Usually it’s difficult to see many wild animals in a jungle, but Khao Yai National Park makes a splendid exception to the rule.
Khao Yai National Park is so huge that it has paved roads crossing through the jungle. Park rangers organize wildlife spotting rides on the afternoons and evenings, which give you a chance to see a lot of animals that would remain hidden away from hikers on foot.
On our previous ride we saw a large python and other snakes, wild boars and a porcupine, golden jackal, civet cats, deers and handsome gaurs, and as the highlight wild elephants.
Tigers too live in the jungle, but sightings are very rare.
Khao Yai’s Bat Cave
One of Khao Yai’s highlights is a bat cave. Every evening, just around sunset, millions of bats fly out of the cave forming fantastic shapes of “living” black clouds. The sight is unforgettable. The bats are like a black river flying out of the cave’s mouth making air spirals when bats try to outstrip attacking hawks.
The bat cave is located just outside the national park boundaries.
Trekking and jeep safaris in Khao Yai
Khao Yai was Thailand’s first established national park, and in 2005 Khao Yai was delcared a UNESCO Natural Heritage site.
The park consists of evergreen jungle, mountain forests and savannas.
Aside of car safaris, whan can also trek through marked hiking trails. A popular hike takes to a waterfall that was used as a filming location on the movie The Beach.
Not just a jungle: Khao Yai’s golf courses and a winery
The area surrounding the nature park has other activities too. There are golf courses, outlet malls, a popular Wild West style Chockchai cattle farm (with a very popular steak restaurant) and PB Valley Khao Yai Winery. Both are open to visitors.
There are several golf courts in the Khao Yai area, one of the most exciting being Rancho Charvnee.
Khao Yai’s Best Hotels and Guesthouses
There are plenty of hotels to choose In Khao Yai’s close proximity. Most of the hotels are located on the road leading to Khao Yai jungle. An excellent choice for a luxury hotel is Kirimaya Golf Resort & Spa.
And when it comes to basic guesthouses, our favorite is the Greenleaf Guesthouse (www.greenleaftour.com), thanks to the guesthouse’s in-house tour guide who is specialized in spotting wild gibbons. Guests of the Greenleaf are almost guaranteed to spot the wonderful wild apes swinging from tree to tree in the jungle.
On the national park itself one can stay overnight on a few camping grounds.
How to Get to Khao Yai
Khao Yai National Park is located 200 kilometers North East of Bangkok. Usually the driving time is around three hours.
If you are traveling to Khao Yai by bus, take first bus from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Station to Pak Chong from where you can continue with a songthaew ride.
Move on from Khao Yai
Khao Yai sits in the edge of Thailand’s North Earstern region called Isaan (or Esan). Only two hours drive away is the bustling city of Khorat Nakhon Ratchasima or the serene Angkor-era ruins of Phimai.
Best Time to Visit Khao Yai
Khao Yai can be visited all year round, but on rainy season from June to end of October the terrain can get wet and paths muddy. And the rainy season is the high season for leeches!
Khao Yai area is located in 400 to 1000 meters above sea level, and the climate is a bit cooler than in lesser altitudes, what makes the Khao Yai area a popular weekend getaway for Bangkokians especially on the hot season.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, try to schedule your visit on weekdays, since the park can get rather busy on weekends.
Khao Yai – Good to Know
Khao Yai has a 400 baht entrance fee for foreigners.