National parks In Thailand
Thailand has many national parks throughout the country. These vary in their idyllic surroundings and aura of tranquillity. It is no wonder that the national parks in Thailand are treated with the respect that the are. Many of them have unique features that need preserving for future generations. This feature could be a location, a habitat or even wildlife itself. Given the size and diversity of Thailand it is easy to see why there are so many national parks in Thailand. In this article I will not cover them all, simply as there are too many to do justice too.
Why do people visit the parks?
If you have ever visited one if the many National parks in Thailand you will understand. Some people come to observe the wildlife, some to see the spectacular views. Everyone who visits is left with a sense of wonder. You can observe many different species in the wild, such as elephants, deer, jackals, gibbons and many species of marine wildlife. There is just so much diversity in each location that it would take a life time to see it all. It is for this reason that so many people visit these locations when they are in Thailand. But each trip does not come for free, there is usually a charge to enter each of the National parks in Thailand.
Charges for entering the National parks in Thailand
This is probably the biggest sticking point for many visitors as Thai Nationals get to enter each park for around a tenth of what foreign tourists do. Let’s be honest here you probably earn ten times as much as a Thai national so it costs the same. Each park will vary in the price that they charge for entry. Some can be as little as 50 Baht, whilst others will charge you 500 baht. It is really down to the popularity of the location and the cost of the clear up exercise after you leave that counts. Every boat or vehicle pollutes the parks in different ways, not to mention the rubbish that needs to be disposed of.
When do the charges take effect?
This is an area that can cause the most confusion. The fee becomes payable the second you set foot in the national park. The best example of this is if you visit Maya bay on Koh Phi Phi. As soon as you step off the boat you will be charged 400 Baht. If you remain on the boat you will not be charged. In other cases you may be charged as you enter the park in your vehicle. Either way, be prepared to pay even if you are not stopping as you will have some form of impact on the ecosystem.
Why do they charge?
This is really quite simple to answer. The Thai people are very proud of their national parks and want to ensure that they are maintained for years to come. Unfortunately that comes at a price to visitors, many of whom have contributed to the pollution that these parks have had to endure. By charging a fee to enter, the Thai authorities are able to pay for the park to be maintained on a day to day basis. After all, rubbish does not clear itself away. It also helps with the preservation of many endangered species that can be seen in the parks. By preserving their habitat, you will be able to see more of the wild life and their ecosystems without risking their long term survival.
Where are the national parks in Thailand located?
If you have ever visited the country you will not have been far from a national park in Thailand. Due to the diversity of the National Parks in Thailand they are found all over the country. From the forested mountainous regions of the north of Thailand, to the islands of Southern Thailand and their marine life, there are many forms of National parks in Thailand.
Types of parks
There are a few different types of National parks in Thailand. These are marine parks, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. They are all different in terms of their ecosystems and diversity of plant life which the wildlife thrives upon. Let's start with marine parks.
The most famous marine park is the Hap Nopparatthara Mu Koh Phi phi. This is home to the world famous Maya bay, which had some of the most spectacular marine wildlife and scenery. But due to the influx of mass tourism, the ecosystem has become damaged. This has resulted in the closure of the park until 30th September 2018, to allow the bay to recover. The park itself has some of Thailand's most diverse sea life which is why so many people would try scuba diving here. With the opportunity to photograph the brightly coloured corals and marine life, this was an experience that became too popular. This resulted in damage to the environment and as such, the closure had to happen. Other great marine life parks include,
Mu Ko Ang national park
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is an archipelago of 42 islands located off of the shore of the Surat Thai Province in the Gulf of Thailand. These islands are home to numerous species of wildlife and sea-life and offer some amazing opportunities to look around under the water on the northern islands. Diving on one of coral gardens may give opportunity to see marine species like green sea turtle, hawkbill sea turtle and yellow-spotted trevallies. Best time for diving is February to October with best visibility around March/April. The islands are also home to a number of mammals, birds and reptiles that include the dusky leaf monkey, wild boars, white-bellied sea eagle, pacific reef heron and the Green bellied turtle to name a few.
Mu Ko Lanta
Mu Ko Lanta National Park is situated in southern part of Krabi Province and is made up of a group of several islands. The biggest islands in the park are Ko Lanta Noi and Ko Lanta Yai. These islands are rugged terrain covered with thick rain forest right up to the coastline. Other islands like Mai Ngam, South Mai Ngam and Ngu islands are covered with mangrove forest. There are a numerous caves and waterfalls to expolore on the islands. You can even get a guided tour for around 300thb per person to help you explore the caves. The smaller islands are popular diving sites for both snorkellers and scuba divers.
Mu Ko Similan National Park
Similan Islands are an archipelago of 11 islands in Phang Nga Province off the coast at Andaman Sea. The islands have rich marine life consisting of magical hard/soft coral reefs, crystal clear waters and white beaches. These islands are considered to have some of the best diving sites in the world. The islands are also home to number of bird species. Nicobar Pigeons and the white-bellied sea eagle, Asian koel, black kite are seen regularly. Because of this the islands had been a great place to experience nature in its truest sence. This is why these islands have been a great place to stay overnight, but as of June 2018, it is no longer possible to stay overnight on Similan Islands.
Mu Ko Surin National park
Surin Islands are an archipelago of five islands in Phang Nga Province located off the coast at Andaman Sea on the border of Burma. Surin Islands are populated with two small communities of the ethnic Moken minority. Except the villages and campsites, most of the land area on islands are off limits to the visitors. There is an entrance fee of 500 THB for foreigners (children 300 THB) and 100 THB for local tourists (children 50 THB) to the national park. This is not uncommon. The main islands are Ko Surin Nuea and Ko Surin Tai, the other three small islands are Ko Ri, Ko Khai and Ko Klang. These islands attract divers from all over the world who come to see the Manta ray, whale shark, pickhandle barracuda’s as some of the highlights. The ideal time to see some of the bigger species is around February to April. But there is much more marine life that can be seen throughout the year.
Hap Nopparatthara Mu Koh Phi Phi
This is possibly the most visited of all the national parks and is by far the most recognised. The islands are located off the western coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Many people will visit the islands from Phuket as this is just a short boat trip away. Koh Phi Phi is home the world famous Maya bay, which has in June 2018 been closed to the public for several months. This is due to the environmental impact that mass tourism is having on the bay area’s marine life. As with many other National parks, there is a 400THB fee for just stepping foot on the beach at Maya bay. This does not put off many divers who have come to see the coral reefs and other marine life off the half dozen islands that make up the group.
Tarutao National Marine Park
The park consists of 51 islands within two groups; Tarutao Group to he east and Adang-Rawi Group to the west. There are three archipelagos in the park, the Tarutao, Klang and Adang Archipelago’s. The most famous destination within the park is Ko Lipe, a small island south of Ko Adang. Ko Lipe is the only location in the National Park where boats can be arranged to visit some of great locations on surrounding islands for diving, snorkelling and other activities. The national park entrance fee is 200 THB for foreginers (children 100 THB) and 40 THB Thais (children 20 THB). The wildlife that can be founre consists of the following species: boar, civet, mouse deer, hornbill, langur, various raptors, reticulated phyton and king cobra. There are estimated to be around 100 different species of birds in the national park. So there are plenty of opportunities to see something new when it come to wildlife.
Entry into the wildlife sanctuaries is much stricter than national parks. Written permission must be obtained from DNP headquarters in Bangkok before attempting to enter most areas. Permission will be given to researchers and people who wish to study the nature for various purposes. Although there is no guarantee. Thailand is very proud of its wildlife and as such seems out to ensure that these magnificent creatures are not hunted into extinction. By setting up a number of wildlife sanctuaries they aim to do just that. This will ensure that future generations can enjoy the sight of wild elephants roaming free or gibbons in their natural habitat. A couple of these wildlife sanctuaries are the Huai Kha Khaeng and Phu Khaio wildlife sanctuaries.
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is one of most interesting wildlife watching locations in Thailand. Here it is easy to see the many forms of wildlife that include tigers, elephants and leopards to name a few. Although being one of best bird-watching destinations many keen ornithologists do not know of its existence. But the most common mammals in the park which you are like to see are deer, long-tailed macaque, Asian palm civet and boar. Huai Kha Khaeng is not a place that many tourist will visit. Very little is known by local or foreign tourists about this location. It is considered more as a wildlife study area and thanks to that it is one of the best preserved wildlife areas in entire country. The opportunity to see some of the magnificent creatures in their natural surroundings roaming free is one of the things to take away from his national park in Thailand.
Phu Khaio Wildlife sanctuary
According the sanctuary, there are 111 species of mammals, 419 species of birds, 45 species of amphibians, 110 species of reptiles and 76 species of fish recorded in the sanctuary. Making this one of the most diverse locations in the whole of Thailand. Movement around this park is heavily restricted unless you have written permission before arriving. Many visitors will only ever see the open grass area located by the visitor center. Here a few of the many species of wildlife can be seen, but most is in the restricted areas. If you wish to stay overnight in the park you can do, but you need to supply your own sleeping accommodation as no tents are available to rent here. This may be advisable to take as the mountainous terrain and heavily forested scenery can make even the most seasoned hiker want to take a rest.
As well as wildlife sanctuaries there are also a number of island parks. Some of these have been mentioned above, but all contain some similarities.
As I have already touched on in some of the marine parks previously, it is important to note that it is not just the wildlife that forms part of the national parks. Although this is a lot of what brings tourists to visit them, there is more to protect in these that you may think. The wildlife will rely on the natural surroundings to survive. If the plant life is harvested or damaged by tourism then the wild life will cease to exist. This includes things such as pollution in the water around marine parks, waste washing up on the shorelines just to mention a couple.
As thailand is surrounded by some many beautiful islands. The authorities have taken the decision to protect the natural beauty that they contain. This is designed to protect the environment so future generations can enjoy them. This starts with protecting the diverse plant life that can be found within each park.
With the many forms of plant life that can be found the most common are species of trees. As a lot of Thailand is covered in rainforest it's easy to see why this might be. But over the years these forests have slowly began to decrease in size due the the deforestation that is caused by excessive logging by the timber industry. Thailand is seeking to ensure that the amount of timber produced is sustainable and does not put the many species that rely on it at risk. Many species rely of this forested area for shelter and food and this could be taken away from them forcing their numbers into decline. This is why many national parks in Thailand will charge an entry fee.
But there is more plant life than just rain forested areas. As large areas of Thailand is covered in marshlands water lilies can be found in many locations. The bright colours make them stand out in any scenery. These will create some excellent photo opportunities of the scenery.
Thailand has some of the most diverse terrain in the world. From mountainous regions in the north of the country to the serene marine parks in the southern islands. When you add in the rainforest covered terrain it is easy to see why this is home to so many species. If you want to experience some of the best scenery then you may have to hike to see it.
There are numerous activities that you can try whilst in the National parks in Thailand. The most popular are hiking and mountain biking. Given the terrain in thailand, there are many trails to suit all levels of fitness. Just be sure to take enough water with you. But there is much more to do in the National parks in Thailand if you have an adventurous nature. There are many places to partake in activities such as whitewater rafting or zip-lining across the terrain. These can activities can make for some amazing videos and pictures. Just make sure that your camera is secure to you as these can get very bumpy at times.
For those who may not like to go exploring by themselves, tour of the National Parks in Thailand can be arranged in advance. This is often the best way to learn about the surroundings and protect yourself from any harm at the same time. Most national parks will have a visitor center located in them. This is often the place to start your exploration of the parks. But you can pre book these in advance of your trip to save time. Below i have linked to some of the more popular tours in the National parks in Thailand to help save you time searching. This list is not a definitive list, but more of taste to see what is available.