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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

17 December 2010

Otter craze

Written by Maureen, 13th December 2010

Here’s a summary of our trip to find otters in Thailand.

Where? At a secret location in the Narathiwat province, extreme south of the country. We got special permission to visit thanks to Jan and Tu who have excellent contacts

Accommodation? At the Hala Bala wildlife sanctuary research station, a cluster of neat bungalows set in amongst pristine primary rainforest. Ours had newly-installed hot shower, a fridge and even a TV (though a mosquito net would have been more useful!). The best form of entertainment, however, were the monitor lizard rubbish disposal crew and resident hornbills. The research station is also home to one of the best research teams in Thailand

How did you get there? By train it is a 24-hour journey from Bangkok each way, then a 1 hour drive. Would’ve been quicker to fly, but we are on a budget

How long were you there? 5 days, and 2 half days. We arrived in the middle of monsoon season but, luckily, the rain which had fallen continuously for three days prior to our arrival, stopped and only returned in spates

How did you see the otters? We waited quietly in hides for a total of 46 and a half hours over five days.

Comfy? No! When it wasn’t bucketing down, it was very hot and there was always a cloud of insects about. It was also mind-numbingly dull and uncomfortable

Did you get bitten? On my right leg alone I counted 42 mozzie bites, a footful of midge bites plus miscellaneous other bumps and contusions, sources unknown. We rubbed every inch of exposed skin with tropical strength bug spray but that didn’t help – the evil mozzies simply bit through our trousers and shirts. We couldn’t squish them either because that would’ve made too much noise

What about leeches? I was assailed by 7 of the little terrors. I swear they could smell my fear (Matt didn’t get any). Leech socks helped, though a wet suit would’ve been better

Did you see any otters? Yes, three sightings. One glimpse of the oriental small-clawed otter swimming around in the distance, and two sightings of the hairy-nosed otter, the rarest otter in the world. Each sighting lasted for about 10 seconds

What else did you see? On a night drive, we spotted two types of civet, a slow loris, a giant flying squirrel flying (well, gliding) and the freaky colugo. We also saw gibbons, macaques, two species of langurs, squirrels, three types of hornbills and various other birds. Hala Bala is home to many more wildlife, but we focussed this trip on otters

Was it an expensive trip? Very much so. We blew a big hole in our special fun budget to go on this trip

What else? The province is in political turmoil and the British foreign advice is not to come here. Machine gun-toting soldiers were very visible on trains and railway station because rebels have fired into train carriages in the past. There were army checkpoints on every road

So was it worth it? Yes! We had good company in Jan and Tu, ate lots of excellent food, got to enjoy a beautiful rainforest and saw two species of otters

Would you do it again? Yes, but not very soon for it is an uncomfortable and itchy life.

Big thanks to Jan and Tu, and all at Hala Bala research station for your patience and kindness. In particular, we are grateful to Mr Ning for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

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2 Responses to “Otter craze”

  1. Hels says:

    Hi guys,

    I’m really pleased that you eventually got a glimpse of your otter’s . . . you must really love them!

    I couldn’t sit there all day getting biten in the hope to see my favourite animal. I remember my holiday to Sorrento with Martin . . . I am obviously much tastier than him . . . the little buggers loved my blood and hardly touched Martin! It was a very itchy and blotchy holiday – I hate mosquitos!

    Sounds like the pros outweighed the cons though and you had a good but expensive part of your trip.

    At least you can save money by not buying xmas pressies this year! I’m just about sorted, but being hampered by the snow at the moment. I can’t even go into work today as a -13 degree fog froze the train lines overnight so all services were cancelled this morning . . . oh well :0)

    Take care M & M and keep up the great blogs . . .

    Love Helen and Martin


  2. Jane says:

    Holy moly! You 2 are some ~badass~ amateur otter trackers… Wow.

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