I recently took a nice weekend trip to Kaeng Krachan & Kui Buri National Parks, which can easily be reached from Bangkok and Hua Hin, making for a great weekend trip. We first rented a car from Don Muang Airport and drove to Hua Hin on a Friday afternoon, staying overnight at one of Hua Hin’s less touristy, more natural settings. Although one can take the bus—a couple friends did it successfully—renting a car gives one a lot mor flexibility and freedom, and car rental prices are ridiculously cheap!
On Saturday morning, after buying some food at the market in Hua Hin, we drove to Kaeng Krachan National Park, located just about 1.5 hours away from Hua Hin. Immediately, upon arrival at the Ban Krang campsite, one of two available campsites, we saw a Sun Bear just behind the restaurant, foraging and wandering around! This was a sight not easily seen anywhere in Southeast Asia and worth the entire expense of the trip. Moments later, while pitching our tent, which we rented from the park office at the campsite for a nominal fee, we were greeted by leaf monkeys, which are not afraid of visitors and can be easily photographed. In the evening visitors are not allowed to move around the park, in order to minimize the negative impacts from tourism. But, we were able to watch a large group of porcupines and a jackal or two eating food scraps near the restaurant.
The next morning, we drove to the viewpoint at Phanoen Thung campsite to see the rolling fog (translated as “Sea of Fog” in Thai). From the campsite, we walked along the only walking trail to the Thorthip Waterfall. Along the trail we heard and saw many gibbons, and also saw fresh tracks of Asian elephants. We were the only people on the trail and were able to enjoy the natural beauty of this very well protected area.
Around noon, we departed for Kui Buri National Park, which is about 2 hours south from Kaeng Krachan. Kui Buri is a project of the former King of Thailand and is the best place for seeing wild Asian elephants. Entrance to the park is allowed by trucks managed by the local community in the afternoon only. Strict measures have been taken to reduce the possible spread of disease to elephants and gaur and to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism. Nearly all of the tour guides and tourist truck drivers are women from the surrounding communities. Our guide and driver were excellent and did their best to spot an elephant for us, even though it was pouring rain! We were in the park from about 4-5pm, spotting a large male elephant, but having to return due to the heavy rains. In the evening, we stayed in a homestay in a nearby community, arranged for us by our tour guide.
On Monday morning we drove back to Bangkok in the early morning and dropped off our rental car in town, avoiding traffic before rush hour. This trip is highly recommended for people looking for a great wildlife experience but without more than a couple days.
Low Impact Tips:
- When bringing food to Kaeng Krachan, please do not bring food with lots of packaging and try to reduce the amount of bottled water you bring. You can fill up on boiled water at the camp to reduce plastic. Pack out all waste and dispose your waste outside the national park.
- Drive slowly in the park, even if you see others driving fast.
- Stay in a homestay in Kui Buri National Park to support local people and to have a richer experience. Try to stay two days at Kui Buri NP to increase your chances of seeing both elephants and gaur. A longer stay also helps the community more.
For more information
Kaeng Krachan National Park: https://www.tourismthailand.org/Attraction/Kaeng-Krachan-National-Park–980
Kui Buri National Park: https://www.tourismthailand.org/Attraction/Kui-Buri-National-Park–717