24.01.2013 - 24.01.2013 36 °C
We had to get up at 6am this morning. We were supposed to be at the safari park for 7.30. We had been advised by the safari to hire a scooter for the duration as it is the easiest way to get around on site due to the distances between everything. With this in mind we arranged to pick up a scooter 6.15 so we had plenty of time to get there, as we did not know 100% where we were going. Needless to say when Liam turned up at 6.15 the place was closed. He also had a scary encounter with a dog that took an instant dislike to him, thankfully it was chained up. After walking back to guesthouse to finish packing and check out we tried one last time at the bike rental place. Luckily it was open we could set off, slightly later than we planned.
We arrived at 7.50, as we also missed a turning we needed so went a couple of kilometres out of our way. We had been told the where to go on site already so had no trouble getting to where we needed to be. We sat around in a communal room for around 15 minutes until someone turned up to greet us and show us around which was fine as they have two puppies so we played with them while we waited.
It is not at all what we expected. Basically, we are working on a ‘zoo’ that is within the grounds to the safari and has been neglected. The volunteer programme was only set up in December (there are about 12 including us, most have been here for a good few weeks) by a tourist that visited the safari and was not happy about how the animals were kept. The volunteer group works with the owner to improve this. There is a main section of enclosures that is getting the most attention at the minute, this includes monkeys, leopards, a lynx type cat and binturongs (we had never heard or seen of a binturong before today). All are kept in cages consisting of concrete and wire fencing. One by one the volunteer group is improving the enclosures.
Our first task we were set was to help feed the monkeys, apparently before they were fed rice and dog food just slung in the cage. Now they have a correct diet of fruit and veg that we had to wrap into bamboo leaf parcels that the monkeys can find and open up. Once they were all fed and cleaned up we went for breakfast.
We have to pay 400 baht each for the volunteering, which we were not very happy about but it is a lot less than most volunteering organisations and for that we get a room and three meals a day. We are also saving about a third of our budget by being here.
After breakfast Chelsea was extremely happy as we got to see and feed the resident tiger cubs. They are kept in a pen at the entrance where tourists can pay 500 baht for ten minutes with them. We got to bottle feed them and sat with them for a good hour whilst talking to one of the volunteers who we are taking over as the English teachers. The most shocking thing to happen today was by far seeing Blue. He is a fully mature Bengal tiger, he is absolutely massive. His ‘job’ is to sit chained to a table for tourist to lay with and have their pictures taken. This we are told is the main aim of the volunteers, to get the tiger into a proper enclosure rather than chained to a table. The problem is the tiger makes the owner a lot of money so they have to come up with a more ethical way to replace that. The tiger appeared sat like a dog in the back of a pickup truck, he was then walked on a lead to the table and laid there, literally 2 feet away from us, we were gobsmacked. The lady who looks after him through the day took us to meet him and we gingerly stroked his head, nose and chin. It was totally surreal.
After the tigers we had lunch and then spent the entire afternoon watching the team as they we moving the binturongs. A new enclosure has been built with climbing area’s and a swimming pool as they are apparently good climbers and semi aquatic. They have spent their whole lives in a small flat concrete cage, and on top of that one is totally blind and the other can see for about 2 feet. It was great to see the animals moved into the new, improved enclosure.
The evening was another surreal experience. The woman in charge of the volunteer programme invited a friend of hers to help with the binturong move as he is some kind of expert. He invited the whole group to a party on a boat on the River Kwai as part of his pre wedding celebrations. We just went along with it as it was already paid for, it just meant driving back into Kanchanaburi.
The boat was like a floating nightclub that was pulled along the River Kwai, it was weird to find ourselves there, but we enjoyed it. It sailed until around 11pm, up and down the river, the views were great but we were getting tired towards the end. By the time we got back to the park it was nearly 1am and we both just went straight to sleep (after chasing two toads out of our room)
We have had a random but good day, we are looking forward to tomorrow, our first English lesson, and we have also been told that we will get to ride the elephants, go on safari and whatever else we want to do on offer during our stay.