous plane lands on a tree entirely 25 metres from where nosotros are sitting. Mr Amorn is beside himself alongside excitement, speedily grabbing his range for a closer view. Not that nosotros involve it – the plane is beingness to a greater extent than than co-operative, giving an Oscar-worthy functioning equally he struts along the branches for at to the lowest degree 10 minutes. He pokes his huge caput downward from the branch, searching for insects in addition to violent at free bark, giving us the perfect sentiment of his dramatic yellowish helmet. It actually is an amazing, breathtaking sight, in addition to 1 I volition cry upwards forever.
For most visitors to Thailand, its National Parks in addition to wilderness areas are non actually on the radar. Beaches, yes; cities, yeah – but the 102 National Parks throughout the province are largely ignored yesteryear tourists. Yet some of my most memorable experiences during my vii years visiting Thailand accept been inwards wilderness areas. There’s zilch quite similar waking to the love-song of a gibbon, the trumpet of an elephant or the sight of a magnificent plane similar the Giant Hornbill. Do yourself a massive favour, in addition to add together a see to a National Park on your side yesteryear side Thailand itinerary!
(Pics: Julie Miller 2012)