Thailand, Bali, Komodo - Spring 2018 PART 1

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Neil M
Posts: 285
Joined: April 10th, 2012, 6:27 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA

Thailand, Bali, Komodo - Spring 2018 PART 1

Post by Neil M » May 4th, 2018, 7:43 am

I don't know where to begin - the last two months have been insane. My brother and I are both seasonal workers. After years of seeing each other for no more than 1-2 weeks a year, it was time for a long vacation together. We built a 9 week trip to SE Asia that revolved around three things: rock climbing, free diving, and surfing. That said, I warned my brother that I would take every opportunity to herp.

I guess I'll just go chronologically. There are so many stories but I'll try to let the photos do the talking. I won't go into details on logistics for everything we did, but please feel free to PM me questions if you're planning a trip to this area.


The only part of mainland Thailand we saw was Tonsai beach to rock climb. The monkeys were prevalent, along with geckos. My favorite find was a 5+ foot water monitor.
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One day while deep water soloing (climbing rock above water with no rope), my brother had a banded sea krait surface to breath right next to him. I was devastated I missed it. But as luck would have it, later that day I encountered one in 8 ft of water! Of course i didn't have my gopro at the time but swimming with that snake for 5 minutes will always be an epic memory.

Next we went to Koh Tao for a month of free diving. The entire month was focused on pushing ourselves at depth so I didn't spend much time looking for critters. We did encounter a whale shark (footage on the video I will post in part 2) and on land encountered our first tokay geckos of the trip. Such a cool sound to hear as you fall asleep.
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Next we left for Bali and this is where things really heated up (both in temperature and number of herps).

First my bro and I stopped at Tanah Lot to look for sea snakes. We didn't find any amongst the rocks except for the two that you could pay a small fee to go see and photograph. It was unclear exactly how "wild" these snakes were. My bro and I weren't thrilled by the encounter but it was cool to get a closer look at what we had both seen in the wild underwater.
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I made some decent finds on my own in Bali, including a couple reticulated pythons, but most critters were found while with Bali Reptile Rescue. This is an incredible family/group doing incredible work through rescue and relocation, as well as education. I felt honored to be able to follow along with them for two days. I can't say enough good things about them - definitely hit them up if you make your way to this part of the world.
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Here's a spitting cobra we released. In a moment of slight miscommunication and rapid movements, I was tagged in the left eye by this spitter. I was not the one handling it at the time but I was nearby and mistakenly made a slight movement with my foot. I am ashamed to admit it but I want to share the experience to express the sheer beauty and perfection of nature. What I mean is that this snake was able to spin 180 degrees, hood up, lock onto my eyes, spit, and spin back around without anyone else noticing. It happened so fast. Just incredible. Once I told everyone I was hit, the snake was released and we began flushing my eye out. Once assured I was going to live and just had to put up with a lot of pain, I sat back and just saw it as an interesting experience and lesson.
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The final morning truly was unreal. One of my main targets for the trip was a reticulated python and I had yet to see any (total for the trip ended up being 6). While walking a small creek, we found two within 50 yards of each other! I got to catch both in the water. Jumping on a 2-3 meter python in waist deep water was a dream come true and that will be my favorite snake encounter for a long time. Please watch the video at the end for some clips from this capture. I only have photos of the smaller python, but the bigger one is the one in the video.
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Not 5 minutes after those pythons, we got a call for a king cobra rescue. We ran out the creek, hopped on motor bikes, and within 15 minutes I was staring at this.
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After an incredible capture by the team, they let me tail the cobra with its body wrapped around a stump. I just had to make sure not to let go of the tail.
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Such an incredible hour from the pythons to the cobra. Oh and on the way home we found another reticulated python in a bat cave.
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Next came the part of the trip I was most stoked for - KOMODO

I'll leave most of the logistics out but basically we spent two days in Flores and four days on a boat cruising around Rinca, Komodo and multiple dive sites. We didn't scuba dive but used this leg of the trip to test our free diving skills from earlier. The boat was private with just my brother and I plus a captain and one deckhand (both of which spoke almost no english). Luckily they knew the names of dive sites and I had already picked which ones I wanted to go to. After lots of pointing at maps, we had a 4 day itinerary set up.

Most people go to Komodo to dive and then see the dragons as a side excursion. I imagine most of us would go for the dragons and snakes and maybe do some diving on the side. Please, if you do go, do not leave without seeing the underwater life. It was the most incredible free diving my bro and I have ever done. The water visibility averages 20 meters and the biodiversity of life is supposed to be greater than the great barrier reef (i've never been but just read that multiple times). From manta rays, to eels, to turtles and clown fish, it was incredible. We had hoped to see another banded sea krait here but sadly found none.
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I just hit my maximum allowed attachments for a post (25) so I will finish this post in Part 2.

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John Martin
Posts: 515
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
Location: North end of Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Re: Thailand, Bali, Komodo - Spring 2018 PART 1

Post by John Martin » May 4th, 2018, 6:40 pm

Tremendous stuff Neil, and great photography to boot! :beer: I'm off to part 2 now :) ...

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