Few things sooth the mind like a long walk in one of the oldest tropical rainforest in Thailand among the tall and magnificent trees that tower to the sky teeming with wildlife and the sounds of the birds. This is the Khaoyai National Park, the third largest national park in Thailand that spans three provinces until the northern tip of Cambodia. It is also the first national park in Thailand as gazette by the Royal Proclamation on the 18th of September 1962 and given the name Khaoyai after a former defunct village area called a ‘tambun” in the Thai language.
The park was first recognized for the importance of the role it played in the conservation of the flora and fauna that it was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 1984 and subsequently further recognized and given the status as a UNESCO Heritage Site on the 14th of July 2005. Just to give an idea on the size of this national park, it is approximately 2,168 sqkm while the highest peak is Khao Rom at a height of 1000 meters above sea level.
There are so many activities in the park that are of unique interest and experiences that this is the first article which will cover in general just some of the things that many visitors to the park are keen to explore and learn. A visit to the Khaoyai National Park has several options depending on a person’s available time. Ranging from a half day visit to spending several days within the park itself.
Starting with the half day time frame, it is advisable to visit the park very early in the mornings when the sun is just about to rise. This is the time when the animals will be out and about to feed and look for food. You can hear the chatter of activity in the rainforest from the vocal call of the white handed gibbons to the singing of more than 300 variety of birds local and migratory.
Getting to the Khaoyai National Park is a three hour drive from Bangkok until you get to the checkpoint at the foot of the Park at the north entrance. While you can get to the check point by public transport mostly from hotels in the Khaoyai area such as public van services or songteaw (public jeepneys), getting into the park itself requires you to have your own transport or to be accompanied by local park guides who are trained and knowledgeable about the vicinity. You can hire a private car or taxi to drive you into the park, or if you have a motorbike license, you could also hire a private scooter at the north checkpoint entrance for about THB600 a day to explore the park. However, it is not advisable or allowed to walk the long distance into the park which extends for several kilometers before even the first viewpoint. Recommended forms of park entry at the checkpoint are by guided tours, private vehicles or hitchhiking. Mini vans and buses from Bangkok to Pak Chong town are available at the Mo Chit bus station which leaves every hour.
There is an entrance fee imposed for going into the national park and starts from THB400 per person which can be extended for up to 3 days for those who are interested to camp in the national park or to stay in one of the ready chalets deep in the park. A note about driving or riding a bike on your own in the park roads as it is common for the wildlife to be roaming on the roads at certain hours of the day. Be cautious of the wild elephants who normally are seen on the roads in the mornings and early evenings. It is best to stop your vehicle and let the animal pass before proceeding on your way and also note that speed limit must be observed at all times as other wildlife such as deer, snakes, monkeys and smaller mammals sometimes cross the roads unexpectedly.
The rainforest of Thailand is one of the most active wildlife conservation projects in the world ranging from the protections of the wildlife perimeters from land developments to the conservation of plant species many of which have medicinal value. The stringent protection of the wildlife includes conservation and protection of the wild elephant population from poachers, the conservation of the Thai national bird the Siamese Fireback Pheasant, conservation of the white-handed gibbons and monitoring of wild tigers which has not been seen for more than 20 years in the Khaoyai region but has numerous recorded activity in the surrounding areas to the Khaoyai area. There is a great need to educate people on the importance of preserving and conservation efforts for the rainforests and its inhabitants to prevent firstly the extinctions of many species of wildlife and flora, and secondly to maintain a health balance of natural development free environment.
The Khaoyai National Park is also the home of many beautiful waterfalls one of which was made famous by the actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach. One can hike to these many waterfalls along the way and while some are open for swimming, there is one which is the residence of the one and only Siamese crocodile in the park which you can sometimes see it basking in the pool of the waterfall.
The park is also home to the largest number of hornbills and a variety of migratory birds. This makes the park a haven for enthusiastic bird-watching activities who come from around the world to observe these birds on their migration from as far north as Siberia on their way to the South. Different seasons of the year brings a different species of birds into the park. Nearby the park is also the famous bat caves where millions of bats can be seen exiting the caves during twilight to feed on the insects from the park and has been featured in the National Geographic documentary.
Hiking and trekking in the Khaoyai National Park is also a popular activity and it is not unusual to see the magnificent trees which grow in abundance with many varieties including species of the cinnamon tree and even magnolia and ancient banyan trees.
Read more on the following activities at this incredible park in subsequent articles which includes a trip with one of the popular birding and wildlife guides, the Khaoyai Nature Life Tour and Resort with Khun Sirapat who is a dedicated wildlife enthusiast and one of the most knowledgeable nature guides in Khaoyai.