Archive for the 'Trek' Category

Gibbons, wild Asian Elephants, and porcupines in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Tourists take trips to Yellowstone National Park in the United States for exciting encounters with wildlife, to African parks such as Serengeti, Masai Mara, and Kruger for incredible safaris, and to Khao Yai in Thailand to see large Asian mammals.

Only a two hour drive from massive and congested Bangkok, residents of the Thai capital do weekend trips to Khao Yai to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. The tropical forests and grasslands of this national park cover a large enough area to provide forage and shelter for such big, charismatic fauna as Asian Elephants, Sambar Deer, Gaur (a rare, wild, Asian Ox), two species of bears, Gibbons, Macaques, and even a few Tigers.

Because much of the park is dense, tropical forest, the large animals of Khao Yai aren’t as easy to see as mammals in parks with wide open plains, but they are seen often enough to make this the most popular and heavily visited park in Thailand. This turns the campgrounds into veritable Thai jamborees each and every weekend but that doesn’t seem to reduce sightings of wild (and dangerous) Asian Elephants, semi tame and larcenous Lion-tailed Macaques, long-armed gibbons that hoot from the trees, massive, prehistoric-looking Great Hornbills (kind of like a giant, bizarre, old-world toucan), and plenty of beautiful Sambar Deer.

Visitors to the park who explore with an experienced, local guide are likely to see even more, especially if they go searching for animals at night. Tigers are pretty rare and avoid the limelight but elephants are just too big to hide. Other than the macaques and a variety of exotic, tropical Asian birds, some of the easiest animals to see are the large porcupines that visit the campgrounds at night. Covered in long quills that they rattle while walking among the tents, it can be disconcerting to see one of these dog-sized creatures stumbling around while walking to the restrooms but as long as you keep your distance, hopefully they will too (at least they aren’t carnivorous).

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Jaguars and Giant Anteaters in the Pantanal of Brazil

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

The pantanal is the largest freshwater wetland in the world. Just how big is it? Well, put it this way, if England and Wales were suddenly transplanted to the heart of this wetland complex in southwestern Brazil, everyone in both of those countries would be getting their feet wet.

The pantanal is also one of the last major wilderness areas of the world and is unique in that most of the animals appear to sustainably coexist with the two-legged inhabitants of the region. The wet savannahs, fields, huge marshes, and gallery forests are the stronghold of the Hyacinth Macaw (the largest parrot inn the world), endangered Giant Otters can be seen in rivers and lakes, and this damp ecosystem is also the best place in the world to see two other large neotropical mammals; the Giant Anteater and the Jaguar.

Giant Anteaters require large areas of undisturbed habitat to satiate their voracious appetite for termites and ants and the pantanal not only provides enough six-legged delicacies to meet their dietary needs, but the wide, open plains also make it easier to spot this strange, ponderous-looking creature.

Jaguars reach their largest size in the pantanal and are also more common there than anywhere else. These facts (and the thousands of waterbirds seen every day) demonstrate the highly productive nature of the pantanal. The big cats are more difficult to see than the Giant Anteater but once again, due to the open nature of the habitat, are encountered on most guided excursions that look for them!

One of the best places to stay for jaguar watching and experiencing the incredible Brazilian pantanal is the Jaguar Research Center. More of a comfortable hotel located in the heart of the pantanal than a biological field station, visitors to this place have a nearly guaranteed chance of seeing at least one jaguar during a three night stay (every single group of visitors since 2006 who stayed for three nights has seen one or more jaguars).

When not searching for this fabled big, spotted cat of the Americas, guests can also watch myriads of storks, egrets other wading birds, capybaras, and might also see an Anaconda!

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