Living with Tokay Geckos in Southeast Asia
I had no clue in hell why these birds seemed to be loud at night.
Night birds are somewhat common throughout the world. But this sounded unlike any bird of the night I had ever heard. Something weird about it.
A few months into my SE Asian tour I woke up to the weird, but melodic call of a strange creature. A bird, but no, it cannot have been a bird.
One night in Phuket I did a double take; was it a cobra?!
Picture a large, reptilian head slinking by the window. I was floored. Scared. But fascinated.
What was this strange lizard? And from whence it came?
2 seconds later I solved the mystery of the weird bird calls in the night.
Or the lizard solved it for me.
He belted out the familiar call and I was formally introduced to the Tokay gecko.
Tokay Gecko 411
These large, imposing chaps – and chicks – dominate Southeast Asia. Kelli and I tend to live with 1, 2 or even 4 in some larger dwellings where we chill.
I recall 4 big Tokays living at the villa in Bali. In the rice fields. Lodtunduh. In the wilderness.
Tokay geckos are like the crocodiles of the house lizard world. The fearsome predators eat anything they can latch on to and overpower with their pitbull-like jaws including:
- large spiders
- Scolopendra centipedes
among other animals in the Southeast Asian region.
We saw or heard Tokays in Bali, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Tokay geckos possess freakish speed. Picture an 8 to 12 inch long, beefy lizard moving as swiftly as the tiny house geckos one sees in the tropics all over the world.
Hearing a big Tokay sprint across your rooftop sounds like an elephant plowing through your home. Impressive stuff. Intimidating stuff. Especially at 2 AM in a quiet, sleepy village in the tropics.
Pretty dang chill.
Unless you bother them.
Then these guys become defensive and quite aggressive. Wouldn’t you?
My Tokay policy is my human policy: live and let live.
I never bother these guys because any creature savage enough to eat 10 inch long Scolopendra centipedes – check out the YouTube videos – gets to stay in my house. Too high of a bad ass factor to evict ’em.
All of Southeast Asia.
But within that region, Tokays are house creatures through and through. In fact, I have only seen Tokays residing in dwellings. Houses, apartments, villas, garages, roofs; these guys prefer to be in areas where humans live. No joke.
Good shelter plus prey sources means nice living.
During our house sit in Chiang Mai, 2 Tokay geckos lived under the roof. Night time meant lots of calling and scampering about the walls for grub. Plenty of juicy roaches, large moths and other insects for fine dining
One Tokay lived around the house during our sit in Jimbaran. He made appearances inside the home late at night to hunt the grounds.
The aforementioned Lodtunduh villa vacation treated us to a big family of Tokays. One over a foot long.
He was only rivaled in size by a beast we saw living in the home next door in Chiang Mai. Long and beefy, this dude looked like a mini Nile crocodile.
Eyes and Skin
Someone once said this gecko’s eyes looked like that of the main character from the movie Satan’s Little Helper. I agree.
Sinister and piercing, the glow of these peepers will stop you in your tracks in the middle of the jungle night.
As for the skin pattern, think leopard. More bad assery. Picture a green skin tone with bright red spots.