Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary opens the gate for tourists at 6:30AM and it closes at 16:30PM. Don’t expect them to let you in after 16:30, unless you’ve already been staying within the park and informed them to go out to get food, or something.
Of the 3 entrances, I would only only consider the HQ, as Cyber is just a small weekender waterfall area and Huai Mae Dee is quite remote and the publicly accessible area is small and on the boundary of the sanctuary.
The Sai Boe waterfall (sometimes pronounced and road signed as “Cyber Waterfall”) is one the 3 locations in Huai Kha Khaeng Sanctuary that has open access to the public without need for a permit. The others being the headquarters area and the Huai Mae Dee Forest Protection Unit.
The Sai Boe Protection Unit is quite easy to find and to get there take the Uthai Thani-Nong Chang road (Highway No. 333) past Amphoe Nong Chang to Highway No. 3438 (Nong Chang-Lan Sak) as if you were travelling (and following the sign posts) to “Huai Kha Khaeng Sanctuary”.
When you see the left turn to Khao Pla Ra, become a little alert as the next left turn on highway 3438 (which is sign posted for “Cyber” and “E-Sa” waterfalls) is the turning you need. Keep on this new road (Road # 3282) for about 20 kilos until you see the signpost for the turning to to Sai Boe waterfall. The road is tarmac all the way.
The E-Sa waterfall. NOTE this is not in Huai Kha Khaeng but is on the route to the Cyber Waterfall. It is situated behind the E-Sa forest temple
Five types of forest can be found in this sanctuary. The highest slopes are covered with hill evergreen forest, while slopes above 600 m are generally dry semi-evergreen forest . The rest of the sanctuary is mainly mixed deciduous, bamboo and dry dipterocarp forest. In lowland areas, mainly near the larger rivers, there are some small patches of open grassland.
Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (also sometimes spelt as Huay Kha Kaeng) is a large and rugged area of jungle in the western central province of Uthai Thani. Along with the neighbouring Thug Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1990s. The two adjacent parks together spread through three provinces – Uthai Thani, Tak, and Kanchanaburi – and reach the border with Burma / Myanmar.
Home to a wide selection of flora and fauna, much of which is rare or endangered, some of the park’s wildlife is unique and can now only be found in this area.
An important conservation and protection area, sections of the large lush and rugged wildlife sanctuary are open to members of the public. Go nature spotting and enjoy an abundance of natural outdoor beauty in one of the country’s most well-preserved and remote forests.
These are a few reasons for nature-loving adventurers to add Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary to their travel plans:
Exploring the stomping grounds of large and exciting animals
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a large number of animals from Southeast Asia, with around 77% of the region’s large mammals found within the forests (according to UNESCO). Whilst there is no guaranteed sightings, even just knowing that you are exploring the same patch of the globe as these mighty fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth is really quite thrilling.
You may get lucky and actually spot some of the park’s large animals, although it is more likely that, if you look closely, you will find other evidence of their presence, such as tracks and excrement.
Signs along the park’s access tracks remind visitors to be careful of encounters with creatures that can be dangerous.
Huai Kha Khaeng is one of the few places in Thailand where tigers still live in the wild, and you’ll notice ranger trucks proudly announcing on the sides that the park is home of the tiger. Not only do tigers live here, but it supports the country’s largest population of wild tigers. It is also one of the country’s last remaining places where the elusive Sumatran rhino, sometimes called the Asian white rhino, is thought to still live.
Other large mammals that roam the park’s huge area include elephants, leopards and clouded leopards, various species of buffalo, Asiatic wild dogs, Indian bison, tapirs, and deer.
When it comes to monkeys, the park’s dense trees shelter diverse species of macaque, gibbons, and langurs.
Spotting smaller creatures and fascinating feathered friends
Numerous smaller creatures, including mammals, reptiles, and birds, live within the beautiful and protected Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. There are very high chances of seeing a good selection of these smaller park dwellers.
Different types of the fairly large and rather dragon-like monitor lizard prowl the undergrowth, whilst smaller lizards, such as geckos and salamanders, dart up trees and scurry around on the floor.
Frogs, toads, and snakes are also common, as are spiders and beautifully coloured butterflies.
Did you know that the cute-looking otter is often a playful animal, as well as being an excellent swimmer and an adept ferocious hunter?!
With around half of Southeast Asia’s larger species of bird gracing the skies and tree tops of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, you are almost sure to catch at least fleeting glimpses of interesting feathered creatures. There are also those birds that spend much of their lives on the ground or lower down in the trees and bushes.
The park’s bird life includes the fabulous hornbills, beautifully decorated peacocks, pheasants, ducks, eagles, woodpeckers and the often-reviled vulture.
Beautiful views and lush scenery
Budding botanists will be delighted with the vast diversity of the park’s plant life and the walking trails provide a perfect opportunity to go a bit deeper into the forest and fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature. Walk the Khao Hin Daeng Trail and the Tiger Trail independently, or arrange for a local and professional park ranger to accompany you on longer treks. You can arrange ranger visits at the Visitor Centre, although the level of spoken English may not be so high.
Climb to the top of the lookout towers and soak up the stretching sea of green all around. The towers are also great places to patiently sit and try to spot a variety of creatures below.
The extensive park area contains two large and well-preserved river systems, as well as soaring mountains, picturesque valleys, glistening streams, enchanting waterfalls, teeming wetlands, sinkholes, and rolling plains. Those who spend some time exploring the forests will find a captivating array of colours and scents as well as beautiful postcard-worthy views.
Celebrate a man who devoted his life to conservation and protection of nature
You can see the former forest home of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary’s previous head ranger, Sueb Nakhasathien, a small and modest dwelling with a life-size statue of the devoted man standing close by.
One of Thailand’s tireless leaders in the field of conservation, Sueb Nakhasathien devoted his life to trying to protect the country’s natural areas. Fearlessly enforcing conservation laws, tackling poachers head-on, looking for innovative ways to prevent forest destruction and poaching, educating local communities, protecting wild creatures, forestry research, and raising awareness within the general population were just a few things that this great man did. Impassioned and dedicated, perhaps to the point of zealousness, Sueb Nakhasthien was one of the greatest men that Thailand’s nature and wildlife has ever had fighting for their survival.
Sadly, his fervor led to much stress and anxiety, with damage to the environment causing huge damage to his state of mind and emotional / spiritual well-being. Sueb Nakhasathien eventually took his own life. Shockingly and devastatingly committing suicide for a cause that he was completely committed to, Thailand may have lost one of its most honourable champions of nature, but his name lives on through the bold efforts of his supporters.
Practicalities of visiting Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Whilst a day trip is enough to scratch the surface and enjoy a walking trail, climb lookout towers, and see Sueb Nakhasthien’s old home, spending a few days or even longer within the park will afford more opportunities for viewing a greater diversity of wildlife.
There is a camping area close to the Visitor Centre, complete with shower and toilet blocks, but you need to provide your own tents and equipment. Food can drinks can be obtained from the small restaurant and basic store.
There is no public transportation to Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary; you will need to arrange your own transport from Uthai Thani town centre.
Admission to Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is 200 THB (approximately 5.50 USD) for non-Thai visitors.
Completely off the beaten track both for international visitors and domestic tourists, the sanctuary is one of Thailand’s most precious natural jewels. If you are passionate about nature and wildlife, don’t miss visiting the incredible Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
We took a leap of faith and visited Huai Kha Kaeng instead of one of the more famous Thai parks. We were not disappointed. However, we do have some pointers to manage the expectations of future visitors.
What to expect? This is still real wilderness, meaning: only camping facilities in the park, a very limited number of trails and only two view towers. Your wildlife viewing will mostly be done from the car or from one of the towers. Patience is key while you wait for something interesting to come out in the open. Therefore, we do not recommend this park for families with small kids (unless they like sitting still). We do recommend this park for real wildlife enthusiasts because in the three days we were there we saw plenty of wildlife (wild boar, several kinds of deer, gibbons, bats, banteng, civets, more birds than we can count, muntjak, jackals, …). This park also gives you a very teeny tiny chance to see a tiger (we didn’t though).
The wildlife is quite shy, once an animal spots you, it will show you immediately how fast it can run. If you want to take photos, a 300mm lens is a minimum for good shots.
How to get there? The area is quite remote and unless you feel like doing a bus hopping tour, get a guide who provides you with transportation.
Why take a guide and who to take? You will enjoy this park much more if you have someone with you to show you animals. Not many guides operate in this park but we were very happy with Tontan Travels. Doesn’t matter what you see or hear, our guide Tony was able to find it and identify it. If we hadn’t had him with us, we would have seen only a fraction of the animals we actually saw now. Also ask your guide for an after dark walk to see palm civets, wild boars, tokays, … .
Where to stay and eat? You can stay outside the park but we thought the bungalows there were of poor value. Camping inside the camp is much more fun and gives you the opportunity to get up early to see animals. The ablution blocks were clean and quite ok when we were there (do not expect a warm shower). Just outside the park there is a little restaurant. We found the food average but it is your only option and you won’t go hungry.
What to bring? your camera with telelens for the viewing towers and long pants for jungle walks. Ask your guide for leech socks, in the dry season you won’t see leeches but there will be ticks and the socks will make it more difficult for them.
In a nutshell: if you enjoy spotting wildlife and don’t mind being patient to see it…go to this park with a good guide and cross your fingers to see a tiger!
Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is one of most interesting wildlife watching location in Thailand. Due to relatively clear visibility through the forest and abundance of all sorts animals it is very easy to spot wildlife. The sanctuary is home to largest population of tigers in Thailand, other relatively common species are banteng, elephants and leopards. Although being one of best bird-watching destinations it is quite unknown to many birders.
Inscribed as Wildlife Sanctuary in 1974, together with adjacent Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary both sites are the largest protected wildlife area in mainland Southeast Asia. It is located in the Dawna Range northwest of Thailand, covering 2780 km² mainly within Uthai Thani province but also Kanchanaburi and Tak provinces, bordered by Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary to the west. Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai were jointly added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991.
Huai Kha Khaeng is mainly hilly, consists of evergreen hill forest with Eleocarpus dominating the river banks, semi-evergreen, deciduous and bamboo forests. The sanctuary has several large rivers surrounded by grassland. The sanctuary is one of Thailand’s least accessible and least disturbed forest areas.
The species found in the sanctuary are mix of four different biogeographic zones; Indo-Burmese, Indo-Chinese, Sundaic and Sino-Himalayan. Many of species found here are rare, endangered or endemic. Around one-third of all mainland Southeast Asia’s known mammal species sad to be represented in the sanctuary.
Most common mammals in the park with almost guaranteed sighting during couple of days trips are four deer species (Sambar deer, barking deer, Eld’s deer and Indian hog deer), long-tailed macaque, Asian palm civet and boar. There is quite good chance to spot bantengs and elephants on the first watchtower 7 km east of headquarters. Huai Kha Khaeng is probably the best place in Thailand to see bantengs, another good location is Kui Buri National Park. Leopards are seen relatively often, but one may need up to weeks patient search to eventually see one. Tigers are relatively common, but sighting is quite rare. Tiger pawn prints can be seen along the trails and dirt roads regularly.
The sanctuary is an excellent place to see various bird species, underestimated by birders probably due to it’s remote location. Green peafowls, crested serpent eagles, red-billed blue magpie, common iora, white-bellied woodpecker, orange-breasted trogon, black-headed woodpeckers are few of many very common bird species found around headquarters and along the dirt roads.
Huai Kha Khaeng is not a typical tourist destination, not known much by local or foreign tourists. 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 sanctuary has a headquarters area that comprises of administrative buildings, staffs accommodation, a campsite, a visitor center, restaurant and a canteen. A limited area is allowed for visitors. Tiger Trail and Khao Hin Daeng Trail are two trails that can be walked without guidance and several longer trails that must be accompanied by rangers. Rangers can be arranged at the visitor center. There are three watch-towers all not too far away from headquarters. The headquarters area has a spacious campsite with shower facilities but there are no tents available for rent, there are also no accommodations for rent. Watch out for long-tailed macques stealing food from tents!
Entrance fee for foreigners is 200 THB (children 100 THB), 20 THB for Thai citizens (children 10 THB) and 30 THB for vehicles.
Seub Nakhasathien who was a former head of the sanctuary committed suicide in 1990 in the cause of nature and left his assets to Khao Nang Rum research station. The news of his suicide got big attention on the media and shocked the nation. Shortly after his suicide, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation was launched in his memory to crusade against the destruction of nature.
Attractions of Huai Kha Khaeng
Headquarters & Campsite
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Headquarters is situated at the northeast part of the sanctuary accessible from Highway No 3438. The area comprises of Sup Nakhasathian Memorial, administrative buildings, staffs accommodation, a campsite, a visitor center and a canteen.
Thap Salao River runs through the HQ area attracting some animals specially during the dry season. The river also has two contributing streams nearby named Nam Khun and Pong, both accessible from two different directions on the surrounding roads.
Trails at HQ area
The surrounding area has many official trails for hiking, relatively good maintained with good information. There are also several other non-official trails which could be allowed if permission gained from the visitor center.
Huai Kha Khaeng Nature and Wildlife Study Centre
Located 40 minutes drive south from headquarters near the Cyber Ranger Station, the site consists of a study area, a nature trail, viewpoint.
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Located at the east side of the sanctuary, nearly 700-800 meters from Highway No 3282 on Khok Khwai River.
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