Tag Archives: thailand national parks

Wildlife In Thailand: See Wild Animals in Thailand’s Jungles, Oceans and Islands

Thailand is one of the best destinations in South East Asia for wildlife and nature. There is so much nature to see in Thailand’s jungles, oceans, mountains, national parks and islands. Thailand has such a variety of different natural habitats that you can see wild elephants one day and scuba dive with whale sharks the next.

So, for the best places to see wild animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, whale sharks, monkeys and more, continue reading my Thailand travel blog. I have recommended the best places for wildlife in Thailand, particularly ways to experience wild animals in their natural environment as I believe this is important for respecting the animals and ethical wildlife tourism.

Elephants in Thailand

The top wildlife that you can see in the jungle in Thailand are the wild elephants, in my opinion. Many travellers come to Thailand wanting to see elephants and many tourists end up seeing working elephants at questionable elephant camps where animal abuse can be rife. Luckily, travellers and backpackers are becoming increasingly aware of this elephant abuse and choosing better alternatives to elephant camps. Read here to see why you should never ride an elephant in Thailand. More sanctuaries where elephant riding is banned have opened up for tourists to have an ethical elephant experience. However, the best way to see elephants in Thailand is in their natural habitat, the jungles of Thailand.

Where to see Wild Elephants in Thailand

I think Khao Yao National Park is one of the best places to see wild animals in Thailand and the most common place to encounter wild elephants. They are amazing creatures and despite all the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand (ethical or not?), the jungle is where they truly belong and to have the opportunity to see Asian elephants in the wild, and not in chains or in a camp, is a unique animal experience that I would love more tourists to take advantage of. Paying National Park fees ensures that that protected areas like Khao Yai National Park will remain safe and ethical places to see animals like elephants.

Wildlife Safari in Thailand: See Wild Elephants in Khao Yai National Park

I strongly recommend the ethical wildlife safari called Greenleaf Tours as I thought they were fantastic and they have very knowledgeable guides and will even pick you up from Pak Chong, the town where the minivans from Bangkok arrive.

Want to visit the park independently? You can rent scooters from Pak Chong upon arrival from Bangkok and ride around 15 minutes until you get into the park. Like all National Parks in Thailand, you can camp overnight by renting equipment from the National Park office. Make sure to bring your own food.

Khao Yai is about 2 hours from Bangkok by minivan (approx. 180 baht) making it an ideal day or overnight trip from Bangkok.

Cost of Foreign Visitor – National Park fee (at time of writing) = 400 baht. Seeing wild elephants = priceless.

Thailand Travel Tip: For getting to Khao Yai National Park, take a minivan to Pak Chong from Bangkok Ekkamai Bus Station

For more about how to visit Thailand’s National Parks read my post here

Thailand Wildlife Fact: Elephants are seen as Thailand’s sacred animal. However, many elephants who are forced to work in elephant camps are subject to animal cruelty and animal abuse in Thailand. Read here for my recommendations on ethical elephant sanctuaries.

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Elephant Spotting in Khao Yai National Park
Wild Animals in Thailand: Snorkelling with turtles or scuba diving with turtles?

Seeing turtles when snorkelling or diving is definitely possible and you can have a good chance in some areas of Thailand. The island of Koh Tao is named after turtles although I have seen more when scuba diving around Koh Chang, Koh Phi Phi and around the Similan islands. The type of turtles that I have seen most frequently in Thailand are Hawksbill turtles.

For getting to the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui): book your transport here.

For travelling to Koh Phi Phi, book flights or a night bus to Krabi and then a ferry. You can book in advance using this website.

Koh Phi Phi Travel Tip: allow more time as the ferry has often taken longer than 2 hours for me.

diving with turtles in Thailand
Diving with turtles in Thailand
Wild Animals in Thailand: Scuba Diving with Whale Sharks

The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean and are one of the best marine animals to see in Thailand. They are generally spotted around Chumpon Pinnacle near Koh Tao and occasionally around Koh Phangan. Richelieu Rock, above the Similan islands is the dive site where I was lucky enough to see my first one and most divers will tell you this is the best dive site in Thailand for whale shark spotting. Rainy season around Koh Tao and Koh Phangan sometimes brings more in and a few were spotted around June-July of this year (unfortunately not by me!)

Diving Thailand Tip: For dive trips to Richelieu Rock and the Similan islands, take a night bus to Khao Lak and book your diving in centres there. It can get busy so consider contacting a dive centre in advance to ensure your place.

For more about diving in Thailand, read this post

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Diving with a whale shark at Richelieu Rock, Thailand
Are there dangerous animals in Thailand?

Short answer – yes. There can be dangerous animals in Thailand particularly some species of snake so it it always advisable to enter national parks with a tour guide or stay on allocated paths when trekking in Thailand.

Dangerous Animals in Thailand: Monitor Lizards

These enormous monitor lizards can be found all over Thailand and even in Bangkok. They can grow up to a couple of metres. We regularly see them in Bangkok’s parks and have a good look when crossing over any canal as you can often see them swimming (and not what I thought was a crocodile on first glance!). They eat small birds and can climb trees. Despite many locals nonchalant attitude towards these massive lizards, they are actually extremely dangerous and their bite can be fatal to humans so do not approach them.  If you want to see monitor lizards then visit Lumpini Park in Bangkok. It is home to many monitor lizards who are used to people wandering around the park and co-existing with us.

Thailand Wild Animal Fact: The nickname for a monitor lizard is an extremely rude swear word in the Thai language.

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Monitor Lizard among canons in Bangkok
Where to see monkeys in Thailand?

There are monkeys all over Thailand and they range from shy to over-friendly with tourists depending om how they are treated in that area. In the National Parks they are treated as a wild animal and the monkeys are extremely shy and will steer clear of humans, whereas on crowded tourist islands like Monkey Beach in Koh Phi Phi, the monkeys are fed by  people and therefore associate people with food and can be aggressive.

Wild Animals in Thailand: Monkeys

Thailand has a variety of different species of monkey. Macaques are probably the most common monkey that you can see on the mainland and also on some of the islands. They live in huge families so often where this is one, there are lots more. I love seeing them in Khao Yai National Park as they are still a respectful distance away from humans, whereas places like Lopburi you can see them but they can be aggressive and often steal items from visitors.  I also heard some good advice once which was not to smile at monkeys – they see the act of baring your teeth as a threat.

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Macaques in Khao Yai National Park

Dusky Langur Monkeys – These monkeys are fairly rare but can be seen in various places around Thailand. I have personally seen them in Khao Sok National Park, Railay beach and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.

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Dusky Langur at the beach

Thailand Animal Abuse: Be aware that monkeys should be in the wild and never pay for a photo with a ‘pet’ monkey as monkeys are treated as a tourist attraction. They often have their teeth removed, are wearing nappies and on chains. Read here for more things to avoid doing in Thailand

Wild Gibbons in Thailand

Gibbons are one of my favourite animals to spot and to hear in Thailand. You can often hear their distinct voices but catching a glimpse of these tree-top dwellers is more difficult. You can often hear gibbons calling to each other at dawn and dusk. After watching a documentary on them I discovered that when they mate for life, their mating calls develop and become more complex and have a wider range as years go by. I’ve spotted these in a few different national parks around the country such as in Khao Yai National Park and Khao Sok National Park.

Book your Khao Sok bus tickets here, discounts available for multiple bookings and tickets.

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Zoomed in photo of a Gibbon in Khao Yai National Park
Marine Life in Thailand: What sea animals are there in Thailand?

Thailand is home to a huge range of marine animals and it is the best destination to learn to scuba dive because of the cheap cost of open water courses. Thailand is home to the rare pink dolphin as well as spinner dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays and passing Bryde whales in season.

Wild Animals in Thailand: Spot Wild Dolphins in the Sea

Dolphins will always remain an amazing animal to me, no matter how many times I go dolphin spotting and I love seeing them when I am not even expecting to. I was told that on boat trips to Koh Similan, dolphins were spotted on average twice a week during dry season (October-May). I have recently been to Nakhon SI Thammarat to go pink dolphin watching which was an incredible experience, read about how and where to see pink dolphins in Thailand here.

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Pink(ish) dolphins in Nakhon Si Thammart province
Wild Animals in Thailand: Go Whale Watching in Thailand

During the months of August-November, huge Bryde whales migrate to Thailand to feast on anchovies in the Gulf of Thailand. I went last year and was lucky enough to see around 5 whales including a mother and calf and they even swam around our boat while we were having lunch. I did the day trip from Bangkok with Wild Encounters who were very professional, extremely knowledgeable and answered all of my many questions about whales.

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Whale Watching in Thailand from a respectful distance
Dive and Snorkel with Sharks around Thailand

If you are a shark lover then definitely consider a shark watching trip either diving or snorkelling. Thailand is a great destination for budget dives and a high chance of seeing a variety of sharks. I have seen sharks around Koh Phi Phi and diving the Ao Nang islands near Krabi. I’ve spotted black tip reef sharks, bamboo sharks and once I was lucky enough to see a 3 metre leopard shark while diving in Koh Phi Phi. Thailand doesn’t have any dangerous sharks and some people think you have more chance of seeing them snorkelling than diving as the bubbles can scare them away. Some dive centres like the Adventure Club on Koh Phi Phi have a specific shark watching trip that I plan to try out in the future.

How to Travel to Koh Phi Phi and Krabi – book your transport here

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When the shark is way too fast for you!

Travelling Thailand? Don’t forget these useful items!

    1. Gopro – essential for documenting all your adventures and underwater trips. Buy your GoPro HERO5 Black from Amazon here
    2.  Gopro Red Filter for diving – unless you want all your photos to come out extremely blue. Buy a GoPro Blue Water Filter (HERO5 Black) (GoPro Official Accessory) from Amazon
    3. A completely waterproof Dry Bag (Blue, 5l) to keep all of your things dry when jumping on and off boats, or getting caught in sudden downpours in the jungle.

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Disclaimer: some links are affiliate links. If you purchase a ticket or item I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The Best National Parks in Thailand

If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to the best National Parks in Thailand. For me these are Thailand’s best kept secrets as you can get off the tourist trail, stay away from the crowds and discover nature and wildlife in Thailand’s national parks. This is, by no means, a full list of National Parks in Thailand but the most impressive ones I have been to so far and would definitely recommend visiting. Read on for the best National Parks in Thailand for waterfalls, swimming, beauty, nature and wildlife.

If you love wild animals then check out my advice on where and how to see wild elephants, whales, dolphins, whale sharks, turtles, sharks, monkeys and gibbons here…

Best National Park for getting to from Bangkok: Sai Yok National Park

Out of all the national parks in Thailand that I have been to lately, this is the most recent. You can go to Sai Yok waterfalls as part of a day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi which also includes a museum visit, visit to the town of Kanchanaburi and a world war cemetery. You can also organise your own transport to Kanchanaburi. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall, which was crowded when I was there as I visited on a public holiday but I believe it would generally be a quiet non-touristy area to visit in Thailand. For more quiet areas around Thailand, check out these off the beaten track beaches in Thailand. You can even stay overnight on floating bungalows in Sai Yok National Park.

How to get to Sai Yok National Park from Bangkok: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators around Khao San Road. I recommend comparing prices to get the best deal.

Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free but subject to change depending on the government

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Everybody’s chasing waterfalls…

 

Best National Park for views: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. For me, it is one of the best national parks in Thailand because it is a lesser known area and therefore not crowded and I didn’t see any other tourists on the hike and only a handful inside the huge Praya Nakhon cave. It’s an excellent place to rent a motorcycle for the first time in Thailand as the area is flat, quiet and it won’t be so easy to get around unless you have your own transport. I stayed at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel. There are quite a few different activities to do in this national park, from hiking to view points, visiting deserted beaches, to going to see the secret cave which was a definite highlight for me.

Visit Thailand National Parks Nature
Unseen Thailand: The Hike to Praya Nakhon Cave
Best National Park in undiscovered Thailand: Khao Sam Roi Yot

Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous areas inside the national park. Inside it has a small but striking blue shrine (which looks like a temple) inside an enormous cave. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time. The views from the hike are definitely worth it as it goes all the way round the coastline, as you can see from the photo above. I think this is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and if you have time to spare I definitely recommend visiting this national park.

 

Thailand National Parks Nature Caves
Discover Thailand’s Praya Nakhon Cave

Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon!

Thailand National Park Nature Beaches
Phraya Nakhon Beach inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Best Viewpoint in Thailand

Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite viewpoints in Thailand so far. It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view which I am not sure I recommend but if you do decide to hike outside these hours then bring a flashlight for safety. I hiked during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.

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Khao Daeng Viewpoint of the 300 Peak Mountains ‘Khao Sam Roi Yot’

Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: Take a minivan from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok to Pranburi and then motorcycle taxi into Khao Sam Roi Yot.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Entrance Fee: 200 baht for foreigners

Best National Park for elephants: Khao Yai National Park

This is one of my favourite areas of jungle to visit. Visit the various waterfalls, do the visitor trail near the visitor office, keep your eyes peeled and ears open to see macaque monkeys, gibbons and there is a high chance of elephants, particularly in rainy season (June-Oct).  Most people in Thailand agree that this is the best place to see wild elephants in Thailand. Remember wild elephants are extremely territorial and dangerous so do not get too close! They are best to see from the road side or from the look-out point near the lake. It’s a great place to stop and chill for lunch too!

Getting to Khao Yai National Park: You can take a minivan about two hours from Bangkok from Ekkamai bus station to Pak Chong. I recommend Greenleaf Tours if you would like an incredible guide to find you lots of wildlife and help you spot elephants. If you are confident on scooters then rent a motorcycle in Pak Chong and head into Khao Yai itself for independent travel. I recommend taking a map from the visitor office as this shows the routes to the waterfalls (no swimming allowed due to the wildlife) and camping grounds. If you enjoy camping this is my favourite place to camp in Thailand as we saw fireflies and porcupines while camping here. You can rent tents from the campsite, basic toilets and showers are provided but make sure to bring your own food.

Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fee: 400 baht for foreigners

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Khao Yai National Park – Amazing place for jungle trekking and wildlife

Camping in Khao Yai National Park: For the adventurous, ask the visitor office about camping. For around 250 baht you can rent a tent at one of a couple of camp sites and stay the night. Bring your own food and drink as there are no shops available in the park. The entrance fee is expensive so I recommend staying inside the park to make the most of your money.

Tours of Khao Yai National Park: Alternatively take a guided tour with Greenleaf tours, they will collect you from Pak Chong and take you into the park in songtaew trucks. Tour includes trekking, guide, lunch and transport and lasts the whole day!

National Parks Thailand
I was lucky enough to spot three wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park. This was an lone adult male.
Best National Park in Thailand for floating bungalows: Khao Sok National Park

Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi. From your  accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and kayak around  Chaew Lam Lake trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even the odd elephant! (or so I’m told!). We saw fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons on one of our boat trips around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda for hotel bookings in Thailand and compare with booking.com for the best rates.

Floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park: arrange an overnight stay through your accommodation inside the park or from Krabi

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Kayaking in Khao Sok National Park after staying in floating bungalows on the lake
Best National Park for mountain views: Doi Ithanon National Park

These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a Doi Ithanon day tour from Chiang Mai which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. Book through a tour operator in Chiang Mai.

On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars. The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers and a riot of colour.

Thailand National Parks Nature
Gardens at the top of Doi Ithanon National Park, Thailand
Best National Park with a deserted beach: Khao Lak National Park

I only visited an extremely small area of this but it’s worth it if you find yourself in Khao Lak for a couple of days as I am not a big fan of the town itself. If you take a short hike into the national park then you can stumble across golden sand, deserted hidden beaches with no tourists  which is definitely worth it, in my opinion. There was a small entrance fee (I think around 40 baht). Most people are here as it is a jump off point for the dive sites around the Similan islands for divers or snorkelling trips to Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands. 

Thailand National Park
Hiking around Khao Lak National Park, Thailand and waiting for the sunset
Best National Park for Thailand’s best waterfall: Erawan National Park

I’ve written about this place before but it is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Bring your own food and water as there is little on offer here You will also find it quieter the higher up you go as the lower and closest steps are often full of local children playing! It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town.

Erawan National Park entrance fee: 200-300 baht

Erawan National Park tour: book a day trip from Bangkok, many tour operators on Khao San road can offer this which also includes some history and museums in Kanchanaburi town first.

Thailand beautiful waterfall destination
Swimming in magical blue pools in the Erawan National Park

Don’t Forget to Take:

    • Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
    • A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag

Book your travel to these amazing places here. Trains, buses, ferries and boats for Thailand and beyond…

For backpacking essentials that I actually use and are very practical check out my blog post here

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