Thailand Herping Field Trips
If you haven’t been herping in Thailand or elsewhere in Southeast Asia – you will be surprised by a lot of things. Usually when I’m herping with people for the first time, they have a hundred questions about snakes, reptiles, and other wildlife. But that isn’t all. When you travel here for Thailand herping, you’ll have questions about the wildlife of course, but just as many questions about Thai culture, food, places to relax, driving, attitudes, prices, scams, health remedies, drinking the water, which beer is best, and all sorts of questions about what it’s like to stay in Thailand – a country very different from your own.
I have known many people who have come here to try to herp on their own – because they’ve read some articles about others doing so – and decided they could do it themselves without a local to show them how, when, and where to find snakes. Many of them had very little ‘luck,’ as they called it. Professionals who have kept snakes – venomous and non for decades or scores of years can still be absolutely clueless about snakes and other wildlife in Thailand. I’ve seen this over and over. You may be exceptional at herping in the USA or wherever your home country is, and you may not do well here in Thailand at all. The herpetofauna is vastly different. Behavior, preferred habitat, and weather are all different.
When you go it on your own, you’re risking a number of bad scenarios. I’ve had to bail people out at the national park when the staff called me and asked me if I knew the two Americans there who had herped the park at night and picked up a few snakes in bags, ready to take them from the park (a crime).
What would you do as you’re confronted with a couple guys with guns in the forest? Happens. Should you run for your life, or try to reason something out? If you don’t know Thai (and they most certainly don’t know English), it’s going to be a bit of a tense moment.
There are lots of things to know about herping in Thailand – what you can, can’t, and shouldn’t do. I’ve been here 13 yrs. and I’m still learning. I don’t think it’s reasonable or prudent for anyone to come here on their own and start herping. There’s a lot to know to keep you safe, and so you’re having fun and not worried about what might jump out of the bushes at you. You will not find most of it in any article online. I know because I’ve written a lot, and I’ve read a lot, and still I’d say the majority of the information you’d need to know has never been written about. Ever see an article about how to stay safe herping in Thailand? There isn’t one. If I were to try to write it, I’d surely leave out heaps of information that just wouldn’t come to me at the time.
(Now that got me thinking that I should probably attempt to write some sort of guide!)
Thailand is a herping paradise, but in each area you must know where to look. How to look. Dogs are a serious problem here, in the forest or just road-cruising. I’ve known two people bitten by dogs – and I myself have been chased by 1-2 dogs at a time frequently. What to do? I was once chased by a pack of 50 or so dogs in a remote location. What would you do in that case? Having dealt with the dogs here for years already, I knew what to do, and luckily for me, it worked!
Herping on private land could be fatal here. Many (most?) homeowners have guns. If you’re wandering around on their property at night (whether you know it’s private, or not) and their dogs don’t find you first, you may be confronted by someone with a gun, or someone may just shoot. I have a friend who has on a couple of occasions told me he was grabbing his gun when he saw someone walking around… and it was ME that was walking around, and he knew I was there, but had forgotten because he had just awakened.
Herping in national parks at night is forbidden. So, how do you find places to herp at night? And, why would you herp at night instead of daytime?
Where, and what time, and in what weather conditions are best to find green pit vipers? Where is the best spot to find Malayan pit vipers? Where is the best chance to find a king cobra? A coral snake? A monocled cobra? A big keeled rat snake? A red-necked keelback? A krait? A dog-toothed cat snake? Gonyosoma oxycephalum or Xenochrophis trianguligerus?
If you are planning a trip to Thailand to do some herping and, instead of flying blind you’d like me to show you some spots where you’ll have the highest probability of success – you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back with you as time permits.
Though it’s possible to find snakes year-round, there are definitely better times than others. This week (middle of January) we had 1 night that was good for herping. Last week we had 2 nights. The week before – zero nights were any good. It’s really hit or miss in December, January, Feb… and sometimes longer. The variability of the weather cycle dictates much of it too. Each year can be different. Anyway, I hope I’ve helped you re-think your idea about herping without a guide.
Thailand herping can be incredibly rewarding and pretty safe if you know what you’re doing. Let us help you have the best experience of a lifetime, not one full of regret.
4 thoughts on “Thailand Snake Note – Thailand Herping (Herpetology) Trips”
I see you’re a snake guy, I have a photo of a lizard I took in Vientiane, Lao PDR. I’m no expert, I was wondering if you or someone you know might be able to ID it?
I don’t know that one. Maybe someone else will ID it.
Great article that comes at the right time. I am arriving in Koh Chang in 2 days and I would love to take some pictures of lizards or snakes. I was wondering if it is safe to go on my own at night and now I know it’s not.
However I have good legs, good headlamp and a tele lens that will allow me to take in-situ pictures from a distance of 2-3 meters. Searching for reptiles during the day on popular hiking trails proved to be quite frustrating (one species for 3-4 hours of walking and usually common ones like sun skinks or bronzebacks).
What do you think I should do to get to see some herps and also stay on the safe side?
Wear rubber boots almost to the knee and ask some Thais where a safe place would be on the island. There are some green pit vipers there you might see at night. I think they’re T. cardamomensis. Cheers!
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