Getting there, Transport and Accommodation
Hin to Kaeng Krachan park HQ : I rented a 125cc motorcycle
in Hua Hin for 130 baht per day. From Hua Hin to the park headquarters
is a relatively straightforward journey of about 70km, although
a road map was useful especially nearer Kaeng Krachan where the
road signs are mostly in Thai only. From Hua Hin, take route 3218
inland, signposted to the Pala-u waterfall, as far as the village
of Nong Phlap where there is a crossroads. Turn right (north) along
route 3301. After 20km or so this road meets route 3410 at a T junction.
Turn right and then almost immediately left onto another road, signposted
to Kaeng Krachan national park. Again this road ends at a junction.
The national park is signposted to the left, but you will need to
go to the park HQ first to organise permits for visiting the park,
so turn right here. This road arrives at a T junction where all
the signs are in Thai. Turn left here, and continue through the
village of Kaeng Krachan. At the end of the village the Kaeng Krachan
dam can be seen ahead of you. Turn left just before the checkpoint
gate and follow the road around the south shore of the lake, and
after 5km or so you will reach the park HQ. Permits are arranged
in the visitor centre on the right hand side of the road.
Kaeng Krachan park headquarters and visitor centre : This
is set in a peaceful spot on the shores of the lake. Mr Thanai at
the visitor centre speaks good English and was very happy to help.
Anyone visiting or intending to visit can call him on 01 984 5031
(from within Thailand). Mr Thanai had some bad news for me - MOTORCYCLES
ARE NOT PERMITTED IN THE KAENG KRACHAN NATIONAL PARK. This
was a bit of a blow as I was relying on my bike to get me to various
birding hotspots along the 40km long jeep track within the park.
So my plan of staying in a guesthouse outside the park and biking
in each day had to be abandoned. My only option was therefore to
camp within the park, which had the advantage that I only had to
pay the 200 baht park entrance fee once. The fee for camping at
the Ban Krang campsite within the park is 30 baht per person per
night. Tents are available to rent from the visitor centre (passport
required as deposit), for 120 baht per night for a 2-man tent. Bedding
is also available for a small extra charge.
options include bungalows near the park HQ, which are quite expensive,
or several guesthouses between the park HQ and Kaeng Krachan village
charging (according to Mr Thanai) around 500 baht per night. Remember
when staying outside the park gates, you will have to purchase a
200 baht permit for every day you intend to enter the park.
Getting to the park gates from the park headquarters :
On the first night I pitched my tent in the grounds of the park
HQ on the shores of the lake, as there was insufficient time to
get into the park that day. The next morning I set off at 5am for
the park gates on my motorbike. The entrance to the park is not
especially easy to find so I provide detailed directions below.
All distances quoted are approximate. From the visitor centre, turn
right and continue to follow the shore of the lake (heading away
from the dam). After 3km, in a small village, take a left turn.
Follow this road for 5km, where it ends at a T junction in another
village. Opposite the end of the road is a school with a sign in
English. Turn right at this junction. After a few km another road
joins from the left, but continue straight ahead. Shortly after
this intersection the road becomes a rough track for 400 metres
or so. When you meet the surfaced road again, continue straight
ahead ignoring the turning to the right. After another 3km or so,
you arrive at the park gates.
Here I had
to leave my motorbike, and wait at the gates in the hope that I
could hitch a ride up to the Ban Krang campsite on a passing pick-up.
However because it was a Monday morning I was out of luck, and in
two hours waiting no vehicles came by. Fully aware that I was eating
into valuable early-morning birding time, I eventually persuaded
one of the guards to drive me the 15km to Ban Krang in his pick-up
for 400 baht (he wasn't bothered about doing it for anything less
even though all the guards seem to do all day is sit around doing
absolutely nothing). Of course by far the best way of getting up
the mountain and getting around within the park is by hired car
- although why cars are allowed and motorbikes are not allowed seems
strange to me. Another option would be to charter a taxi from the
park HQ. Mr Thanai will gladly arrange this but it was very expensive,
with prices starting at 1200 baht for a return trip to the top of
Panoenthung mountain at Km30. Only if travelling in a group would
this be cost-effective.
Inside the park : The road from the park gates to Ban Krang
is surfaced for the first 10km, then becomes an unmade track. Ban
Krang is at Km15 and would be easily reachable in an ordinary saloon
car. Beyond here, between Km16 and 18, there are three streams to
cross which may be a little deep, in the wet season at least, for
an ordinary car. After Km18 the track starts to climb, steeply in
places - again in the wet season you would probably need a 4WD for
this section. I didn't go further than the viewpoint at Panoenthung
substation at Km31, so cannot comment on the road beyond here.
Krang the road is single track and cars can only ascend or descend
the mountain at certain times, with a one hour "buffer zone"
between up and down times. This might mean a wait of an hour or
two at Ban Krang or Panoenthung. When I was there you could ascend
from Ban Krang to Panoenthung between 5 and 8am, but could not come
back down from Panoenthung towards Ban Krang until 9am. The park
HQ can provide the latest information as these times may change.
Birding at Kaeng Krachan : Kaeng
Krachan is far wilder and more unspoilt than any of the other national
parks I have visited so far in Thailand. Due to its geographical
location in southern central Thailand, its avifauna comprises both
northern and southern Thai birds, meaning a high species total in
the park of over 400 species.
unlucky with the weather during my short visit - more or less the
whole first day was a washout, which meant that I only had one full
day and one early morning to enjoy the park's birds. Unfortunately
I did not manage to connect with the park's main speciality, Ratchet-tailed
Treepie, and overall I suspect that birding was much tougher at
this time of year than it is in winter, but nonetheless I did manage
to see some interesting species.
list of 101 included some lowland and farmland species seen en route
from the park HQ to the park gates. This compares to totals of 109
species at Doi
Chiang Dao, 100 at Doi
Inthanon and 81 at Doi
Angkhang, but I had much more time at each of those
places. The overall feeling was that KK was incredibly rich in birdlife,
and I was only scratching the surface in my short visit.
notable of all was the large number of mammals seen and heard. Among
these were good views of 3 different species of primates, as well
as briefly seeing a wild Asian Elephant, plus many smaller mammals.
Other birders have reported seeing Leopard and Panther here. Walking
alone in the park, I felt very alone in the wilderness and felt
for the first time in Thailand the power of nature ... I was more
than a little nervous at times that I may encounter a tiger or rampaging
elephant! Kaeng Krachan feels very remote and wild at times and
this is why it was overall a more rewarding experience for me than
the northern Thai sites.
seem to concentrate their efforts between Km15 to 18 and Km 26 to
31. On the first day I walked Km15 to 18 several times, but didn't
see a great deal due to the rain. On the second morning I was lucky
enough to be able to hitch a lift to the Km31 viewpoint at dawn
with some Thai campers, and from there I walked back to the campsite
at Km15. In the afternoon I birded Km15 to 18 again. The final morning
I packed up my tent at first light and walked from Km15 as far as
Km6 before a pick-up came by and I was able to hitch a lift the
rest of the way back to the park gates.
birding highlights were Bamboo Woodpecker,
many Great Hornbills, Orange-breasted
and Red-headed Trogons, a flock of
Great Eared and Large-tailed
Nightjars at dusk at Ban Krang campsite, perched Mountain
Hawk Eagle, Black-thighed and
Collared Falconets, a superb Blue-winged
Pitta showing daily on the lawn at Ban Krang campsite, Silver-breasted,
Banded and Black-and-Red
Broadbills, Crested Jay, Sultan
Tit, Lesser Necklaced and Black-throated
Laughingthrushes, White-hooded Babbler
and a flock of Pin-tailed Parrotfinches.