Of all the creatures found in national park Khao Sok, perhaps the most feared is the terrestrial leech. These animals carry no toxins, diseases, or bacteria, and pose no risk to hikers. However, as a result of their appearance and penchant for bloody bites, they are often misunderstood.
The common land leech is small and usually rarely more than an inch long. It lives among fallen leaves and debris and uses vibrations in the ground to sense incoming animals. It is true that leeches feed on blood. This is generally painless and often the victim is left completely unawares. To feed, the leech inserts a tiny straw-like tube. Then it injects an anticoagulant which keeps blood from clotting. It then drinks a small amount of blood. Due to the anticoagulant leech bites are known for their propensity to bleed for an extended period.
If you are bitten by a leech during your Khao Sok trekking adventure, never fear! These animals are not dangerous in any way. The first thing to do after discovering the bite is to clean it as best as possible. Hydrogen peroxide works wonderfully, but fresh, clean water will do in the forest. Once cleaned apply tiny bits of paper to the bite one at a time. This will absorb blood and stop the bleeding. It is common for leech bites to begin itching around day three and continue itching for several days afterwards.
Khao Sok jungle tip:
After the bite has been suitably rinsed and cleaned, fresh rolling tobacco (ask your guide for a pinch) applied to the wound will absorb blood and help fight infection!
Avoiding leeches is easy, and comes down to clothing. To best avoid a bite wear long pants, long socks and closed-toed shoes. Tuck your pants legs into the socks and lace the shoes tightly. Also, be sure to tuck in your shirt! You can wear a long sleeve shirt for extra protection.