Khao Luang National Park

A phenomenal diamond in the rough

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What we say: 4 stars

Khao Luang National Park is 579 sq km of jungle covered mountains containing spectacular waterfalls and challenging hiking. The highlight is Khao Luang Mountain, southern Thailand's highest peak at 1,835 m (see the Khiriwong section for details on climbing the peak). The park has an unfortunate history. In 1988, a huge landslide killed over 300 people. This disaster served as a wake up call to the dangers of deforestation and logging and clear cutting have been reduced in the majority of the park. The Thai government has progressively encouraged the local community to preserve this national treasure before it disappears.

The park contains some spectacular scenery, a mixture of limestone outcrops and granite massifs with a correspondingly varied flora including tropical rainforest, tropical deciduous and bamboo forest containing the giant Mahasadam tree ferns and the famous Rafflesia flower. Locals claim that the rare Rafflesia flower, supposedly only in Kaeng Krachan National Park, can also be found here. The Mahasadam fern is older than the dinosaurs and it flourishes here. Deer, tapir and wild cats are amongst the countless mammals found in the park, although it is too small to support populations of the larger mammals. Several easy hikes from the park headquarters can be done, and the staff may be able to show you around if the price is right. The best time to visit is from January to July.

Khao Luang National Park headquarters and the tourist centre are located by Karom Waterfall. The National Park Office can be contacted at (075) 35 4839. The tourist centre has a good map of the park and information in English. A moderate amount of English is spoken, there is a small cafe and there are two large wooden guesthouses (three bedrooms and two bathrooms each) available for 700B per night. Up to 15 people can sleep comfortably. Tent sites are also available, but make sure to bring your own gear. Do not be afraid to bargain especially if the park is empty.

Karom Waterfall is 300m from the park office and it is very popular with Thais on the weekends. Water magnificently cascades down 1,000m, over a series of cliffs and boulder strewn slopes, creating 19 different levels with some great bathing spots. A nature trail traverses the lower seven levels of the waterfall. Only these lower levels are open to the public. The seventh level, Nan Dat Fa, is the most beautiful. Watch out for the voracious leeches. The waterfall is surrounded by lush jungle, giant tree ferns and lots of bird and butterfly life.

Phromlok Waterfall is even more spectacular than Karom Waterfall. This waterfall in Phrom Khiri, is extremely popular during the weekend. Take a refreshing dip in the beautiful pool at the base of the waterfall. Only four levels are open to the public. The first level is especially beautiful due to the Mahasadam ferns.

Ai Khiao Waterfall (or Nai Khiao Waterfall) is strikingly pleasing to the eye. Surrounded by dense jungle, the waterfall contains nine levels that are covered by betel gardens. Khiao Waterfall provides one of the best views of Khao Luang Mountain and the neighbouring peaks.

Krung Ching Waterfall is the most beautiful and impressive waterfall in Khao Luang National Park. An image of the waterfall is portrayed on the back of the 1,000 baht note. The name comes from a local palm that is native to the area. There is a spectacular 100m drop in the waterfall that creates a misty rain that blankets the falls below.

It is possible to go rafting on the Klong Klai River. Rubber boats are available to rent at the Krung Ching Administration Office near Krung Ching Waterfall. The cost is 250 - 350B per person. Call the office at (075) 30 9004 or 01 677 3112 to check out the conditions.

Hong Cave is worth exploring and it's conveniently situated just before Krung Ching Waterfall. A stream runs through the centre of the cave. Uniquely shaped stalagmites and stalactites thrive in the cave. It is only possible to access the cave by wading through water. Make sure to bring a flashlight.

There is a national park office at Krung Ching Waterfall that can be contacted at (075) 309 6445. Six guesthouses varying in size are available to rent. One bedroom and one bathroom guesthouses for four people cost 250B per night. Two bedroom and two bathroom guesthouses for eight people cost 500B per night. Three bedroom and two bathroom guesthouses for 20 people cost 1,500B per night. Tent sites are also available, but make sure to bring your own gear.

How to get there:
Khao Luang National Park headquarters and Karom Waterfall are situated in Lan Saka District, 29km from Nakhon Si Thammarat. From Nakhon Si Thammarat take a songthaew to Route 4016. At the 9km marker turn left onto Route 4015 and continue for 20km. The entrance to Khao Luang National Park is 1km ahead on the right. Negotiate the price beforehand.

Phromlok Waterfall is in Tambon Phromlok about 25km from Nakhon Si Thammarat. Take a songthaew from Nakhon Si Thammarat to Route 4016. At km 20 take a left onto Route 4132 and continue for 5km to the waterfall.

Ai Khiao Waterfall is located about 30km away from Nakhon Si Thammarat. Take a songthaew from Nakhon Si Thammarat to Route 4016. At km 26 take a left and continue for 3km to the waterfall.

Krung Ching Waterfall and Hong Cave are located 70km from Nakhon Si Thammarat. Take a songthaew from Nakhon Si Thammarat to Route 4016 past Amphoe Prom Khiri. Turn left onto Route 4140. At Amphoe Nopphitam turn right onto Route 4186 and continue straight to the waterfall.

For more information about Khao Luang National Park and the surrounding areas contact the TAT office at (075) 346 5156. The best idea is to obtain directions in Thai from the TAT office.

Last updated: 24th November, 2006

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