“Khao Yai National Park”:http://www.khaoyainationalpark.com/เส้นทางศึกษาธรรมชาติ-200-ป/ is located 120 km northeast of Bangkok. We stayed a 5-minute drive away at Lala Mukha Tented Resort.
Having experienced several African and Indian national parks and safaris, the Thai experience doesn’t compete, but it was fun as part of a two-month tour of the country and made a pleasant change from temples.
Our guide for the five-hour morning drive was Pierre, who collected us at 7am in his open-sided pick up with roof. Thoughtfully he provided a white plastic step to help us get in and out. The park has a number of roads through it, but there is no off roading, and whilst you can trek, you must stay on the official trails.
Having entered the park, we found numerous tribes of macaque monkeys lining the roadside hoping for food. Many carried babies on the underbelly and we were told that like humans, there is no breeding season and they have babies all year round. We were advised not to leave food in the back of the open truck as they would steal it.
Wild elephants are said to roam through the park and although we saw several road signs, ‘beware elephants crossing’ we were unlucky, although we saw ‘evidence’ of them at the roadside. We were also unlucky, when at the Dong Phayaen-Khao Yai World Heritage Site viewing point, Pierre set up his telescope, hoping to spot the Giant Hornbill which can be up to 130cm from beak to tail feather.
There is a large impressive Visitor Centre and we spotted a huge water monitor lizard swimming in the stream running alongside the car park, before it got out on the far bank. Inside the centre, there were various displays of the animals, flora and fauna that could be seen. Although they were in Thai and English, it was poorly lit and it was difficult to read the signs. However, there were two interesting true stories: one about a gaur, or Indian bison, which was accompanied by a skeleton and another about a man-eating tiger.
From the centre, we set off over a swing bridge on the Kong Kaeo Nature Trail which was said to be a 45 minute, 1,200m loop walk with a few steep sections. However, we found it to be a well paved path and although there were a few steps and some steeper sections, we took it slowly with Pierre pointing out spiders and their webs, fungus, the various trees, vines and ferns, termites and sun bear marks on tree trunks.
We drove the 11km to the Haew Suwat waterfall where the film The Beach was filmed. We stopped at the viewing point before heading down 130 steps and scrambling over large tree roots until we reached the bottom of the cascade. Back at the top, we climbed another 20 steps to the head of the waterfall although signs advised us not to get too near the edge.
Our sightings for the morning were male and female red muntjacs, sambar, a heart-crested black and white woodpecker and we heard two families of gibbons communicating.
We went out again in the evening, this time with a night spotter (i.e. a man who stood up at the back shining the lamp along the roadside and up into the trees. Once again, saw little, and Pierre said it was a very quiet night, with not even the stars or moon showing. However, it was a jolly experience and not the scrum down we’d imagined.
Although Bat Cave, isn’t within Khao Yai National Park, it was within the Khao Yai mountain area and we visited to see a truly remarkable natural phenomenon. Every night, at or just before sunset, somewhere between 2 to 5 million wrinkle-lipped bats fly out of a cave in a hill at Khao Luuk Chang, known as baby elephant mountain. At 5.45pm the bats started streaming out in ribbon like waves. It was a spectacular sight which lasted for nearly 20 minutes with the bats returning to the cave just before sunrise.