Introducing Khao Yai National Park
Up there on the podium with some of world’s greatest parks, Khao Yai National Park (08 1877 3127; admission 400B; 6am-9pm) is Thailand’s oldest and most visited reserve. Covering 2168 sq km, Khao Yai incorporates one of the largest intact monsoon forests remaining in mainland Asia, which is why is was named a Unesco World Heritage site. The mostly English-speaking staff at the visitor centre (8.30am-4.30pm) are very friendly and helpful.
Rising to 1351m with the summit of Khao Rom, the park’s terrain covers five vegetation zones: evergreen rainforest (100m to 400m); semi-evergreen rainforest (400m to 900m); mixed deciduous forest (northern slopes at 400m to 600m); hill evergreen forest (over 1000m); and savannah and secondary-growth forest in areas where agriculture and logging occurred before it was protected. Many orchids bloom from the middle of June through the end of July, one of the few benefits of rainy-season visits.
Some 250 wild elephants tramp the park’s boundaries; other mammals recorded include sambar deer, barking deer, gaur, Malayan sun bears, Asiatic black bears, tigers, leopards, otters, and various gibbons and macaques. Khao Yai also has one of Thailand’s largest populations of hornbills, including the great hornbill (nók kòk or nók kaahang in Thai), king of the bird kingdom, as well as the wreathed hornbill (nók graam cháang; literally, ‘elephant-jaw bird’), Indian pied hornbill (nók khàek) and brown hornbill (nók ngêuak sǐi nám taan). Hornbills breed from January to March, and this is the best time to see them. Over 200 bird species make the park their home and some 315 have been recorded.
There are two primary entrances into the park. The first is the northern entrance through Nakhon Ratchasima Province, with sleeping and transport options originating out of the backpacker town of Pak Chong. The second option is the southern entrance in Prachinburi Province, which is closer to Bangkok and a popular weekend destination for residents of the capital.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009