When we found out that we could come face to face with elephants, even spot tigers and leopards in the wild at a park just 2 hours away from Bangkok, we knew we had to be there.
That place is Khao Yai (“Big Mountains”). With it’s bizarre mountains, untouched jungle, mountain streams and waterfalls, it hosts an animal world which includes wild elephants, buffaloes, deers, porcupines, varieties of monkeys, parrots and parakeets, huge hornbills and 250 species of birds.
We arrived at Greenleaf Eco Lodge just in time to join the group heading for a sunset bat watching experience. What’s the big deal? Well, we were in for a surprise!
We trekked in the dark through a large corn field, walking in a single line. We were told to stop and look up at the cave opening high up on the cliff. We spotted few bats flying out in search of insects. Then more, and more until it became a long and thick continuous swirl. The sound of bats screeching and the whoosh of their wings filled the air. The sight of 1 million bats in motion was such an amazing and absolutely awesome experience!
Walking through the eerie and mysterious corn field, like a scene out of The X-Files.
Bats were still streaming out even as we were leaving an hour later. Can you see the faint line? Those are bats.
Next morning, we mounted the back of the truck which brought us into the nature reserve. Khao Yai covers 2,000km and rises from 400m to 1351m above sea. We were enjoying the cool wind in our face, when a commotion broke out suddenly!
The guides were pointing and shouting. They had spotted an elephant in the bushes! It was our lucky day! Threatened by the noise, the huge elephant started ambling towards the road, blocking our way. Everyone was excited now, reaching for their cameras and craning their neck. Suddenly I turned around and let out a loud shriek. The agitated elephant was charging towards us. With our hearts pounding, we watched the driver back off. The tension eased and elephant finally calmed down and started chewing on bamboo leaves.
Throughout the day, we spotted more animals.We visited waterfalls and were treated to a most beautiful sunset! Night temperature here can drop to a low of 10° C. Huddled at the back of the truck, the chilly wind penetrated our jackets, forcing our teeth to chatter uncontrollably. I thought I would be frozen by the time we got to the lodge. We only felt alive again after having a steaming bowl of Tom Yum soup!
Oh my gosh, Blur. How amazing that must have been. I love animals so much. I never go to the zoo because its too sad to see them confined. I can't imagine a better way to appreciate them than in their natural habitat.
Indeed Holly. The joy (and relieve) of seeing one animal after hours of waiting... doesn't matter if it's a squirrel. you must try it sometime.
Then again, I should blog about our highly acclaimed Singapore Zoo one day. It's a model of the `open zoo' concept. The animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures, separated from the visitors by dry or wet moats which are oncealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of vision.
For dangerous animals such as leopards and jaguars which can climb very well, they are housed in beautifully landscaped glass-fronted enclosures.
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