Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Khao Yai National Park promises great adventure opportunities because of its breathtaking terrain and abundant wild animal life.
by Katherine Walsh.
Sitting high on a pedestal with a handful of the world’s most impressive parks, Khao Yai in Prachinburi province is not only Thailand’s oldest parkland but it is also the country’s most visited. Now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Khao Yai National Park is full of promises of adventure, due to its breathtaking terrain and abundant wild animal life. Visitors will be greeted by English-speaking staff at the Visitor Center that is found at the main entrance just south of Pak Chong, who will be able to point eager sightseers in the right direction – as it can be tricky to know where to start when faced with 2168 sq km of dense forest.
An Overview: Khao Yai is home to five different vegetation zones namely: mixed deciduous forest, hilly evergreen forest, evergreen rainforest, semi-evergreen rainforest and savannah forest. These terrains are hidden among a variety of landscapes from the mountainous Khao Rom through to the Sai Yai River, where many guests head to for some exciting river rafting in the ever-tumultuous Kaeng Hin Phoeng Rapids.
With a variety of trails winding their way through the park, hiking is the most popular activity on offer but for those who prefer to keep the – often sweaty – exercise to a minimum; motorbikes are allowed in the park for just THB 30 and prove to be a popular way to tour around. And if all that isn’t enough to entice, the possibility of spotting one of the 200 wild elephants who reside in the parkland should be enough to tempt the adventurous side out of the least intrepid of travelers.
Khao Yai & Beyond, www.khaoyaiandbeyond.com
23 Moo 12, Klang Dong, Pakchong, Tel: 089 946 1906
As Khao Yai provides a base to over 800 species of fauna, it’s not hard to spot one of the 392 types of birds, 200 reptiles and amphibians or the 112 mammals that reside here. It’s safe to say the jungle is teeming with animal life, including macaques, otters, civets, bears, water monitors, and porcupines, and here’s a tip worth remembering: a glimpse of the elephants is most likely to be accomplished at the salt licks.
The more daring of visitors can trek deep into the fertile jungle to see what is arguably the most exciting of all of the animals in the park – a wild tiger. These kings of the jungle still roam the most cavernous parts of the park and while sightings are rare, just the suggestion of possibility undoubtedly gets the adrenaline pumping. The park’s gibbon population offer visitors a wild jungle soundtrack backdrop to explore to, that seemingly plays in a loop in the background with their constant hoots and whoops from high up in the swaying trees.
Not to be left out, the Indian Pied Hornbills add an echoing “cak cak” laughing sound that accompanies the rhythmic ringing of the jungle’s cicadas, which intensifies the jungle sound effects to remind sightseers exactly where they are.
Sai Yai Resort
Tel: 089 094 7210
If you want to take a break from jungle trekking, then head to the Sai Yai River, where the fast-flowing – and needless to say, adrenaline pumping – Kaeng Hin Phoeng Rapids await. Best enjoyed during the wet, green season from June to October, the course features multi-level rapids comprising of swirling surf, whirling waves and splashing spray as the wild water winds its way round protruding rocks and bushes that sprawl out from the banks.
The rapids are classed at levels 4 & 5, basically meaning they are strong and fairly tough to conquer but it’s their extremity makes them all the more exhilarating.
Khao Ito, www.bicyclethailand.com/khao-ito/
Tel: 086 090 4945
For adrenaline junkies looking to keep their firmly feet on dry land, mountain biking is readily available on the jungly pathways. The thrilling tracks should only be attempted by experienced mountain bikers, who thrive when faced with single tracks made up of rocks, mud and sticks, which promise to provide more than enough obstacles to conquer for anyone daring enough to want to attempt them. The amazing scenery and views of the park make this a must-do for any biking-thirsty visitor.
Sarika Adventure Point, www.sarikaadventurepoint.com
Tel: 037 616 164
Got a head for heights? Abseiling in Khao Yai is not for the faint of heart and anyone up for the rewarding challenge should try their hand at abseiling down the Than Rattana Waterfall. Unreachable on foot, the gushing waterfall is exciting to abseil due to its secretive nature and involves a 70-meter drop that ensures this is one of the most adventurous activities in the park. Other cliffs that provide the perfect backdrops for abseiling include the 18m drop followed by the 38m descent that leads into the Namtok Song Sawan.
Other thrilling activities in the park include elephant trekking, bird watching, waterfall exploring, camping, rope adventures and hovercrafting, and what more could one ask for with so much adventure in such a beautiful environment.