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

31 December 2010

There are guides and guides

29th December 2010

I’m referring to the guides that we’ve gone with in various places to help us find wildlife – Madagascar, Bardia, Hala Bala, here. You obviously pay a premium for this, and each of these four trips has come out of our “special fun budget”, but a good local guide is crucial for spotting much wildlife in these heavily forested areas. They know where the animals are found, what habitat, what time of day, their distinctive calls and their usual perches. They also have sharp eyes and keen hearing from years of practise.

From the extremely adept Quiet Jacqui in Ankarafantsika to the all-knowing Jan and Tu at Hala Bala we have had superb guides. Even when their English isn’t good, we’re wowed by how well they spot and identify birds and beasts we’d have walked right past.

Okay, you can see what’s coming.

Our guide here in Khao Sok is a bit crap. “Bau, what’s that hawk up there?” “I don’t know… it’s not an osprey though.” “Bau, what kind of monkey is in that tree?” “It’s a monkey.” “Bau, which bird was that we saw earlier?” “I don’t know, maybe Dave (fellow tourist) might know.” If you’re clever, you’ll have noticed that as well as failing to identify the wildlife, Bau also isn’t the one spotting it. His English also isn’t great, and he’s not really a model of organisation either. I’m writing this blog during the time we’re meant to be visiting a waterfall, but the boat hasn’t returned yet so we can’t.


Khao Sok is a lovely place, and we enjoyed paddling around looking at hornbills and monkeys this morning. Bau is a nice guy, and he’s only been guiding in Khao Sok for 2 months so it’s hardly his fault. If I sound sour, it’s because we paid top-dollar for this treat, and we could have paid a heck of a lot less to come to Khao Sok independently and pootle around seeing what we could spot ourselves.

(Update) We spent the afternoon out on a longtail boat, and caught a glimpse of the mighty gaur. The gaur is the largest bovine in the world, heavier than any bison or buffalo. It obviously revels in the title of World’s Biggest Bull as it keeps its hide close-cropped to show off a massively muscular physique that would make any bodybuilder give up in shame and might give a Tyrannosaurus Rex pause before attacking. It goes without saying that it was the teenage skipper of our longtail who spotted the gaur, not Bau.


4 Responses to “There are guides and guides”

  1. Linda says:

    Hi,

    Fascinated by your blog about Khao Sok as we are about to venture there in a few weeks and hoped to get tips on good guides! Really interesting read.

    • shortclaws says:

      Hi! That’ll teach me not to check for comments. Did you go to Khao Sok in the end? With Paddle Asia or anyone else? How was it?

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi, I’ve been trying to find information about paddling in Khao Sok independently and came upon your blog. Could you give any further details on paddling there? Did you stay on the lake? Any info would be much appreciated!

    • shortclaws says:

      Hi Kevin! Our trip with Paddle Asia was great, I’d recommend them as a good outfit. We were taken by boat from the park entrance out across the lake to a bunch of floating bungalows. These are *very* basic accommodation, but also pretty magical for a couple of nights. Completely in the middle of nowhere, miles from anything, and the lake is as beautiful as you could imagine. Each day we went out kayaking, and also went out in a boat later to look for more wildlife – good combination of activity, if you love wildlife or kayaking or both! But this was all arranged through Paddle Asia.

      The lake is like a mirror, so the kayaking couldn’t be easier. Plus the lake is warm and there’s nothing even remotely dangerous living in it. If you’re thinking of going *completely* independently I’m not sure how that would work – certainly unless you speak Thai you may have a lot of difficulty arranging the floating bungalow accommodation and rental of kayaks, as the folks looking after the NP aren’t used to dealing directly with foreign tourists. The only people we saw staying there independently were Thais. Good luck! And let me know if you have any other questions.

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