Khao Yai National Park, considered one of Thailand’s attractions, is the first national park in Thailand built in 1962. This park, which is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with a series of forests, is an excellent place for wildlife viewing, nature tourism, night safari, bird watching, photography, and filming.
Khao Yai National Park is located in Nakhon Ratchasima region and about 200 km northeast of Bangkok.
Introducing Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Although Khao Yai National Park was the first national park which is established in 1962, it is now ranked as the third-largest park in the nation. One of the attractions of Nakhon Nayok, which stands out among the woods and large pastures, is this park, which has a surface area of 2,168 square kilometers. This region is 400 to 1000 meters above sea level on average, and its tallest peak is 1,351 meters. The meaning of “Khao Yai” is “huge mountains,” which is fascinating to know.
History of Khao Yai National Park
Around 1922, residents of a few villages in the province of Nakhon Nayok constructed a forest residence in the Sankamphaeng Mountains. Despite being acknowledged by the government, this location was frequently utilized as a haven by fugitives and criminals due to its isolation from urban areas. The inhabitants lived there until 1932 when they were relocated, and the region’s formal status was revoked.
The process of establishing national parks was put on the agenda by the Thai Prime Minister’s instruction to the Interior and Agriculture Ministries in 1959.
Khao Yai National Park was included in the ASEAN Heritage Parks in 1984, and on July 14, 2005, along with other parks in that area and parks located in the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains, it was introduced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name Dong Phaya Yen–Khao Yai Forest Complex.
Khao Yai National Park Facilities
The fact that Khao Yai National Park is regarded as a tourist destination has led to the provision of all required amenities throughout time. We may specifically identify the two main camp headquarters among these amenities. The park is home to a number of eateries, cafés, and food stands, some of which are situated just across from the tourist center. In each camp, there is a restaurant and a café.
One of the attractive features of Kaw Yai National Park is that you can explore it by car or bicycle. According to statistics, this park is one of the busiest cycling areas in Thailand, especially since there are specific routes for vehicles to pass in the park. It is not possible to enter the national park on foot from the checkpoint; because many attractions are located at a great distance from the entrance.
Recreation of Khao Yai National Park
The main activities in Khao Yai National Park are hiking, wildlife watching, visiting waterfalls and scenery, and camping. The visitor center is a perfect place to get information and start a day trip.
The best way to see animals is with an experienced guide. You can also spot common animals along the roadsides or around the visitor center and campsites. Salts are also placed on the side of the roads, which attract large mammals such as elephants, deer, and boars, and it is possible to watch them easily. Also, the presence of birds gives you the opportunity to bird-watching.
This safari is another fascinating activity that gives you the opportunity to watch wildlife at night. For this fun, you must go to the visitor center before 18:00 and apply. This 10 km journey takes about an hour.
Photography and videography
Khao Yai National Park has stunning views of mountains and grasslands, forests, and all kinds of flowers and wildlife, and every tourist records them in the form of pictures or videos.
The National Park is an ideal place for stargazing. Beginners don’t need a telescope or other expensive equipment; because this is possible with the naked eye and a guidebook or night sky map.
Khao Yai National Park Attractions
This center is located around 14 kilometers from the park’s northern entrance and features a gorgeous area with various eateries, bathrooms, and other amenities. Several species, including macaques and turtles, may be spotted surrounding the tourist center practically every day. The visitor center area is quite congested, yet it is among the best places to watch the park’s primary birds, such as hornbills and river kingfishers.
To tour the park, you cannot travel lengthy routes without a guide; because being lost in this forest with all types of wild creatures is very likely.
The park has seven approved routes ranging in length from 800 meters to eight kilometers, only a handful of which enable tourists to wander freely, including an 800-meter circular path behind the visitor center and the recently created Thai-American Friendship Trail not far from the visitor center. The majority of the paths, all of which are circular, are located northwest of the visitor center area. The longest path is eight kilometers long, beginning behind the tourist center and ending at the Haew Suwat waterfall.
Although the park is very popular among local tourists, most of them prefer to picnic in the camping areas and only visit the waterfalls and scenic views; therefore, the greatest number of the paths in this national park is deserted.
Among the attractions of this park, we can mention two observation towers that offer you a 360-degree view of the surrounding scenery. Nong Phak Chi Wildlife Observation Watchtower, located 2.5 kilometers northwest of the visitor center, offers a great view of the surrounding grasslands. There is a salt mass and pond next to the tower, which attracts some animals.
Roaring waterfalls are one of the main attractions of the park, which exist in all areas of the park and are the habitat of many animals. Some of them are easily accessible by car, while to visit some others you have to take a long walk with the help of a guide.
Haew Narok Waterfall has three floors, the height of highest of which reaches 80 meters; its total height is 150 meters, and it is considered the biggest waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. From the parking lot next to the main road, you have to walk 600 meters to reach the waterfall. Next to the parking lot, there is a restroom and a restaurant.
Haew Suwat Waterfall stands out with a height of 20 meters, about 13 kilometers from the visitor center. The waterfall is famous for appearing in various movies, the most famous of which is Leonardo DiCaprio’s jumping scene in the movie “The Beach.”
Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave
This cave is one of the other attractions of the park, which, according to some sources, is home to between one and three million bats. At sunset, you can see a large population of bats coming out of the cave, creating a spectacular sight. Some birds of prey hunt bats by diving among them.
At 4.5 km from the northern entrance, there is the first viewing point of the park, where most tourists stop to enjoy the scenery around them. It is located right next to the road and does not require walking.
Yod Khao Khieo Mountain is the next option in front of you, which is known as the highest mountain in Nakhon Nayok province, with a height of 1,292 meters above sea level. This mountain is located approximately 11 km from the visitor center, and it is easily accessible by car or motorcycle.
There are three good viewpoints and several short trails along the road leading to and on top of the mountain, which are closed from July 1 to September 30 each year for nature restoration.
Continue to Pha Dieu Dai Cliff, which is 1,142 meters above sea level and can be accessed by an easy 600-meter-long path. It has the best view of the park. Besides, some birds can be seen along this route.
Wildlife of Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park has a wide range of animal species:
Northern pig-tailed macaque, gibbon, hedgehog, Asian black bear, otter, jackal, Indian howling deer, etc., are among the mammals of this region. Even though there was no trace of tigers in this area for a long time, recently, the cameras were able to catch a scene of some tigers. A wildlife crossing has been built in the park for this purpose, in the hope that the tigers will one day return to Khao Yai from Thap Lan National Park.
The national park is home to about 440 local and non-local bird species, including local ravens, owls, and woodpeckers. One of the largest hornbill populations in Thailand lives in this park, and the great hornbill and the eastern hornbill can be seen flying over the area almost every day. White-browed fantail, Blythe’s Pipit, Northern Shahbaz (White Buzzard), and Coral-tip Ground Cuckoo are other rare birds in the national park.
Another group of animals is reptiles, which include 85 different species, from lizards to pythons. There used to be a Siamese crocodile along one of the paths in the park, which disappeared some time ago and is probably dead.
Access to Khao Yai National Park
The national park is accessible through two entrance gates: Chao Por Khao Yai Shrine Visitor Center in Pak Chong District of Nakhon Ratchasima Province and Noen Hom Visitor Center in Miwang District of Prachinburi Province. Tanarat road is stretched for 50 km in the national park, from the entrance of Chao Pur Khao Yai temple to Prachinburi. Tourists can enter from one entrance and exit from another or return to the first entrance. You can travel from Bangkok to the national park by three methods: private car, bus, and train, which we will discuss below.
Take the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima bus or Bangkok-Pak Chong District private minivan and get off at Pak Chong. From there, hire a taxi or take the Pak Chong-Khao Yai bus to reach the Chao Pho Khao Yai Shrine Visitor Center. These buses move passengers every 30 minutes from 6:00 morning to 5:00 afternoon every day.
Take Phahonyothin Road at Rangsit towards Saraburi and then change to Highway No. 2 (Mitraphap Road). Before reaching Pak Chong and at 23 km, you will reach the Chao Pho Khao Yai Shrine Visitor Center. After another 15 kilometers, you will reach the central office of the national park, which is a total of 205 kilometers. To get to Nuen Hom Visitor Center by car, take Highway 1 in Rangsit to Highway 33 (Suwanasorn Road) in Hin Kong District. Go through Nakhon Nayok Town to Nuen Hom Junction and turn left onto Prachinburi-Khao Yai Road and continue until you reach your destination. The whole route is 190 km.
Take the Northeast Line (Bangkok-Pak Chong) and get off at Pak Chong Station in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Then take a bus from Pak Chong Market to the National Park to reach the Chao Phor Khao Yai Temple Visitor Center.