Journey through a World Heritage Site: Part One
Hot days, rough terrain and wild pigs galore. Thailand’s last great tiger haven
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the provinces of Uthai Thani, Tak, Kanchanaburi and Suphan Buri is Thailand’s last great tiger haven. The protected area covers 2,780 square kilometers, and a seasonal river runs through the center of the sanctuary from north to south with many tributaries along its path. During March, the waterway is low but still flowing for most of its length. In some areas however, the sandy river bottom dries up. The weather is very hot during the day with temperatures soaring above 38 degrees centigrade.
Huai Kha Khaeng riverine habitat
An old dream of mine was to walk the river from north to south and experience this majestic animal kingdom first hand. I met with the Director General of the Department of National Parks at the time, Jatuporn Buruspat, to coordinate all logistics for the trip. The plan was to walk from Khao Nang Ram Wildlife Research Station in the eastern section to Khao Ban Dai ranger station in the central part, a distance of about 30 kilometers. It was expected to take about seven days with several stops along the way at a few mineral deposits, hopefully to photograph wildlife.
My trip began on March 5th and left Bangkok first thing in the morning driving some 300 kilometers diagonally across Thailand going northwest. I passed through the very modern city of Suphan Buri with its excellent roads and modern facilities. My final destination is the Huai Kha Khaeng headquarters area situated in the western forests of Uthai Thani province. The deciduous and hill evergreen forest found in the interior still harbor large herds of elephant, gaur, banteng, sambar and wild pig, plus the amazing carnivores, the tiger and leopard in fair numbers. As a World Heritage Site, it truly lives up to its name as Thailand’s top protected area.
Huai Kha Khaeng forest from a helicopter
Published in the ‘Outlook’ section of the Bangkok Post on March 29, 2010