Filming mammals in Thailand
Hi Mammal Watchers. My name’s Braydon. Part-time Aussie, honorary Kiwi and first-time poster on this site. I’m a wildlife filmmaker, somewhat new to the industry, mainly working as a producer but I’m really trying to get my camera skills noticed. I’ll be visiting Thailand in around June 2018 (seems like the worst season for mammal watching) and will put a big emphasis on getting some quality footage of the local mammals. [note: I tried this in Gunung Leuser recently and failed miserably. I’ll write you a trip report one day; the least I can do is help others avoid my mistakes!].
Does anybody have any experience with how the Thai National Park authorities view professional-looking camera kit? Is there a need to secure filming permits? It’s a tricky situation, because the way I film both is and isn’t for commercial gain. Mainly, it’s for self-promotion, but occasionally I’m contacted by companies who want to buy stuff I’ve shot. Not often-enough to cover the expense of getting the footage in the first place though! Generally I try to downplay what I’m doing, though my kit is obviously professional, and the experiences I seek in national parks are not in line with normal tourists, as I’m sure you can all appreciate!
I’ve got a shortlist of mammals I’d be keen to track down in Thailand, and although it’s probably pretty unadventurous for most of you here, there’s a logic to it:
– spectacled langur
– any gibbon species
– either porcupine
Yes: the big ones and the charismatic ones, because that’s the sort of footage that gets noticed. How I wish it were otherwise.
But I’ve also refined the list to species that are (or seem) to be somewhat habituated to tourists, slow(ish), don’t require night filming, and have regular patterns or places they return to. Because getting enough footage to make a sequence requires more than just a fleeting encounter, and usually demands several days focusing on the one place. Basically, after reading a lot of trip reports and forum topics here at MammalWatching, I’ve set my sights on the “low-hanging fruit”, aka those species that have a high chance of being encountered regularly and/or will hang around long enough for me to get my kit set up! (sorry Malayan tapir, you’ll have to wait for another trip).
I’m thinking Khao Yai is probably my best bet, and Kui Buri sounds great, except for one thing… and it seems to be a snag for a lot of places in Thailand actually. The need to have a guide and go on an organised tour. I will be on somewhat of a budget, and if I can independently make repeat visits to viewing locations, without the need for a tour, I’d much prefer that.
Does anyone have an info on the Kui Buri elephant safaris? From what I’ve read, they’re the only way visitors can get to that part of the park. Would they give ample opportunity to film? Is there a way to get in there privately?
And in Khao Yai, is it necessary to have a guide to go to the viewing towers? Does anyone have any tips on salt-licks or mud wallows that are within a sane distance (ie. less than a day’s walk) from accommodation with electricity? I’m all for camping out, but would need to recharge camera batteries every other day. I get that I’d need a guide for this sort of situation!
Finally, is trying to film mammals in the wet season just plain stupid? Will the grass be so tall I won’t see the gaur; the forests so wet the animals won’t congregate at waterholes, etc?
Any advice would be hugely appreciated – I really don’t want a repeat of my visit to Sumatra!