Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s most popular nature reserve and this is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park consists of 2,168 square kilometres of lush forest and is a real Eden for the 300 bird species and 20 species of big mammals which shelter within its boundaries. Khao Yai means Big Mountain and the name refers to the Phanom Dongrek Mountains that make the park so special.
Khao Yai is too large to explore on foot and the best way to see all that the park has to offer is to take a tour with a local guide. These guides can either be arranged in advance from the town of Pak Chong or through a travel company in Bangkok. Local guides come with their own jeep, which really help to cover the distance and take visitors to many of the most enchanting areas within Khao Yai National Park, which are often situated as much as 20 kilometres apart.
People who plan to spend time hiking through areas of Khao Yai National Park slip into a pair of long, white canvass socks. These socks are worn over your trousers and although they may look slightly silly, they protect visitors against leeches.
Animals in Khao Yai
Khao Yai is one of the best places in Southeast Asia to observe golden-beaked horn bills, and the park is home to four species of horn bill. Some of the other animals that visitors will have the chance to see as they roam through Khao Yao National Park are elephants, gibbons, woodpeckers, yellow-browed warblers and extremely beautiful red-breasted flycatchers. Khao Yai National Park is also home to a small population of tigers, although sightings of these magnificent beasts are very rare.
No trip to Khao Yai National Park would be complete without trekking through the jungle. These treks usually last around three hours and take visitors along well-worn paths past small lakes and across flat grassy plains.
Nong Pak Chee
Situated next to one of Khao Yai’s largest watering holes Nong Pak Chee observation tower is the perfect place to pause for lunch. This elevated platform offers a stunning view of the surrounding plain and serious animal spotters can choose to camp here if they wish for the chance to spot a large number of creatures as they pause for refreshment at the watering hole.
Haew Suwat Falls
One natural landmark that should not be missed while exploring Khao Yai National Park is Haew Suwat Falls. This 25 metre high waterfall starred in the film The Beach. During the wet season many travellers also take the plunge here, fancying themselves, perhaps, as the next Leonardo Di Caprio.
Go trek Khao Yai soon!
A path winds through the jungle to Khao Lem hill, where there are spectacular views over the park waiting to be admired. Another short drive and a wander through the jungle lead visitors to the very top of Khao Luuk Chang (Baby Elephant Mountain). Visitors can pause for breath here and sit on a rocky perch above the highest treetops of the surrounding jungle.
Khao Yai National Park is situated 190 kilometres northeast of Bangkok. It is best to make the journey to nearby Pak Chong first, as the town can be reached by bus or train from Bangkok. The entrance fee is 400 baht for foreigners, while camping including tent hire is available for just 150 baht.