We had another flight out to recce the Phetburi River in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetchaburi Province, the location of the now famous WCS camera-trap crocodile photo, and the main destination for the expedition.
Kaeng Krachan National Park stretches away towards the mountains and the Burmese border
We flew from Bangkok to the Kaeng Krachan Country Club where we refuelled and took the doors of the helicopters. We then we sent off to fly a loop of the river, from the Kaeng Krachan Reservoir up to beyond KU camp, beyond which there was a recent report of a crocodile sighting by a helicoper pilot with a wildlife photographer onboard.
Flying low we were looking for any signs of crocodile activity, maybe even crocodiles in the river but certainly suitable basking and egg-laying beaches. Having the doors off always makes a helicopter journey more interesting, you can lean out to take photographs and the camera may can hang out and film the jungle flashing past but it is very windy and difficult to converse, and of course everything in the helicopter has to be anchored down to prevent it being sucked out and into the tail rotor, to catastrophic effect.
On this occasion we saw no signs of crocodiles and had to suffice with some great Phetburi River GVs (general views).
Flying in a helicopter with the doors off is exhilerating,... by very windy!
The western end of Kaeng Krachan Reservoir
comes into sight
The broader reaches of the Phetburi River near the Kaeng Krachan Reservoir
The rapids further up stream might not be suitable for crocodiles
but the slower, deeper, quieter stretches looked like possible habitat
Map of Kaeng Krachan National Park and primary and secondary locations
Phetburi River rafting journey KU camp to Pong Luek,
the two UTM coordinates indicate the locations with positive signs of crocodile activity (mouse over for satellite map click on map for enlarged view)
Stories of wild Siamese crocodiles have gradually filtered out. One such story came from the owner of a small crocodile farm in Phetchaburi Province who claimed to have been offered a small wild Siamese crocodile, captured in the Kaeng Krachan Reservoir. The main river feeding the dam is the Phetburi River so maybe the hatchling crocodile had been swept downstream into the lake.
Phetchaburi crocodile farm, the owner of which was offered a wild Siamese crocodile
There are also stories of crocodiles in the reservoir near the Sacred Spirit Mountain so we visited the abbot of the local monastery to learn more.
Travelling with the abbot on the reservoir, to the spot where a crocodile was sighted,
and introducing him to a newly hatched croc from the Phetchaburi crocodile farm
Then back to the Country Club for our last night of comfort and to prepare for the 8-day river expedition the next day. Common garden lizards (Calotes versicolor) were common around the Country Club.