A giant expanse of protected wilderness, Kaeng Krachan is one of the two best national parks in Thailand for big mammals (the other one being Khao Yai). Large herds of elephants and big cats are sighted reasonably often, and other animals, such as dusky leaf monkeys and deer, are a safe bet. The landscape is diverse, ranging from thickly forested hills of the Tenasserim range to swampy plains near the artificial lake. Some parts of the park are almost inaccessible, requiring week-long treks, while the fringes are often used for weekend picnics by Thais from Bangkok and Phetchaburi. Aside from wildlife viewing, a number of waterfalls and viewpoints can be visited on short hikes.
One specialty of Kaeng Krachan National Park is leopards, both black (panthers) and spotted. Sightings are reported at least weekly in the dry and cool seasons. The best way to see the big kitties would be to visit in the height of the dry season and camp for a few days next to an isolated body of water. The same method works well for most species, including elephants and, if you are inhumanly lucky, tigers. White-handed gibbons, quite rare elsewhere, are very common here. They can easily be located by their ululating howls - males usually make territorial and mating calls between 08:00 and 10:00 AM. Dusky leaf monkeys, another species of primates, are pretty common everywhere in Thailand, and Kaeng Krachan is no exception. Dark-gray fur with white "spectacles" around the eyes makes them look absolutely cute, even more so if they have babies clinging to mothers' bellies and colored bright orange. Porcupines and wild hogs often come to the headquarters and campsites at night, searching for food scraps. Mouse deer can be seen in wet areas near rivers and lakes, while sambar deer are everywhere.
Deep inside the park, near Phanon Tung campsite, there are a few viewpoints. This part of Kaeng Krachan is hilly, and the panoramic views are impressive, especially on a cool morning when the valleys below are flooded with fog - essentially, low clouds. Getting there, however, is difficult, only practical if you have (or hire) a car. Even further, surrounded by jungle and only accessible on foot, lies Tor Tip - a tall cascade, best viewed just after the rainy season. Pa Lau Waterfall, near the park's southern boundary, is easier to reach, although a motorbike or unlimited time for hitchhiking is still necessary. Pha Nam Yot, a lovely little waterfall flowing over limestone rocks, is the only one that can conveniently be reached on foot from a road outside the park. There also caves in Kaeng Krachan, mostly along the road to Phanon Tung.
Pha Nam Yot Waterfall, PhetchaburiKhao Kra Puk, Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi 76130, Thailand
Pa La U Waterfall, Prachuap Khiri KhanHuai Sat Yai, Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan 77110, Thailand
The headquarters of Kaeng Krachan National Park is located just 6 km away from its namesake town, where minibuses from Bangkok and Phetchaburi terminate. Mammal sightings are not as good here as deeper in the jungle, but birdwatching is great. The artificial lake nearby hosts aquatic avifauna, while the forest is home to hornbills and cuckoos. There is a canteen, bungalows for those arriving without a tent, electricity and wifi, camping equipment rental, and even an ATM. No wonder on weekends, this becomes a picnic site for Thay holidaymakers rather than a quiet natural spot for wildlife tracking. Swimming is possible in the lake, and the dam has its own viewpoint, although the views are nowhere as impressive as from the hills inside the park. It is still a peaceful place to hang out for a day or two, especially when compared to any urban destination. It would, of course, be much better to stay here on weekdays.
Kaeng Krachan National ParkKaeng Krachan National Park, Tambon Kaeng Krachan, Amphoe Kaeng Krachan, Chang Wat Phetchaburi 76170, Thailand
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