If you’ve taken part in any kind of excursion in Thailand, the chances are that a local guide has accompanied you. This blog post highlights the local guides in Khao Sok Nationalpark whose invaluable expertise and experience not only keeps tourists safe during their forays into the jungle of Khao Sok but opens up a world of knowledge, inviting you to connect with your surroundings on a deeper level.

Over morning coffee, local guide Ed shared some insight into his daily life, the deep connection he feels with the jungle and his plans for the future.

Local guide, Ed, sits by a waterfall

What does his life look like for Ed?

Guides in Khao Sok Nationalpark are busy people. Ed leads tours around Khao Sok and, in his free time, he also works on his organic farm at his home nearby. If you can think of a tour in Khao Sok National Park, Ed has probably done it! He leads jungle treks, wildlife spotting missions, overnight lake tours and even jungle camping excursions so his knowledge of the area is comprehensive, to say the least. When asked if he has a favourite type of tour, he couldn’t say for sure. Yet, after some pondering, he confessed that spotting wildlife is where his passion truly lies.

Similarly, when I asked about the most beautiful thing he has seen during his time as a tour guide, I was met with an immediate head shake. According to Ed, some people have one thing that excites them but he is simply happy to be there and experience everything around him. On a jungle trek he can spot such a huge range of wildlife that it’s impossible for him to choose just one, ‘all nature is beautiful, one tree is beautiful, I can’t choose’.

The overwhelming impression is that he truly loves his job. He lives and breathes it; something that is often lacking from many individuals in the Western world. Even when discussing images for this blog, his camera roll was almost unanimously photographs of wildlife and nature (Ed took all the incredible photos you can see here).

Gaur at Khao Sok nationalpark
Birds of prey in the nationalpark

Ed’s experiences

‘What animals blew you away the first time you spotted them?’ – this questions seemed slightly easier for Ed to answer. He now loves every entity in the jungle equally. However, the first time he saw a leopard cat and a Malayan tapir, he was amazed. He went on to compare the experience of seeing wild elephants during a jungle hike vs. from a boat on the lake, ‘when you see an elephant in the jungle you are 50% scared and 50% excited, it’s a different feeling when you are far away on a boat’. This clearly shows why local guides are so necessary for activities such as jungle trekking; despite how frequently Ed has seen wild elephants during his 25 years as a tour guide, he will never underestimate their power. He makes sure to respect them for what they are- wild animals.

A wild elephant in the jungle
A wild elephant in the jungle

Life before Khao Sok…

Ed grew up in a beautiful beach-side village in Don Sak where, he reminisced, he used to play on the beach every day. Rising sea levels destroyed many of the houses in the village. Fishing became increasingly difficult as the growing number of shrimp farms discarded their dirty water on the beach. This devastated the ecosystem. So, his parents moved to a village closer to Khao Sok when he was 5 years old. He remained in Don Sak until he turned 15 then moved closer to Khao Sok to finish high school.

Ed is standing in the jungle, smiling

‘I wanted to be a lawyer’ he remarked, but this changed when he visited Khao Sok National Park. At age 18, he fell in love with the jungle and learned about the possibility of becoming a tour guide. He realised he could remain living close to his family and nurture his love of the jungle daily. So that’s what he did.

Sunset in Khao Sok jungle

School had not prepared Ed for speaking English to any useful degree. So he learned on the job, collecting nature books along the way. His new-found knowledge of his surroundings meant that he could answer tourists’ questions as well as his own. His conversational skills are immaculate. It stunned me to learn that he had never studied English in a formal setting. This is not uncommon; many local guides develop their English skills through their job.

3 local guides check directions on their phone

What the jungle has taught him

Ed has always preferred books to the internet. Through a combination of experience and research he can now see the ‘system’ of the jungle. He says he is now aware of how everything is connected. He also has an uncanny ability to immediately sense someone’s attitude towards the jungle upon meeting them. As soon as he meets his tour group, he is aware of who will love the jungle and who will not. He determines who will be excited to spot distinctive frogs and who will want to keep their distance. Then he can tailor the overall experience to his guests’ inclinations.

Ed holds rice cooked in bamboo

He is utterly invested in his role and assists other tour guides wherever he can. For example, during a hike with other guides in Khao Sok Nationalpark he sometimes notices his associates identifying Khao Sok national park wildlife by a different name. He will go and check with his trusty nature books. Then, where necessary, he can educate them on the correct terminology for the future.

A turtle in Khao Sok nationalpark

Ed’s future plans

“I am 43 years old now and my aim is to start slowing down around age 50”. He then plans to reduce his working days and spend more time at the farm surrounded by his family. Guides in Khao Sok National Park work hard and Ed is no exception. There was no need for elaborate descriptions or lengthy stories when I asked what Ed loves most about his job, he simply replied ‘the jungle’. Even on his days off, he heads out in search of wildlife in the place he loves most. I doubt that this will ever change, even once he retires as a guide.

Ed sits under a tent in the jungle

As a parting question, I sought to establish any advice that Ed would like to pass on to tourists considering visiting Khao Sok National Park. Ever committed to the guest experience, he responded that he couldn’t give any accurate advice without meeting somebody first. So, come and see Khao Sok for yourself and call on Ed to help and advise on your jungle experience!

Greater Coucal

A conversation to remember

My morning with Ed concluded as I prepared to set pen to paper (or, in my case, fingers to keyboard) to summarise our conversation. And he got ready to, you’ve guessed it, head into the jungle for the day! I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Ed. Our exchange certainly dispelled any potential doubts regarding the importance of local guides. I can imagine nobody more qualified, knowledgeable or friendly to accompany tourists into the vibrant jungle of Khao Sok.

Guides in Khao Sok nationalpark - Ed