The first night a couple of Americans convinced us to take the spotlighting tour to fill out their group. Each night the park takes groups of 6-10 visitors out in a truck for an hour to spotlight mammals. I’d heard mixed reviews, but figured it might be a chance to road-cruise something and for just 50 baht it was worth checking out.

As we walked over, a civet ran across the service road right in front of us! Civets are a Asian/African carnivore somewhere between a cat and a weasel. This one was spooked and got up a tree before I could get my camera out, leading to this artistic low-light photo.

Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)

asian palm civet in tree in khao yai

On the next night I got several better looks at them (saw 7 total). One was eating banana peels out of a trash can:

Asian palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus khao yai thailand
Asian palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus khao yai thailand
Asian palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus khao yai thailand
Asian palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus khao yai thailand
Asian palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus khao yai thailand

I had concerns about the spotlight tour, but was encouraged when the light-man spotted three civets from a good distance early on. Besides that we mostly saw sambar deer (~50) and barking deer (~10). Forty-five minutes in I saw a bright green line on the road. It looked too bright to be real, but the light man yelled “stop!” to the driver and I jumped out the back of the truck. Viper!

Unfortunately, it’s hard to communicate to a park guide “in charge” that you know your way around venomous snakes, so while I tried to get good pics he was shining his spotlight straight at it and telling me over and over to be careful. I tried to encourage him to redirect the light so I could get pictures but he wouldn’t take my word for it. There are probably rules about leaving park guests alone in the dark with vipers. As a result, the bright light washed out the head in the pictures. It was still a beautiful snake.

Vogel’s Pit Viper (Trimeresurus vogeli)

Vogel's Pit Viper (Trimeresurus vogeli) khao yai thailand
Vogel's Pit Viper (Trimeresurus vogeli) khao yai thailand

The tour ended shortly thereafter, but walking back to the dorm we ran into another viper on the service road! It was raining at this point and the viper got off the road quick, so these pictures are only slightly better.

Vogel's Pit Viper Viridovipera vogeli
Bamboo Pit Viper Viridovipera vogeli
Bamboo Pit Viper Trimeresurus vogeli

The next morning my wife and I woke up early and went on a hike. Our main target was gibbons in the forest, then otters (or anything else) from a tower hide set up above a grassland and lake. The rain did a number on the trail, and it was a muddy mess with several wet stream crossings (on one of which I lost my wedding ring helping my wife through the current). From time to time we heard gibbons calling in the distance, but the only mammals we saw were squirrels (possibly gray-bellied squirrels). Still, the forest was beautiful, with lush vegetation, awesome vine networks, and trees of epic size.

rose hakim in the khao yai jungle

The first herp was this awesome microhylid my wife spotted. I’d never seen this bright red coloration:

Berdmore’s Narrowmouth Frog (Microhyla berdmorei)

Berdmore's Chorus Frog Microhyla berdmorei
Berdmore's Narrowmouth Frog Microhyla berdmorei
rosey with leech socks in khao yai
Note the leech socks covering Rosey’s lower legs

In the course of muddy hiking we came across our first elephant sign. I really wanted to see some elephants, but it’s intimidating to imagine running into one in a place like this.

elephant sign in khao yai
elephant sign in khao yai
elephant sign in khao yai

After a long hike though the forest, we broke into a different habitat:

With a new landscape came new herps. In fact, these grassland species were ones that I’d wanted to find in Bangkok, but had never managed to locate the right habitat for.

Three-striped grass frog (Hylarana macrodactyla)

Three-striped Grass Frog Hylarana macrodactyla
Three-striped Grass Frog

Long-tailed grass lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus)

Asian Grass Lizard Takydromus sexlineatus
Long-tailed Grass Lacerta Takydromus sexlineatus

We also found this cute little skink in the area.

Streamside Skink (Sphenomorphus maculatus)

Streamside Skink Sphenomorphus maculatus hatchling

Habitat shot

the meadow at khao yai with observation tower in the background

And the butterflies in the grassland were especially beautiful.

When we ran into a tour group near the hide, it marked the first and only place that we saw people off of the road. Other than the hide (which was also accessible via an 1 km dirt road), we didn’t see anyone on a single one of the trails we went on. Rainy season Tuesdays have their benefits!

As we walked back to our dormitory I saw a promising stick on the ground. Underneath it I spotted a tiny patch of scales. That revealed a baby snake the size of a milk carton straw.

Collared Reed Snake (Calamaria pavimentata)

Collared Reed Snake Calamaria pavimentata juvenile

Back at camp my wife took a nap while I explored a new trail. First I found this turtle sitting on land:

Southeast Asian Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis)

Southeast Asian Box Turtle Cuora amboinensis

Then this turtle was in the distance basking on a log:

Asian Leaf Turtle (Cyclemys dentata)

Asian Leaf Turtle (Cyclemys dentata)
Asian Leaf Turtle (Cyclemys dentata)

I gained a little elevation on the trail, and on one step heard a rustling in the underbrush. I thought it was a frog, but took a look and found a stocky lizard! One of my big herp goals was to see more interesting agamids, and this guy was a great start!

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon (Acanthosaura lepidogaster)

Mountain Horned Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

On our second morning we had an uneventful trip to the tower blind at first light. On the way back the day got clearer and warmer, and the skinks were out in numbers. I think we mostly saw two species of skinks over the course of the trip, both of which showed up in several habitats:

Common Sun Skink (Mabuya multifasciata)

Common Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata

Streamside Skinks (Sphenomorphus maculatus)

streamside big khao yai sunning

The forest hikes produced a good variety of strange invertebrates both day and night.

The trails around the visitor center produced a lot of interesting animals. But several of my friends had told me that if we wanted to see some really neat reptiles, there was a certain river trail that we absolutely had to try out. That’s what we did next.