A Hypothetical Question – Just for Fun

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been entertaining this question in my own head, and was wondering what everyone else thinks:

So back when I started mammal watching (2007ish), seeing a list of 20-30 mammals anywhere was spectacular, and 50 was almost unimaginable. But obviously, with today’s knowledge, increasing accessibility to ecosystems at night (in most countries), improving guiding services and of course Thermal Scopes – trip lists from all over the world regularly reach 60-80 for 2-week trips, and peaking out with Venkat’s recent, mind-blowing 123-species list.

So that makes you think “man, I wish I could repeat ALL my previous trips with my current gear”.

But if you had to choose just 1 trip to repeat, with a thermal scope and today’s guides and knowledge, which one would you choose?

Mine would have to be either the Central African Republic! I’d look more for the smaller scaly-tailed flying squirrels, giant otter shrews, water chevrotains, potentially bongos, the tree hyraxes which are always heard and seldom seen, and of course golden cats – but I don’t think Dzanga-Sangha is a hotspot for them.

My 2nd choice would have to be the Way Kambas trip with Jon Hall and Jean-Michel Bompar. I feel like we didn’t even scratch the surface of that place, and we could have seen so much more just sitting quietly with scopes and staking out anything that walks onto the road instead of driving the mega-loud truck. That trip also included Gunung Leuser and of course Deramakot – two places ALWAYS worth exploring with thermal scopes 🙂


How about everyone else? And you can’t say “all of them” ;-P


  • Venkat Sankar

    A pretty fun question! I’m lucky to have started serious mammal watching oriented travel (outside CA/Mexico) relatively recently, so I haven’t done that many hardcore trips without the scope.

    My choice would definitely also be Sangha Lodge. I saw great stuff there (Brush-tailed Porcupine, White-bellied Pangolin, Black Hawk Bat, 3x duikers, Lord Derby’s Anomalure, and some nice squirrels) but like you I feel that I would’ve seen so much more if I had done serious, proper night walks with the scope, and maybe also night canoe trips. Would’ve helped on the daytime bai walks too.

    After my experience in Gabon, I’m sure I walked past so much stuff on my trip to CAR without knowing… Rod’s recent updates from his camera trapping, heat scoping, and bat projects remind me how much there is left to see over there! Not just the ones you mention, but also cusimanse, Long-nosed Mongoose, flying mice, oyans, angwantibos, clawless otters, De Brazza’s & Allen’s Swamp Monkeys, and so many other fascinating, mysterious species.

  • Bud Lensing

    I had a family visit to eastern Australia in 2015 and I had a couple of outings for wildlife watching. I was without a scope. We did have a guide from Sydney down to the Southern Highlands near Berrima on a day trip. and were successful on a few of the “main” mammals I did a solo day outing to Royal National Park and would love to go back. Also we flew up to Cairns to do the GB Reef and had a boat ride and and some exploring in Daintree NP.

    I know I just scratched the surface but with their amazing and unique wildlife if I did make it back I would have to negotiate more time especially at night.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    My 6-month trip to South America in 1995. And then my 5-month trip to China in 1993. Even without a scope, just having a little bit more money and information would have made things so different.

  • Jon hall

    A very fun question indeed. I would love to have had a scope for some of my trips around the remotest bits of Australia, especially the Kimberley and Cape York. Also Sangha Lodge. Also my first trip to peninsula Malaysia and Borneo back in 2004 …. in those days I could go without sleep almost as long as Vladimir. OK that is an exaggeration, but I would frequently spotlight until 2am and get up at dawn the next morning so I bet I walked straight past a ton of interesting stuff.

  • Charles Hood

    Does this question include the trips I did NOT take, due to work or family, and which I now regret missing? Looking at reports, it seems as if Jon Hall only goes to work about one day in five, even though I know that’s not true. I remember a time in the 1990s when there was a fork-tailed flycatcher reported from northern california, which at the time was the first record since the 19th century. It was found at the final night of a bank holiday weekend, so to chase it would have meant canceling classes the second week of the term. In the end, I opted to go to work. I regret that choice now! It stuck around a few days then left before the next weekend. I still have not seen one in California. In practical reality, it’s not having a heat scope that adds to lists overall, but this site itself. As Jon says, every animal (probably) can be seen SOMEWHERE…. we just need to figure out where, and then tell everybody else. Things that felt super hard to find previously, like western spotted skunk, ringtail, or even bobcat, these now are “get-able” on a US holiday just by relying on the site info from the website. On a recent trip to Pt Reyes, I had one bobcat and seven coyotes in one day, which in the past would have seemed like some immense act of luck and now is so routine I didn’t even post a notice. I know that Jose Gabriel Martinez just got a Guad Fur Seal yesterday on a Half Moon Bay pelagic, and so far as I know, Venkat and I have all the California bats. Everything is somewhere, once you figure it out. Thank you, Jon Hall, for creating a forum where trips can be documented, plans hatched, and credit cards run out to their very limit. Thank you… I THINK. (My wife is less certain.)

  • Stephen Babbs

    Definitely the 6 months in Thailand and Malaysia – including Sabah – in 1993. Back in those days a reasonably sized torch with a good beam didn’t really exist. But more recently I really wish I’d had one for the Western Sahara which was recent enough that I could have if I’d thought about it and splashed the money. I feel Sand Cat would be on my list now. and I wouldn’t be wondering when I can go back and have another try.

  • Jurek

    Sabah would be good – such a big mammal diversity!

    By the way, with a thermal scope, Snow Leopard could become an easily findable species!

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