National parks are little slices of heaven that display the biodiversity of a place, and for a country like Thailand that is so rich in its wildlife, marine life, forest and coral reefs, it is only fair that we showcase its true beauty on our platform.
So the next time you are in Thailand, plan your trip in such a way that you don’t miss out on these soul filling national parks.
Khao Yai National Park
This is Thailand’s first national park and the 3rd largest in the country, it is merely 3 hours away from Bangkok. It’s also a World Heritage Site. Hold on there’s more, the moment you enter the national park, your every step thereafter will be in an evergreen forest or grassland that is home to almost 300 species of birds that reside here or simply stop by from season to season. There are many animals as well that have made this their home, like elephants, barking deer, bears, otters, gibbons, gaurs and macaques.
And what good would a national park be without waterfalls? Khao Yai has plenty of them to show off, of which the Haew Nerok Waterfall is one of the highest and most magnificent in Thailand, while most of the other small waterfalls are easily accessible by road on a motorbike or car, or you could simply hike up while taking in the beauty of the landscape. The best part is if you like to spend more time here, there are camping options available too.
Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is one of the most visited national parks in the country as it is home to many exotic wild animals like the Asian elephant, gibbons, Sun Bear, Black Bear, Malayan tapir, but more so for the world’s largest flower, the Bua Phut (Rafflesia kerrii). It’s not the kind of flower you would want to sniff though, unless you have a thing for rotting flesh.
So how is Khao Sok different other than being the backyard for the world’s largest flower? It also has the Thailand’s largest man made lake with houses on it! For all those eager to explore the place more, you can opt to stay in one the many floating houses on Cheow Lake, where you’ll have an endless swimming pool right at your doorstep! There are plenty of small waterfalls and caves that you will stumble on during your trek here, so don’t forget to check them out.
Doi Inthanon National Park
If you are in Chiang Mai, then there is no excuse good enough for missing out on the Doi Inthanon National Park. It’s called the ‘Roof of Thailand’ and believe it or not it is part of the Himalayan mountain range, which also means the temperature is pretty cool up here. The Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon are two magnificent and most photographed monuments here, they were built to honour the 60th birthdays of the King and Queen of Thailand, and the view from here is simply breathtaking.
Like many other national parks in Thailand, Doi Inthanon also has plenty of birds to spot during your treks. Animals, however, are a lot less due to reckless hunting and habitat change. Bats, on the other hand, have managed to flood the hidden caves here. Of the many waterfalls that grace this national park, the Mae Ya waterfall is the most impressive. But there is one other thing that makes going here the main reason for many travelers. It’s a tour that takes you to the Hmong hill tribe and the Karen Long Neck tribe (check out our special hill tribe edition to know more) villages to experience their way of life.
Just so you know, though, many of these tribe villages are now commercialised and a tourist trap. They’ll still give you an idea of the hill tribe way of life, but if you want something more authentic, you’ll have to go further than the average traveler.
Koh Lanta National Park
A lot of travelers visiting Koh Lanta don’t even know that it has a national park, but you can’t blame them, and the reason being Koh Lanta is a small island. So how does a small island have a national park? Well, that’s the trick, the national park isn’t a mountainous terrain on one island, instead, it’s a collection of many small islands and the life that dwells in the waters surrounding it.
A total of 16 islands are protected under this national park, of which Ko Lanta Noi and Ko Lanta Yai are the biggest islands. Many caves and waterfalls like the Tham Khao Mai Kaew, Tham Seua, Khlong Chak Cave and the Khlong Chak Waterfall make the trek and hikes worthwhile. Animals and reptiles like monkeys, bats, lizards, and snakes have taken shelter here for centuries.
If you drift about 26km south of Koh Lanta Yai, you will reach the islands of Koh Rok Nai and Ko Rok Nok. the two islands are so close that you will on a good day, you will see people swimming across the two islands. The waters surrounding the two islands are crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling. A scuba dive here will let you explore the underwater world and spot marine life like butterflyfish, pufferfish, clownfish, angelfish, hawksbill turtles and much more. You may, however, want to check with the scuba tour operators about any certification requirements before you get geared up. Even if you can’t go scuba diving the castaway pristine islands here are still worth the boat ride.
Ang Thong National Park
This is one of the most popular marine national parks of Thailand. With 42 scattered islands under its umbrella, Ang Thong national park is like a miniature version of the world itself when seen from a drone or a plane.
Snorkelling, diving and kayaking are some of the most famous activities here, and why not? It’s an island after all. But if you want to see the hidden gems then take a hike, I mean literally take a hike to Wua Talap Island viewpoint for a breathtaking view. Try rock climbing on some of the majestic limestone cliffs here. Some of the islands even let you camp overnight (you may want to check that with your tour operator). There is also the Emerald Lake (Thale nai) which is a heavenly emerald coloured translucent water that looks like it’s collected in a rock bowl since it is surrounded by mountains on all side.
With undisturbed forest, these islands are home to langurs, different types of hornbills, tortoise, monitor lizards and pythons. The waters surrounding the islands breath life to fishes like the Blacktip shark, Butterflyfish, Parrot fish, Groupers Stingrays and much more. With so much to see and do no wonder people flock here all the time.
Similan National Park
We have saved the best for the last. The Similan Marine national park is a cluster of 11 beautiful pristine islands that welcomes its visitors only from December to April. That’s when the seas are calm and the island reachable. Most of the people come here to scuba dive with Manta rays, Whale sharks (rare!), Octopus, Lionfish, Peacock flounder, White and black-tipped reef sharks, Seahorses (rare!), Giant Barracuda, Leopard sharks, Dolphins and much more.
With prior approval (check with the tour operator) it’s also possible to stay in tents on Similan island is you wish (note: there are no resorts or hostels here). The neighbouring islands are also rich in coral life and some of them are nesting grounds for sea turtles. Since most of the islands here are uninhabited apart from the day visitors, a few unique species have learnt to co-exist, like 16 different types of bats, 3 types of squirrels including the flying squirrel, about 40 different species of birds, Bush-Tailed Porcupine, Flying Lemur, Palm Civet and Hairy-Leg Mountain Land Crab (a whole army).
If you go Snorkelling or scuba diving on the Similans, please enquire and attain the safety training, and knowledge of the marine life when seeking out your tour operator, this is more so for your safety and making the most of your trip.
We hope this little piece brought you to the edge of your seat, all ready for an adventure. Why don’t you ive down to our comments section and let us know which of these national parks you would like to visit and we will help you plan a trip to that little slice of heaven.