|thailand: hala bala 2008|
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I spent a couple of nights in Hala Bala Wildlife Reserve at the south east tip of Thailand in 2004. When I had to go to Malaysia for work in August 2008 I returned for 4 nights. Hala Bala is paradise. It is my favourite national park in Thailand, perhaps in South East Asia. It is quiet, picturesque, has hot showers and flushing toilets and a very friendly staff of researchers who go out of their way to help me find stuff, including setting traps for me.
Hala Bala is an excellent, if fairly small, piece of rainforest that straddles a mountain, and has a small research station manned by a team of biologists. The public do not normally stay there: partly because it isn’t run as a tourist camp and – more recently – because the Islamic separatists in Narathiwat province have put people off travelling here (several thousand people have died over the past 3 years). But although the surrounding province is unsafe, the park itself has never seen any trouble and it is only a 30 minute drive from the Malaysian border point of Songai Cholok. I arranged to stay at the park through Tu and Jan my Thai friends who run a guiding company. Nice people and great naturalists. Tu spent 2 years studying hornbills in the area so has all the right connections to set up a visit at a minimal cost. The park is run on a shoestring budget so visits like mine can really help.
There is only one road through the park. Because of the mountainous terrain it often gives great views across the canopy and makes for excellent spotlighting. I saw a lot while I was here, and got my best ever views of several species. It does, however, rain a lot . Apparently April is the driest month but in April 2008 it rained every day.
On the first morning Agile Gibbons were easy to see – there were are least 4 groups calling around the station. We also saw Black-banded, Grey Bellied and Giant Black Squirrels.
The researchers had a dozen traps set for Civets. No Civets but they had caught a Malayan Porcupine. On my last morning they caught a Common Palm Civet, which they tagged and took a sample of DNA from.
Other species seen during the three days there were Dusky and Banded Langurs, Long-tailed Macaques, Horse-tailed Squirrel, Low’s Squirrel, Black and Cream Giant Squirrel.
I also saw an enormous snake crossing the creek that feeds into the river. It was probably about 5m long and I tentatively ID’d it as one of the Keelbacks.
On the second night we moved the mist nets but just caught more Horsfield’s, with nothing in the Harp Trap. On the third night the guys strung a net across the river at a place where they had caught Naked Bats. Sure enough we caught 3 of the brutes plus 3 Sunda Free-tailed Bats (Mops mops) in two colour phases.
The Naked Bat was just superb. The largest insectivorous bat in the world and also I reckon the smelliest, the ugliest and the meanest .
Stuff I Missed