National Parks in Thailand
National parks in Thailand are defined as an area of least ten square kilometres that contains natural resources of ecological importance or unique beauty, or flora and fauna of special importance. Currently there are 127 national parks (including 22 marine national parks).
– The first national park was Khao Yai in 1961 and together with other parks in the Dong Phaya Yen mountains is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage. It lies largely in Nakhon Ratchasima Province (Khorat), but also includes parts of Saraburi, Prachinburi and Nakhon Nayok provinces.
The park is the second largest in Thailand. It covers an area of 2,168 square kilometers, including evergreen forests and grasslands. There are 3,000 species of plants, 320 species of birds and 67 species of mammals. It is one of the few places in Thailand where wild elephants still survive. They are regularly seen and provide a major tourist attraction. Other larger animals include gibbons, pig-tailed macaques, muntjacs and sambar deer.
There are over 50 km of hiking trails. From easy to hard, one hour to three days. The trails on the map from the visitors center will only have the easier trails. Maps do come with English instructions. A guide is recommended for most trails if the tourist has no experience.
Its altitude mostly ranges from 400 to 1000 m above sea level.
The Haew Narok waterfalls are the largest waterfalls in the park. It is a three-tiered structure that extends 150 meters from the top tier to the basal lake. The waterfall is located about 10 kilometers from the south gate along the central road through Khao Yai.
As with all national parks in Thailand, the fee is 200 baht for foreigners, and 20 for Thais. Food is available from private concessions within the park. As well, night-time “wildlife spotlighting” is available via pick-up trucks in the early evening. Animals sighted usually are limited to deer and civet cats, and only rarely include elephants.
– The first marine park was Khao Sam Roi Yot, established in 1966. Located in the Sam Roi Yot district, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province it covers 98.08 km2, of which 20.88 km2 are marine areas. The name Khao Sam Roi Yot means “Mountains with 300 peaks”, which describes the landscape of the park quite well.
The limestone hills rise directly at the shore of the Gulf of Thailand, with the highest elevation Khao Krachom 605 m above sea level. Between the hills are freshwater marshes. However several of these marshes were converted into shrimp farms, as only 36 km2 of the total 69 km2 of marshes are part of the national park. 18 km2 of these marshes are scheduled to be declared a Ramsar site.
The wooded mountains make it a site of outstanding natural beauty, but it is the freshwater marsh and coastal habitats (an important stopover and breeding area for birds), that gives the park great ecological significance. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park also has great recreational and educational value. It offers the visitor a tremendous variety of attractions. These include fine sandy beaches (Hat Laem Sala and the larger Hat Sam Phraya, near the park headquarter at Ban Khao Daeng), spectacular caves, superb mountain viewpoints, offshore islands, forest trails, estuarine and mangrove habitats, all within a relatively small area. This unparalleled variety of habitats makes it one of the most interesting national parks in Thailand.
Rare animals in the park include the Mainland Serow (Nemorhaedus sumatraensis), Dusky Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus), as well as many bird species. In the ocean occasionally Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) show up.
33 national parks and 3 marine parks are in the process of creation, and are scheduled to be officially gazetted in the future.
For more information you can visit the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.