Advice for Thailand

Dear all

I am planning a mammal/bird trip to Thailand for April. Our main site is Kaeng Krachen. I have got Richard Webb’s trip report plus bird gen but if anyone else has mammal watching gen/tips they’d like to share I’d be grateful. It sounds like spot-lighting is very limted do to park times, which is a pity because many of my mammal ‘gaps’ are nocturnal.

We’re still deciding where else to visit. Although I have spent a lot of time in this part of the world, it was over twenty years ago so my knowledge is very out of date. Hui Kha Kaeng is appealing for Banteng but I’m not clear how easy it is to visit. It obviously was difficult in the past, but I’m not sure if that is still the case. It’s only a two week trip so I don’t want to risk getting there and not getting in. Any knowledge appreciated or any other recommendations within about 5 hours of Bangkok.

Thanks in advance




  • Maurice Tijm

    Hi Steve,

    I was in Thailand last september. I am bad at writing reports (make them to big and stop halfway) but are happy to share all I know. There is a lot of info on

    Our 3-week trip was as follows:
    1. Bangkok whale watch with Wild encounter Thailand (Irrawaddy dolphins in river mouth)
    2. public transport travel to Ban Maka chalet near kang kraechan. Pickup the next day by Ton Travel for a 3 night trip to the park. Ton Tan was an excellent for us since they bring a 4×4 (so you can get to Phanoen Tun), tents and Ton is very mammal orientated, keen and nice. They are just as expensive as hiring a local bird guide with car. He knows the camp chiefs so is allowed to walk around a bit at night. I am confident Ton Tan is also your best choice for visiting Hui Kha Kaeng: the only one that is doing regular tours. Good mammals seen at Kang Kraechan: Stump-tailed macaque (twice: visiting fruiting fig along road), White handed Gibbon (+/- 10 sightings): most easily seen near and above Phanoen Thun campsite, Bengal Slow loris, Large indian civet, Asian Elephant, Banded Langur (is only seen near Phanoen Thun campsite). We frustratingly missed the Sun Bear, it was seen at the lower campsite when we were at Phanoen thun, we watched the kitchen of the lower campsite for like 24 hours on afternoons and nights but it didn’t reappear. A week later Ton saw the sun bear, marbled cat and later that month a pangolin. Leopard is most often seen between the two campsites, we did a lot of driving to make a chance. It is a fantastic and quiet park with many good birds along the road. All my sightings of trip are here:
    3. Back to Bangkok and second whale watching trip with Wild encounter thailand (they are nice and dedicated): Brydes whale mother and calf, multiple Irrawaddy dolphin sightings! Be aware that they just keep going until they see a whale, in the off season you are out on the water for as much as 6-8 hours!
    4. Hired a car to visit Khao Yai. Khao Yai is nice but busy: biggest problem are the cars that just pass through at high speed. Good for White-handed Gibbon. Pileated Gibbon was not possible last september. We booked a pretty hardcore all day guided excursion with Greenleaf tours (guesthouse is not impressive). Same guide as Jon used but Jon was more lucky :-D. Our main goal was to visit a area much further east to see Gaur at close range. We were there in time and had a impressive encounter (they go through the park fence to visit some adjacent fields and go back at sunrise). Dhole are possible but only when you are in the park for a week. Best sighting was a Asiatic Black Bear! We raced back to the park on the final night because of a reported dhole sighting, were to late for that and made one last attempt at a fruiting tree for binturong. The road where we saw the bear (the one to the lookout where serow was sometimes seen and the military camp) is one of the best of the park. The night drives suck. I would not visit Khao Yai if I were you but would try my luck in a quieter park (Phu Khieo?). Birders are also not recommending the park anymore.
    5. From Khao Yai we drove to Kao Sam Roy Ot NP (worthless park) to visit Kui Buri NP. Kui Buri is excellent and a great conservation succes story (even tiger is back). You are a given a personal driver and guide when you arrive. Elephants are easily seen. There is a slim chance for hog deer too. Make sure you take your safari late in the day to end the safari at the watch tower for the Gaur. The Gaur are really a fantastic sight when they come out to feed on the grazing area. Only a few Banteng are left and are with the same herd. A very well run and nice park.
    6. From here we drove Hua Hin to hand in the car and take the train to the Khanom coast. We stayed at the nice Khanom Hill Resort and to go on a boat trip to see Pacific Humpback Dolphin with Khanom Pink Dolphin Tour. A great but very rare dolphin and this tour operator is the only one doing relatively responsible tours. The conservationist who owns the tour wasnt around and his replacement need to be told by us not too chase the Dolphins but to observe them for some distance.
    7. Pleasant visit to Ko Tao (worldclass stay the place koh tao) and flight back home after that

    Please let me know if you need any additional advice,

    Maurice Tijm

  • stevebabbs

    Thanks for the advice Maurice. We are staying at Ban Maka and have a 4WD. I should have mentioned that I do not enjoy being guided although I realise that often with night drives it is the only option.

    Kai Yai is an option. I have been there twice before but it does seem that the numbers of visitors are a lot higher than when I was there, twenty years ago so I do have reservations. Do you have more detailed directions for where the gaur are?

    Is it possible to do Kuri Buri NP without a tour, or are only tours allowed in?

    I want to go on the Bryde’s whale tour, but at present they do not know the dates for April so it makes it hard to plan.

  • Stuart

    Hi Steve
    Lived in the region for last 15 years and frequenlty visit the parks in Thailand as I live in Laos. No trip would be complete without Khao Yai for 2-3 nights. Tents and all camping gear is available in the park. I have seen Asiatic black bear, binturong, dhole , Chinese serow and leopard cat on last 3 visits. Ubiqutous gibbons, civets and ungulates. Night spotting allowed. Recommend Ton Ton travel and ask for the guide named “Beer”. Exceptional field spotting skills

  • Israel

    I’m not sure that you are allowed to access Kaeng Krachan at night at all if you are staying outside the park (i.e. at Baan Maka), and there’s only one entry point which has a checkpoint.

    For gaur you could try Pang Sida National Park east of Bangkok (nearing the border with Cambodia). It is the same forest as at Khao Yai but with few visitors. They have bungalows and camping. I didn’t get much out of it because it turned out that they won’t let you walk along the road through the park and I didn’t have a vehicle, but if you do then there’s a watch-tower where gaur can be seen.

    If you haven’t seen Lyle’s flying foxes then there’s an easily-accessible colony at Chachoengsao outside Bangkok. It’s easy to do by public transport but is pretty much a whole-day trip. But if you were going to Pang Sida by car then you could combine it.

  • Tobi

    Hi Stevebabs
    Where did you rent a 4*4?

  • Coke Smith

    Kaeng Krachan is definitely the best place within the 5 hour limits you set. If you are camping in either location they generally don’t mind if you use a good torch to see what is lurking in the trees near the sites. You can generally see quite a bit. Definitely the whales with Wild Encounter Thailand – ask for “Tour’. Kui Buri is good mostly for elephants. Khao Yai is good on a weekday for some of the more easily seen mammals. Staying inside the park at night will help a lot. Check the Thai National Parks website for booking options. Khao Sam Roi Yod is amazingly beautiful – saw Serow there a few years back… Khao Pang Ma – outside Khao Yai is great for Gaur. With some local contact and some effort, you can get in to the first level of Huai Kha Khaeng and probably get the Banteng you mentioned.

  • Jirayu Ekkul

    1. Kaeng Krachan will be one of the best and easy to access during that time.
    The only way to be able to night watch in the park is to camp up in Baan Krang or Panoen Thung Camp site. Otherwise you have to leave the park before 18.00pm

    2. Bryde’s whale in April will not be the best timing, as lower sighting rate on Feb-Apr and less feeding activity.
    And yes, it is too soon to predict the weather for the cruise date.

    3. Huay Kha Kaeng is one of the best place to see Banteng in Thailand but it is getting more and more difficult to ask for permit to get in.

    4.Khao Phang Mar will be the choice and easiest place to see Gaur as they have reach over 1000+ population now it is on the other side of Khao Yai so you can combine Khao Yai and Khao Phang Mar together.

  • stevebabbs

    Dear all thanks for your advice.

    It’ll be Kaeng Krachen for six nights, maybe with one night camping in the park. I’ve decided to put Banteng on hold – I have seen them before, just not for a very long time.

    I’ll probably try the whales if the dates fit; the company say they are not feeding but are still seen – although of course they are not unbaised.

    Then some time at Khao Yai (after the weekend) – I presume just turn up and camp as the website does not seem to be working.

    Khao Phang Mar does sound appealing as well. I can’t find any details of it though. Could anyone provide more details of exactly where it is and accommodation please?

  • stevebabbs

    If anyone can give me details of the best place to look for serow at Khao Yai, I’d be very grateful.

Leave a Reply