KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK (205 kilometers northeast of Bangkok) is the premier wildlife park in Thailand. Only three hours by bus from Bangkok, it is relatively easy to get is located on a 540,000 acre piece of land, encompassing rain forests, grasslands and mountains—the highest of which are about 4000 feet high. The park has numerous hiking trails that lead through rain forest and along rivers with spectacular waterfalls.

Khao Yai National Park covers an area of 2,168 square kilometers (about 800 square miles) in the Phanom Dong Rak mountain range and stretches over 4 provinces including Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Nayok, Saraburi, and Prachin Buri. The park is comprised of mixed forests and rainforests with some wide plains and grasslands interspersed with verdant forests. There are many valuable plants, including commercial plants, scented plants and herbs. In addition, there are several mountains with peaks ranging from 800 to 3,000 meters above sea level making Khao Yai a cool climate area, even in summer.

Established in 1962, Khao Yai is one of the best places in Asia to view wildlife and is Thailand’s first and oldest national. The best time of the year to visit the park is in the dry season from December to March when the temperatures are reasonably comfortable and there aren't any leaches. The best time to spot wildlife is early in the morning in the hot months of April and May, when animals often gather at water holes and salt licks. The cool season or is from October to February. In the rainy season, the area is refreshingly green with overflowing waterfalls.

Animals in Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is home to over 1000 species of animals including tigers, pythons, elephants, gaur (wild cattle), Great pied hornbill, cobras, jungle fowl, sambar deer, wild boar, Asiatic black bears, eagles, grebes, bitterns, and silver pheasants. Two species of endangered gibbon are commonly seen, sometimes even from the road. Elephants periodically walk through the parking lot of the visitors center. Sometimes they sleep in the road at night. Gaur are spotted less often. Generally you have to hire a tracker-guide and trek deep into the forest to find them.

Tigers are even rarer. Tigers used be seen every week or two at by the park rangers. Now they are rarely seen. It believed that few than a dozen a remain. About a week before I was there in the 1990s some tourist saw one in the tall grass chasing after a sambar deer which are plentiful in the park. In the 1930s, a small girl was killed and eaten by tiger when she left her home to look for a lost pen. Although seeing large animals other than deer is uncommon, you can see sometimes see tiger-scared trees and bark torn up by the claws of the Asiatic black bear. Poachers in the parks have been shot and killed. .

Visiting Khao Yai National Park

Accommodation: There is a campsite at Pha Kluai Mai that can accommodate up to 1,000 visitors. The fee is 10 baht for children and 20 baht for adults per night. There is a restaurant and tents and sleeping bags for rent. Moreover, there are 2 more service areas at Kong Kaeo and Yaowachon that can accommodate up to 250 tourists. The fee is 30 baht each, though sleeping gear is not provided. Visitors can obtain permission from the park before 6pm For more information, call the National Parks Division, Royal Forest Department, Tel. (66) 2579-7223 and (66) 2579-5734, or contact the Park Office at P.O. Box 9, Amphoe Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130. Hours Khao Yai National Park is open everyday from 8:00am -5:00pm. Contact: Amphoe Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Tel. 0 2562 0760 or Khao Yai National Park, Mu Si sub district, Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130. Tel. 037-356033, 044-249305

Due to over capacity and to protect the environment of Khao Yai National Park, Royal Forest Department began limiting the number of visitors to the park in 2008. Visitors should inquire Khao Yai National Park directly before travelling at tel. 08 1877 3127 , 08 6092 6531 which operate 24 hrs. or visit website . Admission Adult 400 baht and Child 200 baht and the fee of one car is 50 baht. Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /

Getting to Khao Yai National Park: Khao Yai National Park is only about 205 kilometers from Bangkok. From Bangkok, take Highway No.305 (Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok) for around 75 kilometers. Then turn right to Highway No. 33 for around 20 kilometers. Turn right again to Highway No.3077 for approximately 40 kilometers, and finally turn left to Highway No. 2090 for around 3 kilometers to reach Khao Yai National Park headquarters. If traveling by bus, get off at Amphoe Pak Chong and continue on a mini-bus up to the gate of Khao Yai National Park. The fare is 15 baht and services are provided between 6am and 5pm From there, visitors should flag a passing car to the park office or rent a car directly from Pak Chong.

Animals Viewing at Khao Yai National Park

Most of the trails begin near the Park Headquarters, which has 33 bungalows, some modest motels, camp sites, a museum, restaurants, bungalows and six dormitories for hikers with sleeping bags. Some of the trails are difficult to follow. "Night shining" tours are offered. Usually you only see a lot of deer. There are also salt licks and watch towers for wildlife viewing. Parts of the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach” were shot in Khao Yai.

Popular activities in the park include butterfly and bird watching, animal watching and trekking. Numerous species of butterflies and birds live in the park. Surveys indicate that 293 species of birds use Khao Yai as a feeding ground and over 200 species live there. In addition, the park is home to an abundance of wildlife. The most frequently spotted animal are the deer that grazes on grass plains and sometimes come to be fed around the park office.

To facilitate animal watching the park built two wildlife watchtowers—at Mo Singto and Nong Phak Chi—which visitors are allowed to use between 8:00 am and 6:00pm If you want to join one of night safaris you must contact the park office before 6:00pm. Khao Yai has over 20 trekking trails. While some trails like the Kong Kaeo trail and the Kilometer 33 trail (Thanarat Road-Nong Phak Chi) take one to two hours to complete, other trails like the Nang Rong-Khao Yai trail, Samo Pun trail or Kho Yo 4 Unit-Wang Heo waterfall trail require overnight stays. Information and guides can be obtained from the tourist service centre.

Places of Interest in Khao Yai National Park

Kong Kaeol Waterfall (Namtok Kong Kaeol) is a low waterfall, which is especially lovely in the rainy season, Originating from Huay Lam Takhong, which divides Nakhon Nayok and Nakhon Ratchasima Provinces, the waterfall can be reached by a walking distance of 100 meters from the tourist service center. Visitors can enjoy swimming at the waterfall or taking short nature trips on nearby nature trails. Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall (Namtok Pha Kluai Mai) is a medium-sized waterfall in Huay Lam Takhong with two separate bodies of water flowing down rock levels to merge at the bottom. In the area visitors can find the Red Dendrobium orchid. The waterfall is about 7 kilometers from the park office and can be reached by car and on foot. In addition, there is a trail from the waterfall that leads to Heo Suwat Waterfall. Heo Suwat Waterfall (Namtok Heo Suwat) is a famous waterfall that cascades from a 20-meters high cliff. The waterfall, which is located at the end of Thanarat Road and thus accessible by car, is only 100 meters by foot from the parking lot or a 3-kilometer walk from Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall. Visitors can view the falls from a distant viewpoint that offers a high-angle view of the waterfall through the trees or from the waterfall itself. However, please note that in the rainy season the water flows rapidly and caution should be taken.

Heo Narok Waterfall (Namtok Heo Narok) is the largest and highest waterfall in the park and has three 3 levels. The first level is about 60 meters high and water from this level flows straight down to the second and third levels, with a total drop of at least 150 meters. The water has considerable strength in the rainy season and is quite dangerous, but refreshing, when it comes splashing down on rocks at the bottom. The area around the waterfall is the usual feeding grounds of wild elephants. There have been occasional accidents when elephants drop from the cliff and die. For a beautiful view of the waterfall, visitors can walk 1 kilometer from the main road to a viewpoint. The waterfall itself is located to the south of the Park Office on the way to Prachin Buri. There are also other lesser waterfalls in the park like Namtok Mai Plon, Namtok Heo Sai and Namtok Heo Prathul. For more information, contact the Parks tourist service centre.

Khao Samo Pun (in Khao Yai National Park) is a vast plain combined with grassland and stone fields with marshy capillary water on sandy soils. Many tiny plants such as ueang nuanjan, ma wing, soi suwanna, yard namkang, dusita, and sarat chanthon burst with flowers at the beginning of winter with particularly areas having their ow distinct combinations of flows. Widely scattered ueang nuanjan and ma wing are found in the na pha fields. Crowded dusita and dok ya khao gum are found in the prommajan field. The ngorn nak field is adorned with ngorn nak thriving amid tall plants and grassland while a plains blackfoot carpet spreads all over the tarn thai field. The suriyan field is a not-to-be-missed sightseeing spot. In addition to blooming flowers, the park also boasts a number of fine cliff-top viewpoints. There is also a campsite with small streams providing water. In the cool season the mountain are sometimes shrouded in mist.

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex: UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex spans 230 km between Ta Phraya National Park on the Cambodian border in the east, and Khao Yai National Park in the west. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. According to UNESCO: The site is home to more than 800 species of fauna, including 112 mammal species (among them two species of gibbon), 392 bird species and 200 reptile and amphibian species. It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species, among them 19 that are vulnerable, four that are endangered, and one that is critically endangered. The area contains substantial and important tropical forest ecosystems, which can provide a viable habitat for the long-term survival of these species. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC) contains more than 800 fauna species, including 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds and 200 reptiles and amphibians. It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species that are recognised as being of outstanding universal value. This includes 1 critically endangered, 4 endangered and 19 vulnerable species. The area contains the last substantial area of globally important tropical forest ecosystems of the Thailandian Monsoon Forest biogeographic province in northeast Thailand, which in turn can provide a viable area for long-term survival of endangered, globally important species, including tiger, elephant, leopard cat and banteng. The unique overlap of the range of two species of gibbon, including the vulnerable Pileated Gibbon, further adds to the global value of the complex. In addition to the resident species the complex plays an important role for the conservation of migratory species, including the endangered Spot-billed Pelican and critically endangered Greater Adjutant.

”The Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex is a rugged mountainous area ranging between 100 m and 1,351 m in altitude, with about 7,500 ha of its 615,500 ha above 1,000 m. The north side is drained by several tributaries of the Mun River, itself a tributary of the Mekong River. The southern side is drained by numerous scenic waterfalls and gorges and four main fast streams that flow into the Prachinburi River.

”The complex also contains the last substantial area of globally important tropical forest ecosystems of the Thailandian Monsoon Forest biogeographic province in north-east Thailand, which in turn can provide a viable habitat for long-term survival of endangered, globally important species, including tiger, elephant, leopard cat and banteng. The unique overlap of the range of two species of gibbon, including the vulnerable pileated gibbon, further adds to the global value of the complex. In addition to the resident species, the complex plays an important role in the conservation of migratory species, including the endangered spot-billed pelican and critically endangered greater adjutant.

“The species listed below represent a small sample of iconic and/or IUCN Red Listed animals and plants found in the property. Clicking on the number in brackets next to the species will reveal other World Heritage Properties in which a species has been identified. These species are identified in an effort to better communicate the biological diversity contained within World Heritage properties: Adina cordifolia Kadam, Afzelia xylocarpa, Anogeissus cuminate, Aquilaria crassna Agar Wood, Eagle Wood, Arctictis binturong Binturong, Bearcat, Palawan Binturong, Atherurus macrourus Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine, Belomys pearsoni Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel, Bos gaurus / Gaur, Indian Bison, Bos javanicus Banteng, Tembadau, Capricornis sumatraensis Serow, Sumatran Serow”

Kaeng Krachan National Park

Kaeng Krachan National Park (53 kilometers from Phetchaburi) is Thailand’s largest national park. Situated along the Thai-Myanmar border and declared a national park in 1981, it occupies a largely unexplored area of 2,915 square kilometers, including the 45 square kilometer Kaeng Krachan Reservoir and lamost half of Phetchaburi Province. Filled with incredible lush rain forests due its location in one of the rainiest parts of Thailand, the park is home to tigers, clouded leopard, Asiatic sun bear, elephants, gibbons, guars, bateng, hornbills, dusky leaf langurs and gibbons. Sakai forest people also live here. So do some Karen hunters. There are some intense hikes. Make arrangements in advance for a guide, The park is located 53.5 kilometers from Phetchaburi and is three kilometers beyond Khuean Kaeng Krachan (Kaeng Krachan Dam). Hours Open: The park is open everyday from 6.00am - 6:00pm. Admission: Adult: 200 baht; Children: 100 baht. Accommodation Bungalows and tent camping are available. Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /

Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: The KKFC lies in the Tenasserim Range on the boundary between Thailand and Myanmar and covers a vast forest area of 3 western Thailand provinces: Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, and Prachuab Kirikhan. The complex protects the headwaters of many important rivers such as Phetchaburi, Kui Buri, Pranburi, and Phachi Rivers. There are 3 legally gazetted protected areas in the complex, one wildlife sanctuary (Mae Nam Phachi protected under the Wildlife Protection and Preservation Act, 1992) and two national parks (Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri protected under the National Park Act, 1961). In addition, Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan National Park is in the process of being designated. Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri National Parks are connected by Kui Buri Forest Reserve and the Army Reserve Zone. This corridor is under the Forest Reserve Act (1964) and the Military Reserve Zone Act (1935). The total area of the KKFC is 482,225 hectare. The KKFC is located in the Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forest unit within the Indo-Malayan ecoregion. This is a vast area of connected semi-evergreen forest (or dry evergreen forest), and moist evergreen forest covers respectively 59% and 28% of the total area. Mixed deciduous forest, montane forest, and deciduous dipterocarp forest also occur in the area. The area's topography is rugged with high mountains in the west and rolling hills to the east. Elevation ranges between 100-1,500 meter above sea level. The area's geology is granite and limestone. The climate is influenced by the north-eastern and south-western monsoon winds. The rainy season generally starts in mid-May and ends in mid October. The cool season is from mid October to mid February with the dry season from mid February to mid May. [Source: Ministry on Natural Resources and Environment]

The KKFC is located in the Indo-Malayan ecoregion. At the macro scale the complex is rich in biological diversity as a result of being a meeting place of four zoogeographical subregions and four floristic provinces (Indo-Burmese or Himalayan, Indo-Malaysian, Annamatic, and Andamanese). Forexample, there are many Sundaic species for which the complex is the most northerly known distribution including birds such as the crested fireback (Lophura ignita), red-billed malkoha (Phaenicophaeus javanicus), chestnut-breasted malkoha (P. curvirostris), and red-eyed bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus), amphibians such as the cinnamon treefrog (Nyctixalus pictus) and mammals such as the banded langur (Presbytis femoralis). There are also many Sino-Himalayan species for which this is the most southerly distribution including the resident species of blue-throated flycatcher (Cyornis rubeculoides) and golden-crested myna (Ampeliceps coronatus). Species from the Indochinese realm to the west include the ratchet tailed treepie (Temnurus temnurus) whereas those from the Indo-Burmese realm to the east include Fea's muntjac (Muntiacus feae) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata). These faunal distributions are complemented by floristic distributions such as the Sundaic Parkia speciosa and Archidendron jiringa. In addition to this macro-diversity at the micro scale the diverse geological characteristics and highly variable topography contribute to exceptionally high habitat diversity per unit area.

Symptomatic of the high biodiversity in the area is the presence of endemic species such as Magnolia mediocris and M. gustavii, their only location in Thailand. Trichosanthes phonsenae is another plant species and the complex represents its only known location in the world today. In addition, the complex maintains important populations of globally endangered species. Of special note is the presence of the critically endangered, Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) in Kaeng Krachan National Park, one of few locations in only three countries worldwide where it still exists in the wild. In addition, there are also important populations of other endangered species such as banteng (Bos javanicus), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris ), Asiatic wild dog (Cuon alpinus), Asian giant tortoise (Manouria emys); and vulnerable species such as Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus), southern serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) and stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides). A complete suite of top carnivores has been identified in the area including eight species of wild cats.

Active research programmes in the complex have inventoried 91species of mammals and 461 bird species and more are bound to be discovered. Thus, the KKFC is highly significant to in-situ conservation of biological diversity in this region. It also protects the headwaters of Khao Sam Roi Yod wetland and many agricultural areas in Ratchaburi, Petchaburi and Prachuab Kiri Khan Provinces.

The nomination embraces 4 protected areas covering almost half a million ha. and ranging from 100 meters to over 1500 meters in elevation. As such, it is of sufficient size and contains all necessary habitats to include all elements of the exceptional biodiversity outlined above. A threat analysis has identified challenges such as poaching, agricultural encroachment and growing human populations. However, all PA units in the complex are under protective legislations and have active management programmes to address these challenges. Some examples of these programmes include the successful outreach programme to mitigate human-elephant conflicts, the establishment of prey recovery zones to provide enhanced food supply for the remaining populations of tigers, and establishment of new ranger patrol stations and enhanced patrolling. The Royal Thai Government is committed to ongoing investment in enhancing protection in the KKFC and is currently supporting several research programmes in the area. The continued existence of many species in the complex that are vulnerable to human threats is tangible testament to the integrity of the property.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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