Advice for Thailand too
I am planning a mammal/snorkling trip to Thailand (end of february) with my ten year old son, who seems to have developed the same wildlife addicition as his father.
I have visited Thailand once before (Khao yai and Kho phi phi) and Malaysia (Taman negara and Tioman), but it wasn’t very hardcore mammalwatching then.
Since I am both a professional wildlife cameraman and wildlife artist now (http://www.jeroenverhoeff.com), I really like to do better in overal wildlife encountering and even more important: I want to give my son a real jungle and reef trip experience of a lifetime!
My aim is to visit Kaeng Krachen. I checked the recent tips on this website (as you can see I copy pasted Steve Babbs recent post quite a bit), so if anyone else has any tips they like to share I’d be very grateful too.
Unfortenately, I do not have the seemingly endless funds many of the people on this forum seem to have: only a maximum of about a hundred euros a day.
It sounds like reef bleaching is pretty bad in Thailand, does anyone know by chance of places that still give good snorkling opportunities right from the beach?
It’s only a 8-9 day trip, probably by train and bus, so any knowledge appreciated or any other recommendations within about 10 hours of Bangkok.
Thanks in advance!
Hi, I just got back from a wildlife-oriented backpacking trip which included Thailand. You’ll probably already know that Thailand is very cheap to travel in, and I spent around £35 on two nights in Khao Yai NP on camping, food and entry fees, so I wouldn’t imagine KK would be much higher. Some people say it’s worth renting a 4×4 for KK, but it’s the dry season when you’ll be visiting so you might get away with a sedan.
I’ve never been to KK itself, but I had heard that it’s the best place to see clouded leopard – somewhere on the stretch of road between two camps. KK is also apparently good for elephants and gaur, though nearby Kui Buri is better as it’s more open. Phetchaburi is a great town from which to base yourself, with some of the nicest folk in Thailand (which is saying something) and is near to some mudflats which are great for birds.
Snorkeling is apparently pretty good off Surin and Similian marine parks, and it’s worth camping overnight after all the day trippers leave.
As for 8-10 hours from BKK, that would pretty much be all of Thailand and if you’re willing to fly most of Asia. Khao Yai, while mainstream, is still an excellent location.
Hope this helps,
I used to live in Thailand for 4 years and have visited a fair amount of the protected areas. Depending on your goals, a lot of the major megafauna is difficult to see in Thailand.
If your aim is elephants, Kui Buri National Park is all but a guarantee to see dozens of them in a single afternoon. Nowhere else in Thailand is it so easy to to see elephants and guar (and there are a few banteng I have seen there as well). Kui Buri used to also have tigers, but as of my last visit and conversation with the park guards, they haven’t been camera trapped there in a few years now. He wasn’t sure if it was poaching or not, but he said there were at least 10 individuals there one year, and the next they were all gone. Kui Buri is only open from 2-6pm so it’s a really a destination for a single afternoon. It’s not far from Kaeng Krachan so you can easily do both. Kaeng Krachan is one of the better places to see leopard in Thailand and you have an incredibly small chance of seeing a clouded leopard or a tiger there as well (although this really amounts to no chance). If pantherine cats is your aim, Kaeng Krachan is probably your best bet… unless you can obtain permission to enter into the deep of Huai Kha Kaeng WS, which is pretty difficult and would take time to make those connections. Only a small part of this wildlife sanctuary is open to tourists, but it is the epicenter of the western forest complex and home to the highest densities of tiger and leopard in the country. Thai national parks generally are not particularly good places for spotting large mammals.
Another suggestion I have, and a place that is generally overlooked is Khao Sok NP / Khlong Saeng WS. Toy from Pantoorat Mountain Lodge will take you into the deep of Khlong Saeng WS for as many days as you want. I have been on many trips with him and he really knows this place as he grew up in the area that was flooded when the Ratchprapha Dam was built. If you go spotlighting at night along the edge of the lake, you will see many muntjacs and guar. I have also seen a family of 20 small clawed river otters here as well as a few smaller mesocarnivores that were difficult to identify as they scurried away too quickly. In the day you will see white-handed gibbons, dusky leaf monkeys, and maybe wild pig. Elephants and clouded leopards and marbled cats are possible here as well, but rare to see (I was never lucky enough).
A quick note on snorkeling. The further south you go, the better it is in Thailand. Pretty much all the coral has been bleached out / destroyed by warming events and unruly tour operators. If you go all the way closer to the border of Malaysia, the coral is still in good shape. The islands near Ko Lipe have good snorkeling (although Ko Lipe is now an overbuilt dump on a once gorgeous stretch of sand). There are other islands near there you can stay at that are more secluded. Snorkeling off the beach at Ko Kradan is still pretty good… but not excellent and you won’t see anything big.
Feel free to ask me any other questions. Good luck!
Koh Tao has some of the best snorkeling I’ve done in all of Thailand, where there is still a little bit of live coral left. We stayed at the pinnacle resort and did snorkeling off sunset beach and east of there. We took a kayak and snorkeled off one of the coves. We saw Octopus and a Blue spotted ray, and a large variety of fish. Turtle bay scored us 2 large reef sharks, but that Bay is badly degraded as far as coral.
Getting there from Bangkok we took an overnight train to Chumpon, a bus to meet the ferry, and then one hr on the ferry.
Getting around Koh Tao is mostly on a scooter.
Instead of overnight train you can also get a bus to Chumpon.
We lived in Bangkok for 7 years and what a change in Koh phi phi in terms of coral and fish life over the years.
Krabi offers the bioluminescent plankton, though Koh Tao has it too apparently. Krabi also has leaf monkeys and I’ve seen a hornbill.
Hope you have a great trip.
Hi Jeroen, I found car driving not that hard in Thailand, as long as you bring navigation. Thai drivers are gentle and do’nt rush so much and are really good at anticipating to slow traffic or newcomers like you. If you take the wrong turn on a highway it is easy to get off, turn around and try again.
Inside Kaeng krachan it is not possible to reach the higher campsite with a sedan, there is a very steep and rocky part in the road up somewhere between the camps. A low clearance vehicle will make it tricky to pass the small river crossings after the first camp too. But you can have an awesome experience just focusing on the lower parts of park. You could also start at Baan Maka outside the park and have them bring and take you to the first the campsite? Visiting one of their blinds could be nice too. For Kui Buri you could hire taxi and have them wait for you for a few hours while you take the excursion.
It seems Kraeng Krachen is a bit of no no at the moment due to the road being replaced. https://www.wildlifethailand.com/kunena/kaeng-krachan/1680-phanoen-thung-road-work
Which is a bit of a pain to put it very mildly.
Thanks Steve; bummer. I will see if these first 18 km are worth visiting still, or find a better park…
Jeroen, your art prints are absolutely beautiful!
Also, I have a similar question to Jeroen. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for experienced wildlife guides (companies or individuals) operating in Khaeng Krachan National Park, Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Reserve, Nam Nao National Park, and Khao Sok National Park. I would truly appreciate any advice.
Thank very much Casey! If only those mammalfreaks would buy or order some I could stop painting those boring birds and fish! I would love to paint a wild african golden cat carrying prey, or a sumatran rhino with calf in their habitat or wolves hunting red deer or something similar, but the public seems to prefer copied photographs of fat zoo tigers and stuff like that…
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I totally symphaphies with the not having unlimited funds bit. Indeed many trips on this forum are just not an option for me. Before I had kids I very rarely hired a car and indeed spent 6 months in Thailand and Malyasia doing it by public transport. However on such a short trip I feel you are going to find it frustrating not having your own car and you will have little time to waste. Also it opens more options at night. Car hire is very reasonable. I was advised to have a high clearance vehicle for Kaeng Krachen so booked a Toyota Hilux at £251 for 13 days. I did have to search a lot to get it for this price. It was with Keddy through Discovercarhire.com.
I look forward to seeing what advice you get and would love to know how you do as I’ll be there about a month after you.