Our #1 tip: Visit this park!
Elephant in Khao Yai national park
Khao Yai national park is one of the best places in Thailand to see wild elephants. Carefully read our tips below to find out what to do when encountering a wild elephant in Khao Yai national park.
Gibbons in Khao Yai national park
Seeing gibbons in the wild is a great experience, but even though common in Khao Yai national park, they're not easy to spot. Bring a guide that knows the family territories.
Why to visit?
Khao Yai national park is one of Thailand's best spots for wildlife watching. A visit offers a real chance to see Asian elephants in the wild. Besides elephants, the national park has healthy populations of gibbons, hornbills and lots more. Accompanied by a guide you'll likely see some of the 'stars' of Khao Yai on your visit. Looking for a guided tour? Surf to Tours. We've visited many of Thailand's national parks, but Khao Yai national park is definitely the most accessible park and the best for spotting large wildlife.
Visit Khao Yai national park!
This is the best tip we can give. Jungle trekking in the North of Thailand might be more popular, but if you would like to see wildlife, the North will be very disappointing. For wildlife Khao Yai is THE place to go.
Bring a local guide
We don't tell you this to sell more tours, but simply because it's the best way to get to see more wildlife. And not to get lost...
The local guides know the park from inside out and know where the animals often forage. More importantly, the guides have well-trained eyes that will help you to discover everything from the smallest to the largest wonders of Khao Yai national park. You'll be surprised what you would have passed without noticing if you had been on your own!
Visit on weekdays!
Khao Yai national park is Thailand's most popular national park. 95% of the visitors in Khao Yai are Thai nationals. It's great to see that locals are enjoying their own nature parks, which will only make them more aware of what still survives and hopefully helps in protection of these wonderful places. But you might be looking for a place to get away from the busy daily life. Try to avoid weekends and national holidays, and you'll only have to share the massive park with few others.
If you're planning only allows a visit in the weekend, it's definitely still worth to come, but you'll have to share the main attractions like the waterfalls with the locals.
The good news is that Thais don't like walking, even less when it's in a jungle, so even in busy weekends you might still have the forest for yourself.
Don't feed the animals
Most people understand you should not feed the animals, but some get tempted when a young macaque is standing on its hind legs, looking with its cute human-like face into your car. You'll notice these animals are quite tame, because of the many people before you who have not obeyed this rule. However, what the 'feeders' don't see is what happens after that.
Because the monkeys get too close to the cars, fatal road accidents are common. Not everybody seems to care about the speed limits or the monkeys. Some people seem to consider them as a nuisance and don't even reduce speed. By driving slowly and understanding that you are entering their home, and not the other way around, you'll reduce the risk of these vulnerable creatures (they're listed on the IUCN Red List as Threatened - Vulnerable, even though they're common in Khao Yai.) getting injured or killed.
If everybody stops feeding them, the situation won't get worse. Already they've learned to steal food from bags and tents, they even know how to open the zip, and in some cases they show aggressive behaviour. Actual attacks on people are still almost non-existent, though mock-charging and showing their long canine teeth is not a rare behaviour. By feeding this will only get worse. Don't let us get similar situations like they've encountered in African national parks with baboons that had to be shot, because they were getting too aggressive.
Bring a sweater
We often give this advice to our guests, but many of them think they won't need it. Until they get in the park.
Due to the altitude and the forest cover, the temperatures are cool year-round. So, this advice applies for the whole year. Some days are fine, especially if you don't do early morning/ late afternoon/ night drives in open-air safari trucks.
In the colder winter months we have used double sleeping bags, and sometimes even brought a scarf for the night safari! The scarf might not be neccessary for people who don't live in a country with a warm climate, but follow our advice and bring a sweater, you won't regret it.
Bring a compass!
This only applies if you're visiting without a guide. Trails in Khao Yai are not well marked. Some are quite clear, and you'll probably be fine, but there are no good trail maps available. Often (wildlife) trails branch off the original tourist trails and might cause confusion. All people we've met that thought they had a good sense of direction, get totally disoriented in these jungles.
Even the most basic map can help you if you bring a compass. Study the map before you start the trek. If you do get lost, and know there is a road to the East that cuts through the whole park, a compass will help you find it, without you're completely lost!
At the end of 2010, a park ranger got lost and has never been found. Don't think you know better than the rangers.
The souvenir shop in the park at the visitor center usually has cheap compasses in stock.
Back off when you see wild elephants
Elephants might look slow, clumsy and docile, but you're wrong. They're able to outrun you, and people have been killed, even in Khao Yai!
Follow these tips, act wisely, and there should be no need to be worried.
Elephants have a comfort zone and when you enter that zone, they will let you know. Don't try to be brave by standing your ground. There's no need to do that with elephants, even though it might work in many cases. Stand your ground when you see a tiger or other large predator like bear, running would trigger their predatory senses. But an elephant just wants to let you know you've come too close. Give it some space by backing off and don't make sudden noises since that will only make the situation worse.
If you're driving by car or motorbike and encounter an elephant on the road, keep an eye on the animal(s) and on other traffic. Don't be selfish. Everybody would like to see these magnificent creatures, and if you happen to be the last one in a row of cars and hardly able to see what's going on, don't just block other people's escape route. You might be the cause of them getting stuck and cause a dangerous situation for those who are near the elephants.
Many visitors in the park have no experience with encountering wild elephants, some get scared and make strange moves, so be prepared. Give other people some space, and wait for your turn to get a better sight of the amazing animals.
If you're the one that has the best view, make sure other people don't block your escape route. If it gets too crowded, you're better off to leave before it's too late.
If it's just a solitary elephant you can slowly pass if he seems to be relaxed and gives way to cars by turning its head towards the forest for feeding. That's your moment to pass. Keep a steady pace while passing, but don't drive too fast. If it's a herd of elephants, I hope for you that you're not in a hurry to catch a train .
Keep in mind that you are just a visitor in their natural home.
Park restaurants close early, be there on time
If you're visiting the park on your own and staying overnight in the park, make sure you buy your dinner on time. The park restaurants tend to close early in the evening. Especially on weekdays in the low seasons. Don't expect to get food after 18:00, especially at the restaurants at the camping grounds. Sometimes they even close early in the afternoon!
If you do have your own vehicle, and you found the restaurant is closed, you might have one more option. At the junction where the research center is located, turn right (or left if you come from one of the camping grounds/ Haew Suwat waterfall) onto the road to the south that leads to Haew Narok waterfall. After about 200 meters you'll see a gate. Turn left, just before this gate, onto the road that leads to Pha Dieo Die viewpoint. After just 100 meters you'll see a small road to the right that leads to the Thanarat Zone cabins. In this corner you'll see a slightly hidden food shop on your right. Besides preparing food, they sell snacks, cold drinks and other necessities like toilet paper, soap, etc. They sell mainly to the park staff, and are open daily till 20:00 or sometimes even later.
Buy leech socks
On our tours we provide leech socks when neccessary, but if you're visiting the park on your own and plan on hiking in the jungle especially in the months April to October, buy a pair of leech socks in the souvenir shop in the park. And wear long pants that you can tuck into these leech socks. You will really regret wearing shorts!
It sounds more scary than it is, leeches are small worm-like creatures of 1 to 3 cm long. They don't transmit diseases, the 'bite' does not hurt and usually you don't feel anything at all. The only 'problem' with leeches is that if they attach long enough, more than 30 seconds or so, they will inject anticoagulant, and when you remove them afterwards, it will keep bleeding for a while. So getting blood stains in your clothing is the only real trouble.
For some just the idea of being 'attacked' by leeches is the biggest issue .
Visit Khao Yai national park!
This is the best tip we can give. To see wildlife, Khao Yai is THE place to go.
Ooh wait, we've told you that already...
What to see?
Khao Yai national park is the third largest national park of Thailand. 2168 Square kilometres of wilderness. The forests of Khao Yai consist mainly of evergreen forest, but open grasslands can be found throughout the park. Impressive stands of primary forest still remain, especially in the North-West of the park, where most of the trails are.
There are few roads in the park. The accessible area is limited to the main road that connects Pak Chong (in the North) and Prachin Buri (in the South), and two dead-end side roads, one leading to the highest mountain of the park, the Khao Khieo area, and the other road passing the 2 main camping grounds leading to Haew Suwat waterfall. Some smaller roads lead to the park's accommodations. Several nature trails are open for tourists, and guides are not compulsory for most jungle trails; if it's wise to hike without a guide, is another thing. Carefully read our tips, above, before you take off on your own. Or look at our Khao Yai Trips. Besides these regular jungle tours, Khao Yai is a great place for photo tours, and birdwatching.
How to get to Khao Yai National Park?
To get to Khao Yai national park, it's best to travel via Pak Chong. Tours to Khao Yai start from Pak Chong. The Northern park entrance is about 180kms from Bangkok.
Coming from Bangkok, Pak Chong can be reached by public bus, shared minivan, or by train. Minivans to Pak Chong depart from the Victory monument, buses from Morchit Mai (Northern) bus station, and trains from Hualampung train station and these trains travel via Ayutthaya. Public transport is cheap and straight forward. However, if you prefer the convenience of a private transfer, contact us for more info. We offer private transfers from Bangkok or elsewhere by minivan and by regular taxi.
If you'd like to get to Khao Yai on your own, you can take the public truck that runs between Pak Chong town and the entrance of the park. The trucks depart from the 7-eleven just to the East of the night market on the main road that runs through Pak Chong's center. It's within walking distance from all main public transport stations. When you get to Khao Yai national park's entrance you need to hitchhike the next 14kms to the visitor center and even more if you intend to stay at one of the park cabins or camping grounds. Be aware that Khao Yai national park is huge - 3 times Singapore! - and so are the distances between the different sights. If you're on foot you're very limited, though hitchhiking is quite easy, especially in the weekends when lots of Thais visit the park.
The Southern entrance at Prachin Buri side is more quiet, but it's a long way from there to the visitor center and other than a concrete trail to Haew Narok waterfall there are no nature trails that are open for visitors.
Weather - Climate
The weather in Khao Yai national park is generally quite pleasant. Khao Yai has three seasons, each with its own advantages. It's worth to visit the park, year-round. Due to the higher elevation and forested hills the climate tends to be more pleasant than on the surrounding plateaus, even in the hot season. Evening temperatures are low year-round, so even in the hot season we recommend you to bring a sweater, especially if driving around in an open safari truck. Many tourists don't expect this cooler weather when visiting a tropical country like Thailand.
November to February is generally the cool and dry season. Temperatures are pleasant during the day, but it gets cold at night. Some nights we've slept in two sleeping bags! Don't expect to see spectacular waterfalls. But generally the skies are clear.
Usually, the hot season lasts from March to April. Some years are wetter than others. And we've encountered days below 14 degrees Celsius in March. Weather is hard to predict so come prepared.
In May it tends to rain more than in the previous months. And the wet season really takes off in July and lasts till October. Be prepared for rain, but don't stay away because of it. The forests are lush, the waterfalls look great, and the animals don't disappear.
Wildlife of Khao Yai National Park
There are too many species in Khao Yai national park to list them all, but to give you an idea we'll list a few.
Northern Pig-tailed Macaque
Bengal Slow Loris
Black Giant Squirrel
Red Giant Flying Squirrel
Asiatic Black Bear
Malayan Sun Bear
Asian Golden Cat
Indo-Chinese Tiger Dramatically reduced by poaching, if not totally extirpated!
Common Palm Civet
Small-toothed Palm Civet
Small Indian Civet
Large Indian Civet
Oriental Small-clawed Otter
And we're not even halfway...
Vogel's Pit Viper
Large-eyed Pit Viper
White-lipped Pit Viper
Oriental Vine Snake
Javan Rat Snake
Brahminy Blind Snake
Indo-Chinese Water Dragon
Crested Forest Lizard
Scale-bellied Forest Lizard
Cardamom Mountains Forest Lizard
Butterfly Bent-toed Gecko
Smooth-backed Parachute Gecko
And many more...
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Crested Serpent Eagle
Mountain Hawk Eagle
Great Eared Nightjar
Siberian Blue Robin
Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo
Asian Fairy Bluebird
And so much more...
Haew Narok waterfall, Khao Yai national park
Haew Narok waterfall, Khao Yai's highest and most impressive waterfall, is at it's best in the wet season.