THAILAND
2002


"Siamese Crocodile"

Phetburi River - Croc camp to Pong Luek

Eventually we broke camp at Croc camp and set off down-stream again, heading for our final camp on the Phetburi River, at the confluence of the Bang Kloi River and a short distance beyond the rafter's camp known as Fuji camp.

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)

Continuing down-stream the Phetburi River was getting larger, deeer and more suitable for crocodiles. I thought I saw something dive into the river and disappear under a large rock beside a fallen tree. Thinking it could be a crocodile we stopped to search and Yos even dived under the rock but came up empty-handed.

Continuing down-stream from Croc camp The river is wider and slower
and more suitable for crocodiles I thought I saw something go under this rock but nothing was found by Yos when he dived underneath

There were monitor lizards everywhere along our journey, on rocks and branches overhanging the river, into which they leapt at the slightest approach. I tried and failed to capture several. Our best find was a tortoise, a relatively rare species, a Burmese black giant tortoise (Manouria emys phayrei) found alongside the river browsing on the vegetation. We stopped to film this animal and I did a 'piece to camera' about tortoises being primarily herbivores, compared to the primarily more carnivorous turtles, and I picked up some of the litorial vegetation the tortoise appeared to be eat and chewed it myself. This was a mistake, the tortoise was eating leaves from higher up the bank and those that I had eaten caused me to rapidly develope a sore throat and experience difficult swallowing, talking and even breathing. Fortunately it wore off, I photographed the bemused tortoise, and we moved on.

Mark with the Asian black giant tortoise, Manouria emys phayrei
Asian black giant tortoise, Manouria emys phayrei

An hour later we got a call on the radio from Emma's support team to tell us they had found a large tortoise on the river bank! They called later to say they had seen a cobra, and that was something I was sorry to have missed.

The last few kilometres of rafting on the Phetburi River

 

When we reached the confluence of the Bang Kloi River we camped for the evening on the shingle of a spit. In the morning we were planning to raft the best rapids on the entire river, known as Elephant Tusk Rapids because a boat carrying elephant ivory was said to have overturned there many years earlier.

The camera boat went down first and moored below the rapids to film the herp boat coming down and passing them. Unfortunately the high water levels on the river, the result of heavy rain in the mountains on the Burmese border, meant that the rapids were little more than an occasional ripple around a large submerged boulder and the run was far less impressive than had been hoped. I have to say, having white-water rafted the dangerous Karnali and Bheri Rivers on two expeditions to Nepal in the early 1990s it takes more than a few whirl-pools and white-horses to impress me.

There was not much white-water on the Phetburi River

After Elephant Tusk Rapids it was a few kilometers only to journey's end. All day we had been seeing more signs of human development, clearings, trails, small gardens, huts, people on the river, and eventually we reach the Karen settlement of Pong Luek where we beached the boats, unloaded all the equipment and loaded our waiting vehicles for the drive back to Khoa's for a meal and then back to Bangkok.

Children on the village heralds a village,
the Karen village of Pong Luek
Journey's end, beaching the boats for the last time

On the road back to the capital we passed two Thai army trucks loaded with soldiers in camouflage with darkened faces and bristling with weapons. We discovered there had been another incursion over the border and they were going in to deal with the situation. It seemed we have been fortunate in having made our journey in the only window available.

In Bangkok we had one day doing a few pick-ups at the crocodile farms and the temple and then wrapped the film, heading home the next day.