Photo: Take a walk through the woods.

Introduction

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Exotic birds and gibbons twirl through the old-growth jungle of Khao Yai, a major draw for nature lovers and granddaddy of Thai national parks. It’s part of the UNESCO-listed Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai forest complex, one of mainland Southeast Asia’s largest and best-preserved forests. The park’s name, meaning “Big Mountain,” is a fitting one.


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Established in 1962, Khao Yai covers more than 2,100 square kilometres and reaches into four different provinces, making it the oldest and third largest Thai national park. In a single day you might sweat in tropical rainforest, watch wildlife saunter through grassland and shiver in the cooler climes of hill evergreen forest. The highest peak, Khao Rom, reaches above 1,350 metres. More than 40 waterfalls include the jaw-dropping Haew Narok and picturesque Haew Suwat, where Leonardo Dicaprio took a leap during the filming of The Beach.

With a little luck, you might see wildlife sauntering through the Khao Yai grassland. Photo taken in or around Khao Yai National Park, Thailand by David Luekens.

With a little luck, you might see wildlife sauntering through the Khao Yai grassland. Photo: David Luekens

Khao Yai and neighbouring parks, Thap Lan and Pang Sida, combine to host an incredible array of wildlife. Asian elephant sightings are relatively common, while elusive leopards and tigers strut deeper in the jungle. Other endangered species include Siamese crocodile and spot-billed pelican, one of 392 types of birds found in the complex. According to UNESCO, this is the only place on earth where white-headed and pileated gibbons interbreed in ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,300 words.)


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