OurLand: Back to Nature on the Kwae Yai River
Interestingly enough the whole concept for OurLand and its Kwae Yai River project began with two guys originally from Kerala in India, who moved to Thailand and fell in love with the country. Both had well-paid jobs in the digital marketing and corporate worlds, but ended up feeling more and more disillusioned by our throwaway consumer society.
Adventure holidays to destinations like Nepal and South Africa, inspired and emboldened them to escape the rat race and come up with a plan to contribute to nature conservation – helping to reverse Thailand’s rapid deforestation.
Fast forward to the present day and their dreams have become a reality, allowing our team the perfect excuse to get out of Khiri Travel’s Bangkok office and hit the road to Kanchanaburi for the OurLand Nature Reserve, a unique place that is returning commercial land to nature and allowing flora and fauna to thrive.
We arrived by car, though clients and student groups would usually arrive via the Kwae Yai River, floating in life jackets down to the point of entry, which is actually one of the main access points wild elephant use to drink and bathe in the river – quite a cool start!
During our jungle walk we were given a breakdown on the lay of the land with stops to explain certain trees and plants and the important role elephants play in creating forests and dispersing seeds.
After purchasing this tract of commercial land on the Kwae Yai River, the owners allowed nature to take over and the OurLand Nature Reserve was born. The result is a new, safe wildlife corridor through which wild animals can pass safely between the lower half of Salakphra Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kwae Yai River – in between the farmlands and villages that border the area.
A lot of emphasis is placed on educating and working with the neighboring communities to create understanding and conservation awareness. The staff includes experts on all relevant conservation and wildlife topics, as well as motivated volunteers.
At the heart of the reserve is OurLand Sustainable Village where we arrived just in time to participate in the snake education ‘show’, which was about to start for a student group that had arrived the day before.
Traditional snake shows are more like old-fashioned circus acts, bordering on the edge of animal abuse, especially when loads of visitors can have a photo taken with a snake wrapped around their neck…
However, this one was completely different: after a brief discussion about snakes in general the focus shifted toward species found across Thailand; the different types and how to identify them; some of their behaviours; camouflage; warning systems; poisonous/non-poisonous; practicing first aid; and live examples of the snakes in question!
Brief touching by the students was allowed but nothing more; all in all a refreshing and highly educative approach, which captivated the audience.
Most the snakes have been rescued by Outland’s team from the local villages – already a huge step that proves this educational outreach project is working and preventing the snakes from being instantly killed by villagers due to fear and lack of understanding. Once removed, the snakes are released back into their jungle home as far away from humans as possible.
Afterwards we were shown around the Sustainable Village, which has basic camping facilities and a few bamboo huts nearby.
Next on the program was the elephants, beginning first with a thorough introduction and question-answer session about elephants in the wild; those in captivity; a brief history of elephants and their mahouts in Thailand; changes in tourism and the current problems they face.
A half-hour drive brought us to an elephant camp where we had lunch together with the students and other clients. Another introduction about the elephants followed, this time about the physical aspects of these giants and safety instructions on how to interact around the gentle giants.
Together with eight elephants and their mahouts we then walked along a jungle trail toward a muddy spot where elephants, students and some clients ended up covered in mud. The ‘caravan’ continued to the riverside where almost everyone had the chance to jump into the water with the elephants and the overall impression was that all had a great time.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to stay longer and try out any of OutLand’s other programs, such as their banteng project, jungle overnights and more.
Khiri Travel can arrange the above program and more for both groups and FITs, either from Kanchanaburi or Bangkok as a daytrip, or various multiple day programs.
For more information email us at [email protected], or contact the person in the yellow box below.