Khao Yai is up there with some of the world’s greatest national parks. It is Thailand’s oldest and most visited reserve. One of the main reasons for its popularity is its rich biodiversity with healthy populations of many rare and endangered species. Among the most exotic animals in the park are gibbons, macaques, hornbills, elephants, gaur and bears, spread over a protected area of 2,168 sq. km. And while there hasn’t been any sign of tiger activity in the park for some years, camera traps have revealed a significant tiger population in the neighbouring Thap Lan and Pang Sida National Parks.
Among the limestone mountains, tropical forests, grasslands and rivers, there are many weird and wonderful surprises which await anyone who is intrepid enough to explore this vast natural wonder. While immersed in the prehistoric tropical forest which blankets Khao Yai National Park, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a Jurassic Park movie!
This blog post gives our recommendations for the top 5 things to do within Khao Yai National Park. These things shouldn’t be missed!
1. Jungle Trekking
Trekking through the deep jungle is both challenging and exciting and it’s something that every visitor should consider to truly experience the awe of the rainforest and increase the odds of seeing rare and elusive wildlife.
There are 6 main tourist trails available for trekking and maps are available from Khao Yai Visitor Centre. These are about 2-8km and 1-5 hours of walking. Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars and a camera and check the local weather forecast before setting out!
If you go jungle trekking, hiring a park ranger is highly recommended as the trails are easy to get lost on! In addition, wild animals are a potential hazard and park rangers are trained to keep you safe in the jungle.
2. Haew Suwat Waterfall (Thai: Namtok Haew Suwat)
Haew Suwat Waterfall is probably the most popular waterfall in Khao Yai National Park and it’s a must-see for visitors. It’s relatively easy to access with a short path leading directly to it from Haew Suwat Car Park and it’s in close proximity to a popular camping ground.
Visitors can view the waterfall from designated areas at the top and bottom, although swimming and jumping off the waterfall are strictly prohibited!
Haew Suwat was the filming location for Danny Boyle’s movie ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In the movie, DiCaprio (Richard) and his fellow companions plunge off the 25m waterfall.
3. Night Safari
A night safari is a great way to improve your chances of seeing wildlife at dusk. You can book a safari at Khao Yai Visitor Centre. The park rangers drive you slowly around the park in a jeep with a high power spotlight mounted to the vehicle.
The best time to go is between 6:00pm - 8:00pm. Just make sure you bring binoculars and wrap up warmly as it can get chilly in the evenings!
Common animal sightings during the night safari include deer, porcupines, elephants and macaques. If you're really lucky you might even spot a pack of Asiatic wild dogs hunting!
4. Camping Overnight
One of the best things to do in Khao Yai National Park is to camp overnight at any of the camping grounds. This comes highly recommended as there’s a good chance you’ll be delightfully awoken by gibbons howling loudly in the forest canopy at dawn.
For the best chance of seeing wildlife, get up just before light at around 5.30am - 6.00am before most of the animals retreat into the forest for shade from the sun.
There are two main campsites: Lam Ta Kong and Pha Kluai Mai. Pha Kluai Mai Campsite is located within walking distance of Haew Suwat Waterfall via a 3km trail along the river. Both camping grounds provide toilet and shower facilities and a shop for basic camping provisions.
Note: Don't feed the wild animals. Deer and macaques are likely to try to steal food from you or your tent so make sure you don’t leave any food unattended. Deer have even been known to tear through tents in search of food!
5. Pha Diao Dai View Point (English: Pha Diao Dai loosely translates to “Solitude Cliff”)
Arguably the most breathtaking viewpoint in Khao Yai National Park, Pha Diao Dai is a great spot to view the vastness of the Khao Yai interior forest. At an elevation of around 1,150m and set on a cliff edge, the view point has several giant boulders perched on top, ideal for sitting on and enjoying the incredible views in peace and isolation!
Pha Diao Dai is located on the windy road up Khao Khiao mountain. It’s reached by following a short trail (approximately 450m in length) on a raised wooden walkway, which runs through hill evergreen forest and an unusual high altitude swamp. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the exotic insects, snakes and birds which live in this distinct environment!
Note: Pha Diao Dai View Point has no safety rails at the cliff edge so be very careful when visiting, especially with young children.
Come on a Residential Trip with Us!
The Howling Gibbon Outdoor Education Centre is in a perfect location to explore and discover Khao Yai National Park. We offer residential outdoor education trips aimed at schools and community groups from within Thailand and abroad.
Our residential programmes are fully customised and use a discovery-led approach to outdoor education tailored to support curriculum learning. We also organise all the logistics for you (including transport, food and activities) so that you can simply focus on the experience!
If you'd like to organise your residential trip to Khao Yai with us, feel free to get in touch!