We made a short trip to Krabi, one of the popular tourist destinations in Thailand.  Instead of scuba diving, we spent 3 nights at Phanom Bencha National Park in search of Thai butterflies and one night at Phanom Bencha mountain resort to get ourselves nearer to butterflies on the fringes of the national park.  Again, since there is plenty of online publications about Phanom Bencha, you can look up the map and other general information here.

Destroy all signs.  If you destroy one sign, it's probably not a big deal.  However, if you destroy ALL signs, you're in big trouble.  Not easy to find and destroy all the signs all over the park though.

Destroy all signs. If you destroy one sign, it’s probably not a big deal. However, if you destroy ALL signs, you’re in big trouble. Not easy to find and destroy all the signs all over the park though.

I will however include the park rules here… because they are so interesting.

Cepora iudith (Orange Gull)

Cepora iudith (Orange Gull) – the first butterfly to greet us just outside the bungalow.

As with most butterfly trips, this trip has too many photos to post in one post so you’re going to see this trip in parts.  For this part, we will cover the trails around Phanom Bencha National Park.

Cheritra freja freja  (Common Imperial)

Cheritra freja freja (Common Imperial) – hanging out on a tree behind the bungalow

As with most parts of Thailand, the locals are always friendly and offer top notch service. But it was with much surprise that unlike the diving spots, not many Thai in the mountains understand English. Nonetheless, it did not stop them from doing their best to understand what we were trying to say.

Burara oedipodea (Branded Orange Awlet)

Burara oedipodea (Branded Orange Awlet)

A lot of the road signs and even park instructions were also in Thai. However, via iPad pictures and lots of charade skills, we managed to find our way around.

A malayana looking knight flying across the rocks

A malayana looking knight flying across the rocks

Thanks to Antonio Giudici, a naturalized Italian living in Koh Phangan with his lovely family, we managed to get a lodge within Phanom Bencha national park for 3 nights at only 600 baht a night.

Polyura delphis (Jewel Nawab) - A very beautiful butterfly puddling on the grounds leading up to the waterfall

Polyura delphis (Jewel Nawab) – A very beautiful butterfly puddling on the grounds leading up to the waterfall

The park is run by a Director and Deputy Director and at first glance, the park looks more like Singapore Botanical Gardens with its carefully manicured lawns and dog-tagged trees.  The park is staffed by friendly locals who mostly live within or in the village just outside the park.  Each day, the staff will don a different colorful shirt to work.  On Mondays, they wear a bright yellow. On Tuesdays, a pretty pink.  On Saturdays, they wear white.  On Sundays, green.  They also unanimously wear blue and brown on other days.

Phalanta alcippe alcippoides (Leopard)

Phalanta alcippe alcippoides (Leopard)

They are also very meticulous about leaves.  On Sunday, we witnessed a large scale effort to sweep and pick up just about every fallen leaf within the park grounds.  This took naturally, from as early as 8 in the morning to as late as 4 in the afternoon without actually succeeding in doing so.

immaculate lawns around the bungalow

immaculate lawns around the bungalow

We believe they have their reasons.  We noticed a good number of deadly snakes during our stay, including a Cobra that lived outside our bungalow in a dead tree stump and at least 3 water snakes.  The guide also informed us not to stray into the lower waterfall areas at night as it is known that a boa constrictor frequents the area looking for fish.  This in spite of the meticulousness in keeping the park clean of leaf litter communities.

Parantica aspasia aspasia (Yellow glassy tiger)

Parantica aspasia aspasia (Yellow glassy tiger)

Because of this, however, night activity was devoid of scorpions, centipedes, spiders and other interesting creepy crawlies.  We found, however, a whole load of cicadas stuck on park trees in various stages of undress (moulting into full grown adults).  As a result of this, and also because the canteen closes at 4.30pm, we were banished to the room by 5 (butterfly activity also ceased by around then), where we would have only each other’s company, a few Choco pies and the park stray for entertainment.

The Peacock butterfly

Papilio palinurus (The Peacock butterfly)

That said, there are a huge number of Pallid Fawns in the National Park.  And a huge number of Batik Spiders.  Both of which are almost always seen at most hours of the waking day.

Pallid fawn getting eaten by a batik spider

Pallid fawn getting eaten by a batik spider

Melanocyma faunula faunula (Palid Faun) - Getting it on and creating more Pallid Fawns

Melanocyma faunula faunula (Palid Faun) – Getting it on and creating more Pallid Fawns

The park stray, whom I call Xiao Huang (small yellow), for her fluffy yellow coat and sweet demeanor and brown eyes, comes from a pack of 3 uber-friendly strays that have a penchant for following visitors on their treks with so much as a friendly pat on the head.

Losaria coon doubledayi (Common Clubtail)

Losaria coon doubledayi (Common Clubtail)

Losaria coon doubledayi (Common Clubtail) topside

Losaria coon doubledayi (Common Clubtail) topside

Xiao Huang, for reasons I could not fathom, for i didn’t have so much as a salt lick on me, followed me up a steep rock face on the 8th tier of the Huai To waterfall and while I was embarrassingly clinging on to the rock face unable to proceed any further and unwilling to give up, sweetly lopped down to a small foothold and encouraged me to make a decision.

The rock face I was attempting to climb with full gear and a dog

The rock face I was attempting to climb with full gear and a dog

"Please just climb down.  I promise not to laugh at you."

“Here.  Just put down your big camera, get down on all fours and follow me!”

At night, Xiao Huang would sleep on the bungalow porch and even on our last morning at the park, followed us to fetch the luggage and see us off.

Graphium eurypylus (Great Jay)

Graphium eurypylus (Great Jay)

Graphium doson (Common Jay)

Graphium doson (Common Jay)

Graphium arycles (Green Jay)3

Graphium arycles (Green Jay)3

There are several trails around Huai To waterfall.  On the trail leading to the waterfall, there is a patch where many different Jays hang out (as you can see above).  There is one strangely named Dog Slide Hill, which is a very steep climb.  Perhaps this is where the limits of the agile park strays was severely tested and they slid down the hill.  The map of the trails are as below:

dog slide nature trail map

dog slide nature trail map

Besides these trails, there are two others that we explored.  One, a rocky traipse to a small Sa Khe waterfall, winding through a maze of huge trees with buttresses the size of Singapore flats and boulders the size of houses.nelson for size

This was where we photographed a Blue Begum feeding on a penile shaped fungus.  And another, a very steep 750m climb up to The Viewpoint also weaving through huge trees.  The start to these two trails start from behind the canteen area.

Prothoe franck vilma (Blue Begum)

Prothoe franck vilma (Blue Begum)

The area yielded different butterflies on different days.  So be prepared to start thinking on the first day of little more than Pallid fawns that maybe you might have made a mistake in thinking that this was prime butterfly grounds.

Neorina lowii neophyta (Malayan Owl)

Neorina lowii neophyta (Malayan Owl)

On the first day we saw very little, the Yellow Gull and plenty of Malay Yeomans.

Euthalia monina monina (Malay Baron)

Euthalia monina monina (Malay Baron)

Euthalia monina monina (Malay Baron)

Euthalia monina monina (Malay Baron)

On the second day we still didn’t see much and so we went on the Sa Khe trail and shot the Blue Begum there.

Euploea camaralzeman

Euploea camaralzeman

We had the most activity on the third day.  And the sky was a cloudless blue.

Polyura hebe chersonesus

Polyura hebe chersonesus

Taxila haquinus berthae (The Larger Harlequin) -  shot on Sa Khe waterfall trail

Taxila haquinus berthae (The Larger Harlequin) – shot on Sa Khe waterfall trail

Drupadia ravindra boisduvalii

Drupadia ravindra boisduvalii

Drupadia ravindra boisduvalii (2)

Drupadia ravindra boisduvalii (2)

Chersonesia risa risa (Common Maplet)

Chersonesia risa risa (Common Maplet)

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Tawny Rajah)

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Tawny Rajah)

Of significant note was the trail just to the right of the waterfall trail where we came across the Tinsel butterfly.

This trail is marked by this bridge

This trail is marked by this bridge

Catapaecilma major emas

Catapaecilma major emas

Besides photography, it’s absolutely essential to go stand in one of the waterfalls under the blast of the water or sit in the pools and allow your mind to wander.

Amblypodia narada taooana (Blue Leaf Blue)

Amblypodia narada taooana (Blue Leaf Blue)

Here are more shots of the beautiful scenery around the Huai To waterfall:

the larger tiers of Huai To waterfall

the larger tiers of Huai To waterfall

Guess what is on the tree?  Stay tuned to Part 3 to find out.

Guess what is on the tree? Stay tuned to Part 3 to find out.

Xiao Huang on the rocks

Xiao Huang on the rocks

Xiao Huang waiting for me

Xiao Huang waiting for me

waterfall sprayNext up: Phanom Bencha Mountain Resort.  Stay tuned!

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Comments
  1. You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the best blogs online.
    I am going to recommend this site!

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