Want to know where and how to see wild animals in Thailand? One of the reasons that I am still so in love with living in Thailand is the nature and wildlife. From jungles and forests to oceans and mountains to beaches, Thailand has it all and you can see so many interesting and unusual animals in Thailand. If, like me, you are an animal lover then read on about the best ways and places to see wild animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, whale sharks, monkeys and more. I have recommended the best places to see wild animals in their natural environment.
See Wild Elephants in Thailand’s jungles and National Parks
I think Khao Yao National Park is one of the best places to encounter wild elephants. They are amazing creatures and despite all the sanctuaries in Thailand, the jungle is where they truly belong and to have the opportunity to see them in the wild is incredible. Khao Yai is about 2 hours from Bangkok by minivan (approx. 180 baht). I strongly recommend 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. Alternatively, if you feel confident renting scooters then rent them from Pak Chong and ride around 15 minutes until you get into the park.
Foreign Visitor National Park fee = 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
Thailand Wildlife Fact: Elephants are seen as Thailand’s sacred animal. However, many elephants who are forced to work in elephant camps in Thailand are subject to cruelty and animal abuse. Read here for my recommendations on ethical elephant sanctuaries.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Snorkel or Dive with Turtles around Thai islands
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. All turtles I have seen here are hawksbill turtles and are a smaller version of their cousins that I’ve seen in Indonesia but well worth a turtle spotting dive.
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.
Wild Animals in Thailand: Diving with Whale Sharks
The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean and are one reason why divers come to 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 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.
Venomous 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 approach with caution. Head to Lumpini Park in Bangkok for a good chance of spotting them.
Thailand Wild Animal Fact: The nickname for a monitor lizard is an extremely rude swear word in Thai
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.
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.
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
These 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.
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.
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.
Dive and Snorkel with Sharks around Thailand
If you are a shark lover then definitely consider a shark watching trip either diving or snorkelling. 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.
Travelling Thailand? Don’t forget these useful items!
- Gopro – essential for documenting all your adventures and underwater trips. Buy your GoPro HERO5 Black from Amazon here
- 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
- 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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