Krabi is a Showcase of Thailand’s Natural Parks
Thailand is not only the home of beautiful beaches and the Full Moon Party, but also of some of the most visually stunning National Parks – 147 of them in total. These parks with their rain forests, mangroves, lime stone caves and mountain formations are a more than welcome change to the big city madness of Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. The Thai people are trying their best to preserve these natural wonders (with more or less success) and no matter where you go in the Kingdom; you are bound to at least pass by a few of them. With this list we want to provide you with some of Krabi’s best national parks. So that you not merely pass by them, but actually be able to visit these locations and marvel at the beauty that has been created eons ago.
Khao Phanom Bencha National Park
This park is only 20km (12 miles) north from Krabi and its area of 50km² (19mi²) includes beautiful rainforests, rare wildlife and a number of waterfalls.
The most famous waterfall is Namtok Huai To, which is 80 meters high and consists of eleven layers. Don’t forget your swimming shorts or bikini, if you want to swim in one of those pools.
Khao Phueng is a cave system that offers a little underground adventure with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. You can walk up to 50 meters deep into the mountain. With a keen eye you will even discover geckos, snakes, bats, scorpions and toads. We recommend you to watch your step, so that you don’t accidentally squish one of the cave-dwellers.
Okay, so you made your way downwards through a cave –how about hiking up a mountain now?
The Phanom Bencha Mountain is the highest of its kind in Krabi with a height of 1397m (4580ft). It is also the source of the many waterfalls like Namtok Khlong Haeng, Ton Han, Huai Sa-de and the aforementioned Namtok Huai To.
It takes about three days to make it to the top. Your efforts will then be rewarded with a breathtaking view over the city of Krabi and the entire area. If you are experienced and serious enough to be part of this multi-day trek, then you can do so in the company of a professional ranger.
But if you just want to spend the day hiking in the National Park, then you can take a separate trail that leads to some of the waterfalls and pools. The trail can be a bit overgrown, so it definitely will be an adventure to make your way through.
Operating times: 8am – 6pm
Khao Pra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary (aka Khao Nor Chu Chi)
Birdwatchers rejoice! This Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places in Thailand to watch and observe your feathered friends. Some of them are extremely rare, because they are deemed to be almost extinct. The critically endangered Gurney’s Pitta is on the top of everyone’s list. Khao Pra Bang Kram is the only place where you can find this passerine bird.
You can find Khao Nor Chu Chi in the south-eastern part of the Krabi province, towards Trang. It is about 18km (11 miles) away. Many people recommend staying at the Morakot Resort, especially if you are a bird enthusiast. The professional staff can help you with all the information you need about the Sanctuary and the 320 different bird species living in it.
Or you think observing flying animals is boring and you just want to hike through a beautiful park? No problem! The park area stretches over 183km² (71mi²) and has many trails to choose from. Although some of them are overgrown. It seems as if this is a recurring theme in Thailand’s National Parks. The most popular routes are the U- and B-Trail, because they are supposed to be the best places to spot the rare Gurney’s Pitta. So, in case you prefer a more isolated hike through the thick rainforest, then you can easily pick one of the other trails.
“Are there any hot springs and pools in this National Park?” Yes, indeed there are! The Wildlife Sanctuary has three hot springs and an emerald pool called Sa Morakot. It is right in the centre of Khao Pra Bang Kram, so you probably won’t miss it if you follow any of the trails.
Operating times: 8:30am – 5pm
Tharn Bok Koranee
If you are willing to travel a little further north (50km (31 miles) from Krabi Town), you will find the stunning beauty that is the Tharn Bok Koranee Marine National Park. This park is split into different areas scattered around Ao Luek, Bor Thor and Laem Sak. Here you will find 104km² (40mi²) of nature filled with countless sea caves, lime stone mountains and islands. Some of the latter have limestone cliffs rising out of the Andaman Sea to reach an impressive height of almost 300 meters! Many visitors come here to explore the caves and mangroves via kayak.
The Phi Hua To cave is a must-go destination in this park. It is also known as “Ghost Head Cave” due to its formidable white rock “forehead”. The most impressive wonders are not outside the cave though – they are inside. Over 230 paintings from ancient times survived the many monsoon seasons, since the water never reached the top of the cave. The painted remains you see here are about 3000 years old. Who says history has to be boring when you cast your eyes upon these pre-historic artifacts? Phi Hua To is not the only cave where you can see these paintings.
They can also be found in the area of Fai Mai Cape, Tham Chao Le Cape and Thai Raet Cape.
Now, it’s time again to talk about the natural pools, because we all love to relax after hours of paddling. The pools in Tharn Bok Koranee are popular amongst the locals, due to its supposedly therapeutic qualities. Another highlight is swimming under the Tharn Bok Koranee waterfall.
The Marine National Park also includes 23 islands, Hong Island being the most famous one. So, regardless of where you end hiking or paddling, we are certain you will find something exciting to explore.
Operating times: 8:30am – 4:30pm
Khao Sok National Park
Strictly speaking Khao Sok is not a part of the Krabi Province, but of Surat Thani. We included it in our list anyway, because of two reasons:
- You can easily book tours and transportations in Ao Nang or Krabi.
- The park stretches over a vast area of 739km² (285mi²). Need we say more?
Yes, that is right. Khao Sok National Park is over seven (!) times the size of Tharn Bok Koranee and that one is already fairly large. So, how could we not include this park? In most of the other parks in the area you could spend a day or two there, but for this Juggernaut you should calculate a little more time than that. Trust us, it is worth it.
Khao Sok is not only one of the largest national parks in Thailand, but also one of the oldest ones in the world. It is even older than the Amazon in South America. How old exactly, you might ask? 160 million years, that’s how old. This national park was also fortunate enough to be mostly spared by human interference, unlike many other national parks in Thailand. This was due to an epidemic in the 1940s that wiped out the large majority of people living there. The remaining survivors had to flee to nearby areas. Then in the 70s student groups kept the Thai army out of the forests and prevented loggers, miners and hunters from destroying the area. They managed to do this for seven years until the beginning of the 1980s. That was when Khao Sok was officially established as a National Park.
What we are now lucky enough to explore are gigantic rainforest areas, countless waterfalls, caves and lime stone mountains. Khao Sok is also home of 5% of the world’s species! We recommend hiring a local guide to show you around when you first arrive. If you feel really adventurous, then you can also stay overnight in a tent in the middle of the jungle. ‘Sleeping under a starry sky’, should be on ever backpacker’s To-Do list.
For you water enthusiast there is also enough to do. For one, you can rent a canoe and paddle down the Sok River, where you can marvel at various bird and fish species, limestone cliffs and mountain ranges. And then we also have the large and impressive Cheow Lan lake in the very heart of Khao Sok. The construction of the Ratchaprapha Dam created this lake. With this man-made creation came a lot of massive caves like the Diamond Cave, Khang Cow Cave and Nam Talu. The latter for example is 518 meters (1700ft) deep. If you want to stay overnight on the lake, you can do so in one of the many floating raft houses.
As you can see, we wrote quite a bit about Khao Sok National Park and we barely scratched the surface. Let’s wrap it up by saying: Clear your schedule, strap on your hiking boots and wander through the natural wonders of Khao Sok.
Our lovely province in Southern Thailand still has many natural secrets for you to discover. So, make sure to read on to our second part of Krabi’s National Parks by clicking above.