Asian Water Monitor Lizards In Khao Lak Thailand

There are at least 4 different species of monitor lizard in this area of Thailand. The most common is the Asian Water monitor lizard which can grow to lengths of up to almost 2 meters long, normally they weigh a little more than 50 kg, in extreme cases monitor lizards up to 90 kg have been spotted in Thailand! Despite their size and their apparent ugliness, monitor lizards in Southeast Asia are not considered dangerous to humans. That said they will defend themselves fiercely if they feel threatened. They have strong tails and large claws and teeth that can cause nasty injuries should they feel the need to attack. They are very quick both on land and in the water, just remember that a monitor lizard will usually prefer to run away when faced with human activity.

Monitor lizards are subaquatic, opportunistic hunters that will eat almost anything. Including rodents, fish, birds eggs, and carrion. They are often found in lowland or wetland areas close to fresh or brackish water. In Thailand monitor lizards have earned themselves several nicknames. One of the most common is a derogatory term that is often used as an insult to others whereas the more poite members of society will refer to the monitor lizards as the “silver and gold animals”. Another nickname is “chicken eater”. Both this name and the more offensive nickname can be traced back to when the Thais lived a more traditional lifestyle and would wake up in the morning to discover that the monitor lizards had eaten their domestic animals.

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I was talking to a couple who were on holiday in Khao Lak the other day, and they were telling me a story about something that happened in their resort a few days previously. They were sitting at the pool bar enjoying their pina coladas, when suddenly they heard a lot of splashing behind them. They turned around and were surprised to see people rushing out of the pool as if it was shark infested! Meanwhile the barman could be heard laughing over the sound of the cocktail shaker. It took them a few confused moments to realise that the pool wasn’t in fact shark infested. However in the middle of the pool there was a creature that looked suspiciously like a small crocodile leisurely making its way towards the shallow end.

After a few moments of confused panic some hotel staff came and drove away the intruder, with the help of a stick and an old sack, leaving this couple and the rest of the resort patrons to wonder what on earth was going on as they ordered another gin and tonic to help calm their nerves.

The funny thing is, this is not the first story like this I have been told. It might not even have been the first time that week! The truth is that your beautiful Khao Lak hotel was built in the jungle. It might not look like it but go back a few years and you can almost guarantee that your hotel room was once a luxurious bunch of trees that was home to a very different type of primate visitor. The ‘dragon’ that went for a cool off in the pool that day was not a crocodile or an alligator. It was in fact a monitor lizard.

Monitor lizards have very few natural predators. That being said when this couple asked me what I thought the hotel staff did with the one they caught in the pool I was honest and told them that it was probably one of two options. Number one – they released it into the wild, a safe distance from the hotel. Or option number two – they made a big curry. I know which one I would put my money on. Although monitor lizard meat can be a bit tough and bony, with the right curry paste it can actually work quite well. It tastes like chicken after all.

These Asian water monitor lizards are a common enough sight all over Thailand, but especially here in Khao Lak. So don’t be surprised if you see what looks like a mini crocodile crossing the road in front of you. And remember, if one does join you for a swim, be careful not to spill your drink.

Read More about the Asian Water Monitor Lizard click here.

Monkeys in Khao Lak

Of all of the animals that inhabit the Khao Lak countryside, monkeys are one of the most popular among tourists. There are several opportunities for tourists to see monkeys in Khao Lak. The most common monkey experience for tourists is a visit to the Suwankuha Temple in Phang Nga. Usually included in most James Bond Island tours, the temple is located in a wide cave system and is home to an impressive reclining Buddha which is ‘guarded’ by a large troop of macaque monkeys. Although these monkeys are technically wild, being visited by so many tourists each day has taught them to associate people with food. You can buy packets of peanuts and corn to feed the monkeys outside the cave for just a few Baht, so of course people do. Feeding the monkeys can make a great photo opportunity, but be aware! These monkeys are no longer nervous and scared of people, so they will steal anything that interests them. Last time I was there one of them stole my coffee, straight out of my hand. It had been an early start that morning and as you can imagine, I wasn’t impressed. However I know that it is not worth fighting these monkeys. If they try to take something, just let them. If it isn’t something they can eat or drink they will soon get bored of it and they don’t usually go far. Each year several tourists end up paying for expensive rabies shots after getting bitten by these monkeys. Most bites occur when people refuse to let go of what they are holding, or when they are trying to tempt the monkey to pose for the perfect photo using peanuts.

Monkey Troop in Khao Lak

Macaques are the most common species of monkey in this area. Thailand is home to six different species of macaque. The crab-eating macaque and the Rhesus macaque are usually the most common. Found throughout Southeast Asia, these monkeys are the third largest population of primates in the world. Behind only humans and rhesus monkeys. In recent years they have said to have already evolved to reach the ‘stone age’, they have learnt to use stones and rocks as tools to help them open shells and nuts or to peel roots and bark. Macaques will mostly live in large groups called “troops”, each troop will usually be made up of up to about 20 females and only a few males. The troop leader will usually be a dominant female. Males and females can be differentiated by their size and facial hair. Although females will also have whiskers, only males will have moustache. Males will also usually be larger in size. They have a lifespan of about 15-30 years.

Despite their name, crab eating macaques do not normally feed on crabs. They are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they will feed on a range of animals and plants whenever they can. Normally about 60%-90% of their diet is made up of seeds, fruits, flowers, bark and leaves. However, they will also feed on smaller animals such as young or nesting birds, lizards, frogs and fish. In certain areas, the Khao Lak Mangroves included, these monkeys have become good enough swimmers to dive for crabs and other crustaceans.

Monkey at temple cave in Phang Nga

The monkeys in the Khao Lak Mangroves live a much more ‘natural’ life. They travel between the surrounding plantations and mangrove forests in search of food and shelter. They can often be seen as the tide drops making their way to their favorite hunting grounds where they will search for shellfish, crabs, shoots, nuts and leaves. They are much more wary of human activity in this area as they are often considered a pest by local plantation owners and crab collectors. However it is possible to kayak in among the troop and watch their activities without disturbing them provided you have an experienced guide.

Asian Giant Hornet and Other Insects in Thailand

One of the bigger insects in Thailand that is slightly less friendly is the Asian Giant Hornet. This invasive species of hornet can grow up to 45mm long with a 75mm wingspan. They are found mostly in jungles and forests where they inhabit holes in trees and borrows left by other animals. Asian giant hornets hunt other medium and large insect species to survive, including bees, mantises and other species of hornet. The Asian giant hornet can grow a sting of up to 6mm long which can inject a strong venom and can cause death in extreme cases. Thankfully however these hornets are not commonly found in built up areas, so you should be fine to chill by the pool.

Insects are the most successful animals in the world. They have been around for over 400 million years, and the insect population is estimated to be over 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 worldwide at any time. Of course Thailand is no exception. There are approximately 70,000 different species of insect in Thailand alone.

Generally insects in Thailand will not bother people any more than they would anywhere else in the world. So for those of you who are a bit squeamish when it comes to creepy crawlies, relax, you will be fine. The most common (and the most annoying) insects you will come across on your Thailand travels will most likely be mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes in Thailand

Mosquitoes have been around for over 400 million years. Thailand itself does not have a particularly bad mosquito infestation, however it is a tropical country. Therefore it is home to mosquitoes by default. Mostly they will be most active in the early mornings and during evenings when it is cooler. In the day time they are not usually a problem, unless you are visiting cool, damp areas with no breeze. What most people don’t realise about mosquitoes is that it is only the females that bite. This is because they need the extra proteins and irons they get from sucking blood to produce eggs. Male mosquitoes survive purely on a diet of nectar. It is easy to reduce the risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes with just a few simple actions;

  • Use over the counter insect repellent, these are cheap and easy to find in Thailand.
  • Wear light coloured clothing, dark colours absorb more heat and attract more mosquitoes.
  • Avoid perfumes and fragrant body sprays.
  • Use a fan or aircon while sleeping, mosquitoes can only fly at 1-2kmph, so even a light breeze can stop them.
Jewel Beetle

Another insect you may run into during your trip to Thailand is the Jewel Beetle. There are over 300 different species of jewel beetle in Thailand. They can grow between 3-10cm long, with bullet shaped bodies and are easily recognised by their vivid, iridescent colours. The wings of these beetles have traditionally been used in jewelry, clothing and art for many years. To this day designers and collectors will pay a lot of money for these beetles. In addition to their beautiful and decorative wings, these beetles are considered a delicacy in several parts of Thailand and Malaysia where they are fried and served in several restaurants.

One of the largest insects you might come across in Thailand is the Atlas Moth. Atlas Moths are among the biggest moths in the world, with a wingspan of up to 30cm. The front tip of each wing is shaped to resemble a snake’s head. This resemblance is exaggerated by wing movements when faced with a predator.

Atlas Moth

Although they have such large wings, they have disportionately small bodies and they very rarely fly. Atlas moths have no mouth so are therefore unable to feed. They instead rely solely on ft reserves left over from their time as a caterpillar. Every flight they attempt uses massive amounts of energy and can reduce their already short lifespan (1-2 weeks) by several days.

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Snakes in Khao Lak, Thailand

There are over 230 different species of snake found in Thailand. So it is fairly safe to say that wherever you go in Thailand there will always be a snake nearby. This might put some people off, but what you must remember is that it is very unlikely you will be bitten or even encounter a snake unless you well and truly leave the ‘beaten track’. Most snakes will avoid human contact whenever possible. It has been said that on average only 2% of tourists will come across a snake in the wild while visiting Thailand.

Over the time that I have been exploring the lesser known areas of Khao Lak, I have come across wild snakes on several occasions. The main thing to remember is to be aware that they are there. Keep your eyes open and try not to disturb them. Most snakes are not the bloodthirsty killing machines that the movies would leave you to believe. Given space and a bit of respect, almost all snakes will either ignore you or slither away. Here are a few that I have found over the years…

Mangrove Pit Viper
These snakes can come in many variations of colour – grey, green, yellow, purple, brown. They are usually found near water or in very wet areas along the shoreline with salty water. Males can grow up to about 60cm long, whereas females often reach around 90cm in length. They will feed on lizards, frogs and other small animals. Sometimes even small birds and eggs.
Although they are not usually very active during the hot daylight hours, they can become easily agitated and take a very long time to calm down.
If they were to strike, their strikes are very fast but have only a short reach. They do not administer venom with every strike, however caution is advised. Though some people have died as a result of being bitten by these snakes, it is not common. Symptoms of being bitten are more commonly – pain, severe swelling, blistering and necrosis (tissue damage). In case of getting bitten antivenom is recommended.

Reticulated Python Snake

Reticulated Python
These snakes are known to be among the longest snakes in the world. They typically average 1.5 – 6.5 meters. However, they have reached lengths of over 10 meters. Pythons are non-venomous constrictor snakes. Meaning they will use their strong bodies to wrap around their prey and squeeze to cause ultra-high blood pressure or suffocation in their prey, rather than injecting venom. Pythons can dislocate their jaws to enable them to swallow their prey whole. As they grow, the size of their prey will get larger also. Starting with small animals such as lizards and frogs all the way up to larger animals such as pigs, sheep and goats. They can often survive for months on a single meal.

They are found all over Thailand but are most commonly found near water. They are primarily nocturnal (come out mostly at night) however they are found in the day time if disturbed or sleeping at low levels.

Banded Mangrove Snake

Banded Mangrove Snake
Although this snake is mostly nocturnal (comes out mostly at night), they can often be found resting in trees along the waterline. They can grow up to about 2.5 meters long and can be identified by their vivid yellow stripes. These snakes are found all over South East Asia. Although they are venomous, they are not considered a danger to humans. If bitten the venom can cause pain, swelling and discomfort but is not normally fatal.
These snakes are often kept as pets by snake enthusiasts or used in snake shows throughout Thailand. They prey on small animals such as frogs, lizards, fish or eggs.

Monocled Cobra
Of all the snake species in Thailand, this is among the most dangerous. Their venom is so strong that these snakes cause more fatalities than any other snake in Thailand. Anyone who receives even a small bite from these snakes should seek expert medical help immediately. Before striking often they will give a loud warning hiss.
They will usually grow to lengths of about 1.5-2 meters and are found all over Thailand. They are often found also in residential areas where they will prey on rodents, lizards, birds, frogs and other snakes.