The Day of the Python

Nerys arrived on Saturday morning and was happy to trade the snow in Wales with sunshine in Bangkok. Despite little sleep on the airplane and a six-hour jetlag she was so curious to meet us, to hear more about the project and the plans for the coming days.

We left Bangkok shortly after lunch and drove the 250 km south to Sam Roi Yod National Park, where Pare and Nut had earlier found a promising wetland. We arrived at the National Park Office just in time to watch the spectacular sunset over the wetland.

The bungalows of the National Park Office where we are going to spend the next couple of nights are located at the foot of high limestone cliffs, bordering the wetland. What a great location in the middle of almost pure nature and almost completely quiet during the night – except for the sounds of all kinds of animals!

We had dinner at the National Park Office, surrounded by millions of flies and mosquitoes!

Today we started early. The sun starts to rise at 6 am and sets again at 6 pm, so we need to use the day well, especially since temperatures are around 30 degrees C during mid-day! Breakfast was at 6:30 am and by 7:30 am we were ready to get out on the wetland to survey the water depth and sediment thickness. We used one of our zodiacs, the larger one, which has solar-powered motor, and we borrowed a small rowing boat from the National park Office. Quite soon we realized that paddling was almost impossible and that the motor could hardly be used because the lotus and Phragmites stems made movements almost impossible – we had to do like the local fishermen: use a long bamboo sticks to move the boat gradually forward. Our movements were however never as elegant as those of the fishermen who just seem to glide over the water surface. Despite our struggles we were successful; we found several spots with soft sediments and at least 2 m thick sediments. Given our earlier experiences in northern Thailand, this felt great!

Despite maps at the National Parks Visitor Center, it was rather difficult to picture the extent of the wetland and also the general topography of the area. A good excuse to explore the region a bit more! So we spent the afternoon with an excursion to other National Park Offices. Our first stop was at the southern edge of the wetland, where two boatmen guided us through a dense jungle of Phragmites. Small canals cut through this jungle and form an intricate net of water roads, along which the fishermen glide silently in their long boats.

It needs locals to find the way through this network of canals and without the two boatmen we would have become completely lost. With only the rustling noise of the tall Phragmites we traversed several canals, some larger, some smaller and now and then we probed the sediment thickness. Suddenly a load scream interrupted the solitude – there is a snake in the water, shouted Moo. Where? What? Let’s watch it! It is a Python – don’t get too close, it is extremely dangerous!

 

The snake was light grey, had a thick body (double the size of my upper arm) and was completely motionless. My first idea was that the snake was dead and that it looked blown up from lying in water, but when even our two boatmen were alerted and started to move the boats away, I told myself that I was pretty ignorant in respect to tropical dangers. But then Ludvig started to laugh – all that fuzz about a dead snake! Yes, sure it was a Python, but it was definitely a completely dead one!

Our second stop was at the National Parks Head Quarter. From there a small trail led through mangrove forest, partly old and partly re-planted. The trail also explained the importance of preserving mangrove forest as an important ecosystem. So much of the wetland – probably everything situated outside Sam Roi Yod National Park – had already been transformed into shrimp farms. It is sad to see one shrimp farm after the other for kilometer after kilometer, knowing how much these farms destroy the groundwater, the ecosystems and are threatening the birds. At the same time we eat the shrimps, and the farmers who own these farms get an income.

Just before sunset we returned to the National Parks Head Quarter and could watch monkeys touring around the trees and enjoying the good food. These monkeys were not at all interested in us, not like the monkeys we saw last year in Kumphawapi.

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