Khao Yai National Park
Established in 1962, Khao Yai was Thailand's first national park. Today it is the second largest national park in Thailand and, in 2005, the area along with the surrounding Dong Phaya Yen mountains was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Flora and fauna
Tropical moist evergreen forest covers the central area of Khao Yai National Park. The rich diversity of plants (about 2,000 species) astound the new-comer. Towering trees draped in mosses, climbers and epiphytes, tangled trunks of the strangling figs, drooping lianas and spiny rattan palms, delicate ferns, multicoloured lichens and an ever-changing array of fungi. There is aways something new to discover in the forest. The park has a diverse plant community, comprised of five main vegetation types:
Dry Evergreen Forests: These forests cover the lower slopes of Khao Yai. There are a number of important plant species found within this type of forest, including Dipterocarps and Hopia. Bamboo is also often found in drier forests.
Dry Deciduous Forests: These forests also cover the lower slopes of Khao Yai. The most important plant species found within Deciduous Forests include Afzelia, Xylia and Lagerstroemia.
Tropical Moist Evergreen Forest: Tropical Moist Evergreen Forest covers around 70% of the park, including its central area. Dipterocarps are an important species found within these forests.
Hill Evergreen Forests: This forest type grows above 1,000 m. In Hill Evergreen Forests, the trees are smaller and ferns, mosses and epiphytes abound. Lithocarps and Catanopsis are amongst the most important species found here.
Grasslands: These areas are a unique habitat, and provide a grazing area year – round for some of the parks animals. Grassland provides a welcome relief to all the forest . The park mange (burn annually) the grassland to prevent trees from invading and to provide year round grazing for deer, elephants and guar. Wildlife is plentiful (70 mammal species, at least 74 species of herptile and thousands of invertebrates) but often hard to see. Sambar (large, grey-brown, often in groups) and barking deer (smaller, red-brown, usually in pairs or alone) are frequently seen in the grasslands or on spotlighting tours.
Khao Yai’s forests are teeming with wildlife and birds. Gibbons provide an excellent morning wake-up call with their mournful hoots. Quiet, patient walkers may catch a glimpse of these tree-living apes. Macaques are often seen on the roadsides. Elephants are sometimes spotted at salt-licks or on the road in the evenings and lucky (?) tourists may spot a tiger in the grasslands during the evenings.
Civets, squirrels, porcupines, and wild pigs add a bit of variety. Snakes and lizards usually make their presence known by a rustle in the undergrowth as you are walking. If you see a snake, treat it as dangerous unless you know otherwise! Geckos are frequently seen catching insects on building walls and ceilings. Cicadas never stop their scratchy hum. Look up and down and from side to side to spot the real movers and shakers in the forest: the insects and invertebrates. A few Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) have recently been found within the park. Some believe the crocodiles were released there while others believe they may indeed be a genuine wild population as this species can be present at higher elevations (such as the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia.) This species is not aggressive towards humans and rarely grows larger than 3 m (10 feet.)
Birds: Lots! Over 320 species have been recorded. To the non-expert, birds are often just mysterious whistles, trills and calls, or a flutter of wings and a glimpse of colour. Patience is needed, good binoculars and a bird guide. Roadsides, the old golf course, grasslands and the watching towers are good places to start . Hornbills are quite easy to spot, and hear the "gak gak gak" laugh of the Indian Pied (often seen in big flocks near Nong Pak Chi Tower in the evenings), or the deep resonant "gok…gok" of the Great Hornbill (usually seen in pairs or alone, the biggest of Khao Yai's hornbills)
Bats: Nearly 1 million insect-eating bats live in a cave on the edge of the park. Drive about 3 km to the north of the Park Chong entrance gate and take a small track on the left-hand side just past a temple. A few hundred metres up here take a right-hand turn and follow the track to the end. You can climb the hill to the cave. Please do not enter the cave. You will disturb the bats. Allow them to come out for about 3 minutes before taking any flash photography.
The lower regions of the park are around 350 m above sea level. Even at this altitude and in general throughout the park you will find a more attractive climate than in nearby Bangkok. The average daily temperature throughout the year is around 23°C.
As in most areas in Thailand, the year is split into three seasons: hot, cold, and rainy.
Hot season lasts from March through April. The day temperatures can be a bit above the annual average, but it is still very pleasant due to the higher altitudes.
Rainy season lasts from May till October. You will find many days with rain. Average day temperatures are still high, but humidity also increases.
Cold season lasts from November till February. During this time the day temperatures are pleasantly in the low twenties. Nights might require a sweater as temperatures will drop further.
Khao Yai is along the way from Pak Chong, which can be reached either via most Bangkok-Korat trains or via most buses to Korat. If arriving by train, head straight down the road and then turn left to reach the centre of town. Walk about 300 metres until you reach the prominent giraffe sculpture in the centre of the road. The bus 'station' is also here. From here you can hire or share a songthaew to the park's main northern entrance. There is also a regular songthaew service that runs past the park. The driver can drop you anywhere along the road or at the park itself, price 40 baht (Mar 2014).
Once at the entrance it is easy to hitch hike to the visitor centre (~10 km up a steep mountain road). Anyone with space will happily give you a lift (Pick-up trucks are the best bet).
South entrance is about 13 km north of Prachinburi. Head north on the roundabout on Rt 3077.
Thai Residents/foreign students:
- Adults: 40 baht (2014 fees)
- Adults: 400 baht (2014 fees). Trick: If you are a foreign student studying at a Thai university, present your student ID at the gate and you will receive the local price.
- (Foreign) Children (under 14: 200 baht
- Bicycles: 10 baht
- Motorcycles: 20 baht
- Cars: 50 baht
The entry fee must be paid on each day that you enter the park. If you depart the park and return the same day, the entry fee does not have to be paid again.
One of the best ways to see the park is renting a car or motorbike in Pak Chong and staying one night in the park. If you don't have your own transport it is quite difficult to get to the park information centre as the bus from Pak Chong usually takes you to the ticket office and the natural park centre is about 10 km away. A lot of people hitchhike and park rangers are usually quite willing to take anyone as long as they contract their services for the day.
There is a single road through the park from the Pak Chong side to the Nakhon Nayok side. The road is sealed and in good condition throughout the 60 kilometre journey, though there are some winding stretches of road. There is a 60km/hour speed limit in the park, and there are numerous speed bumps to remind drivers to slow down. Animals (especially macaques) are likely to be encountered on the road, so caution is advisable at all times. There is limited fuel services in the park.
There are a number of lookout positions from where photographs of the scenery can be taken.
Take a night time jeep safari spotting deer. Booking can be made through most hotels. Bookings can also be made directly at the visitor centre in the park.
Visit some of the spectacular waterfalls. They might not be the largest you have seen but the scenery is simply stunning. During the Hot Season some waterfalls might be almost dry.Swimming is not allowed at the falls. The Rainy Season is the best time to see spectacular falls. During the months of June, July, August they can have plenty of water. Under these wet conditions flora also will be at its best.
- Khao Yai Wildlife Tours (TonTanTravel), 30150 Nakhon Ratchasima, ☎ +66 87 8745794 (email@example.com), . These wildlife watching tours in Khao Yai national park are a great way to discover the wildlife of Khao Yai ranging from Asian elephants to pig-tailed macaques and white-handed gibbons to real flying dragons. Accompanied by an experienced, English-speaking guide you will wander around in the lush jungle in search for wildlife you might overlook when you're on your own and visit the major waterfalls. After sunset you will go out for a spotlighting drive in search for the nocturnal wildlife (your best chance to see wild elephants); a rewarding and exciting experience. 1- to 4-day tours focused on wildlife, birdwatching, herping, and tours focusing on nature photography are available. edit
- Khao Yai Jungles and Waterfalls (Thailand Travel Plan), . Two-day trip of this natural jungle which is home to wild elephants, tigers, bears, porcupines, gibbons, snakes and parrots. The first day is a sunset trip into the spooky bat caves to see thousands of the creatures waking up for the night. The next day your guide will take you in search of tropical wildlife, stopping at the waterfall. At the end of the day, you can relax with a swim and a herbal sauna back at your jungle bungalow resort. edit
- Greenleaf Guesthouse & Tour, 52 Moo 6 Thanarat Road (km 7.5), Pak Chong (free pick-up from Pak Chong bus or train station), . They offer a half-day (300 baht) and a full-day (1,300 baht) tour (1,500 baht if you take both). During the half-day tour, which starts at 3 pm, you will go swimming in a beautiful natural spring, visit a cave under a buddhist temple and watch 2 mio. bats flying out at sunset. The day tour takes you into the national park, where you will go looking for wildlife both with the pick-up truck and on foot during an easy 3 hours walk on hidden jungle tracks. The guides speak English well and are very skilled at spotting even the smallest animals of which they will take nice pictures for you with your own camera through their telescope. Lunch, water and fresh fruits as well as stops at the waterfall and at a look-out point are also included in the price. You do not have to stay at their guesthouse to join the tour. Even provide socks to ward of the (many) leeches. edit
At Zone 1 in the visitor centre there is a small souvenir shop offering a variety of souvenirs from Khao Yai National Park, such as bags, t-shirts, and most important, leech socks to wear while you're hiking in the jungle to prevent these creatures getting under your clothes and attaching to your skin.
Opening hours of the small souvenir shop aren't consistent. So you need just as much luck as you need for spotting wildlife.
Across the main road from the visitor's center there are a number of small food stalls and a restaurant where visitors can order a variety of Thai food and drinks. The restaurant has an english menu and makes food fresh. Get there before 18:00.
There's an eating area at the Lam Tha Kong camping ground open from ~8:00-~16:00. The adjoining snack and sundries shop is open ~7:00-~17:00. They will stay open somewhat later if there are customers.
There is a restaurant building at the far western end of the Pha Kluay Mai camp. It may or may not be operational.
Outside the park on Thanarat road there are a smattering of food options including one near Greenleaf Guesthouse called Nina's, (on Thanarat Road, up the road about 1 km from Greenleef Guesthouse, right by the dairy). Nina's is an air-conditioned restaurant with coffee and western desserts as well as great traditional Thai dishes. The lady speaks good English, as she spent two years in the U.S. getting her MBA. Not cheap at all, but a nice meal. 200 baht. edit
- Camping, (from the visitor's center hitchhike to Lam Takong or Pha Kluaymai which are both on the way to Haew Suwat (waterfall), the most popular destination for Thais in the northern half of the park. Alternatively you can bring your own transportation into the park (take the main road until you see the large signs for either camp), or hike 3km east to the first camp on a road closed to vehicles that starts from the Sai Sorn reservoir which is .5km south of the visitor's center). At both camps tents can be rented for 150 or 225 Baht (for 2 or 4 people respectively) along with pillows, sleeping pads and a few other things. For a good night's sleep get more than you think you'll need as the camping equipment does not remotely match up to western standards: a 2 person tent sleeps 2 comfortably without backpacks, a blanket won't cover your whole body, and the sleeping pads are much less insulating than a thermarest. Make sure to keep your food well-guarded while awake and don't keep food in your tent overnight. At the camps there are Macaques, porcupines, and other wildlife that will get after your food. Cold showers and electricity available. edit
- Cabins/Bungalows/Dorms, ☎ +66 2562 0760 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . There are various indoor accomodations available in the park. These are frequently booked by touring agencies but you can book them directly through the DNP Khao Yai website or via phone. After doing this you need to pay either in person at their bank or wire money to their account and email them (directions are available at their booking website). Of course you can also arrive in person and hope that they have something left. If they aren't sold out they sometimes offer their 2-person 800 Baht bungalows for 540, which is about how much you'll pay for camping including rentals for 2 people. They have information on accommodation at the visitor's center. For dorms ask for the Youth Hostel (but these appear to be primarily for tour groups). edit
Many tour agencies provide accomodation within the park including:
- Tontan Travel, (email@example.com), . Offers tours including overnight stays in cabins or tents. Both the cabins and the camping grounds are located within Khao Yai National Park. Wild animals sometimes visit these areas, both during the day and at night. The cabins are basic, rooms with separate beds (hard mattresses), an attached bathroom, toilet & warm shower, blankets, pillows (electricity available). The other possibility is camping (see above). edit
Outside the park:
- Baan Saranya Lodge & Restaurant Khao Yai, 298 Moo 2 Pak Chong, Thanarad Rd, km13.5, Muu Si (In Muu Si, the last village before the park entrance, along Thanarad, the main road access to the park), ☎ +66 44 297597 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Clean bungalows with air-con, hot shower & TV. A nice setting with good looking bungalows, restaurant & bar, and nice Thai family owners. 800-1,200. edit
- Bobbys Apartments and Jungle Tours, 291/6 Moo 18 Mittapab Rd., Pakchong, ☎ +66 44 328177 (email@example.com), . Pronounced "Bo bees." An outpost for European tourists and the occasional North American. Run by a Brit and a German and their Thai girlfriends. edit
- Greenleaf Guesthouse, ☎ +66 86 2523238 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Just outside Pak Chong. Everyday, park tours are organised. Clean, basic double rooms with fan. The people are lovely and the tours are great. 300 baht. edit
- The Jungle House, near the park entrance. 215 Moo 5 Thanarat Rd, km19.5 Muu Si (on the left of the main road after the village of Mu Si, with a large sign that's hard to miss.), ☎ +66 44 297183 (The_junglehouse@hotmail.com), . Consists of a number of bungalows spread over a wide area of jungle, creating a tranquil atmosphere. Bungalows have air-con, hot water, TV, and refrigerator. Activities include elephant riding and rock wall climbing. edit
- Moon River Resort, Khao Yai Rd (Prachinburi (7 km north of roundabout on Rt 3077)), ☎ +66 81 1606332, . checkout: 12:00. Located 2.8 km south of the south entrance of Khao Yai. Bungalows (air-con, fan, TV), pool, restaurant. Relaxing and nice ambiance. Pickup service from Prachinburi. 350-1,700 baht. edit
- Payboon Apartments, Pak Chong (ask for directions to Charlize Bar. Payboon Apartments is on the right side of the road before you get there unfortunately the sign is ONLY in Thai. Turn right off the main road just after two nice big open air restaurants and opposite to a hill side temple on the left (it is high up so you may miss this)), ☎ +66 44 316692. You can call and they will pick you up> Ask to talk to Katoo as he can speak some English. The rooms are spic and span with good showers. The family that runs it are very nice and helpful. Breakfast in the garden is 50 baht per person and is coffee, tea or chocolate, bread, egg, and sausage and fruit. Or you can have rice soup. 350 baht for a room with a fan and 650 baht for a room with air conditioning. edit
- Sak Phu Duen Hotel, . In the heart of Khao Yai. Facilities include a restaurant and pool. Cost ~1,200 per night for a double room. edit
- Samanea Resort, ☎ +66 (0)83-723-7774 (email@example.com), . Located just outside the park on a small hill with a great view of Khao Yai. A nearby ranger station allows access to the park. Trekking trails with ranger) are accessible to Pong Ta Long and Manao Yak waterfalls and a nearby wildlife watchtower. All Bungalows 1.500 – 2.500 THB edit