Thailand | Khao Yai – and Wild Elephants!

We are practically in the middle of nowhere, in a lovely way – on safari!

Jungle safari, that is. After several buses and tuk-tuks out of Siem Reap, we are in Khao Yai National Park, near Pak Chong, where elephants and leopards roam.In fact, we have had the wonderful opportunity to see all kinds of wild animals, thanks to Greenleaf Guesthouse, which has provided us with ample entertainment and wildlife spotting, and our guide Hunt. We arrived late our first night, and rose quite early the next morning, when we set out for safari. Our first march to the wilderness proved successful; we spotted oodles of gibbons in the trees after tracking their sounds through the thickets. Certainly trails are a loose definition here…

Gibbons are amazing. They rarely come down from their elevated kingdoms, so you must really work at a sighting, but it is well worth the adventure. They are much different from any monkeys we have seen — tail-less and large, they swing branch to branch like we place one foot in front of the other. And the sounds! They are clearly attune to some language we have not the priviledge to learn.

After lunching by a scenic lake and hiking with our new Canadian friends, Audrey and Lauriane, we were ushered manically to the cars, as there was an elephant spotting nearby.

As we piled out and approached the scene, our hearts beat a little faster and continued on as the grand beast emerged from the bushes. What a beauty: a 20-ish wild elephant, with tusks and all. We would all sprint like mad as soon as he made any indication of movement, as elephants are remarkably dangerous. He enjoyed a big bath in the nearby river, then turned to march back toward the forest, easily crushing thick trees in its path. Joshua was ~10 feet away from the thing, so we took off like mad. Never have we been so frightened yet amazed by an animal.

Our day was ended with a waterfall hike, then a sunset viewing overlooking the Khoa Yai valley. Many hornbills joined in our activities, flying over the valley in all of their colorful grandeur. Before driving back to camp, we were greeted by thousands of bats and some rare singing birds. Apparently Hunt is also a bird caller, as he spoke rather fluently to a particularly festive breed, who responded to his signal without hesitation. Who knew engineers could be such good wildlife scouters?

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