Thailand offers an inspiring diversity of landscapes, flora and fauna. Thailand has two UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites and over one hundred National Parks, many of which have basic amenities, including bungalows and tents that can often be rented from the park headquarters. For all information please visit http://www.dnp.go.th/index_eng.asp.
Before you take off don’t miss our ‘Environmental Tips’
so you can contribute to the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity.
Note that the entrance fee, just raised in August 2012, is higher for foreigners (500 Baht) unless you can prove you are a resident of Thailand (100 baht), a few words of thai would help.
Activities include trekking, kayaking, photography, camping, snorkelling, and observing flora and fauna. Many parks are easily accessible and admission fees are modest. If you intend to stay overnight, booking is recommended because parks are popular with Thai visitors too.
The past ten years has seen growing cooperation between national parks and local communities who live within the boundaries of parks. Many are now actively involved in National Park programs as local guides and porters.
In many areas such as Doi Intanon National Park, Chiang Mai, Thung Saleang Luang National Park, Petchabun, and Khao Luang National Park, Nakhon Sri Thammarat local communities have established ‘community-based tourism’, which means you can explore the community and national park, guided by local community members. This adds a fascinating insight into how local communities use the forest as a ‘natural market’ for food, medicines and natural dyes.
Thailand’s Natural UNESCO World Heritage
Stretching over more than 600,000 ha along the Myanmar border, the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife sanctuaries contain examples of almost all continental South-east Asian forest types. They are home to a very diverse array of animals, including 77% of the large mammals (especially elephants and tigers), 50% of the large birds and 33% of the land vertebrates to be found in this region.
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, Thailand’s first National Park, only 200 km from Bangkok.
It is home to over 800 species of fauna, including 112 mammal species (two gibbon species), 392 bird species and 200 reptile and amphibian species. It is internationally important in the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammals, birds and reptiles.
The National Park offers a variety of accommodation options and activities, such as hiking, camping and wildlife watching. Visitors often see wild elephants, gibbons and hornbills.
Other Inspiring National Parks and Protected Areas
Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetburi
Thailand’s largest national park, Kaeng Krachan is a birdwatching paradise with 400 species of birds and 91 species of mammals. It is the final home for the near-extinct Siamese crocodile. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a gamut of activities – cave exploration, kayaking, rafting and nature study trails.
The park crowned with Thailand’s highest peak has 1,274 plant species, 90 of which are orchids (31 endemic). The area is home to 466 animal species, 385 of which are birds (including the Green-tailed sunbird). Doi Intanon is also home to many local ethnic groups, the best known of which are the Karen who are particularly renowned for their understanding of nature, and who live in harmony with the forest. Go trekking with Karen woodsmen to see wild orchids and visit waterfalls.
Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve, Phathalung Province
This IUCN Ramsar reserve is the largest of its kind in Thailand, covering 450 km² of wetland territory in Phatthalung province. It is an important national wildlife study centre, where more than 187 species of birds can be found. Some birds migrate only in winter from October to March, the low season is June-September, which is also the nesting period. Heron and stork families, rails, such as White-browed crake, White-breasted waterhen or the Bronze-winged jacana are the most prevalent species here.
Guide services by the forestry rangers or volunteers from the Thale Noi community are available. Kayaking through the water lily covered lagoon in long-tail boats, offers a truly unique “green” experience.
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is in the south of Thailand in Surat Thani province, between Surat Thani on the east (120km) and Takuapa on the west coast (60km). The National Park consists of dense rainforest, limestone crags and scrub. The park is home to over 48 species of mammals and you can hear the call of the gibbons; 311 species of birds including hornbills, and 38 species of bat can also be found at Khao Sok! In addition, it’s also a fascinating historical spot where Thai communists and student protesters made a stand against dictatorship in the 1970’s. However there is no responsible accommodation that we know of there, so if you do decide to stay overnight on the lake, please bring all plastic waste back with you, and check how your host manages waste first, as what we have seen there should be forbidden by the park authorities.
Sam Roi Yot National Park
Sam Roi Yot National Park in Prachuab Khiir Khan province (3 hrs from Bangkok) is another top spot for bird watchers. The coastal region of the park features marshes that are home to a variety of waterfowl and marine life.
Marine parks include Ang Thong Marine National Park which is a favourite kayaking and snorkelling day-trip from Koh Samui;, Tarutao Marine Park (the most remote and unspoiled of Thailand’s southern islands); Koh Surin where snorkelling is like swimming in an aquarium; and Ao Phang Nga National Park (a popular day-trip from Phuket).
Divers should be aware that Thailand recently closed around 20 dive spots due to coral bleaching from global warming, and to give a chance for recovery in a few years time. See our newsletter article and check former issues on the same subject.