About Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
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, however due to an incident with an elephant injuring a tourist in a tent, the campsite is closed for campers, tourists needs to stay at resorts nearby the sanctuary and do daily trips.
Entrance fee for foreigners is 200 THB (children 100 THB), 20 THB for Thai citizens (children 10 THB) and 30 THB for vehicles. The park gates are open from 6:30 am until 16:30 pm, it is though possible to get out before dark.
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.
The attractions of Huai Kha Khaeng
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 and a visitor center. The campsite and the canteen are closed due an incident with an elephant injuring a camping tourist in tent. Tourists are adviced to bring their meails and water/beverages with them.
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.
Khao Hin Daeng Nature Trail
This circular and flat trail that starts from nearby HQ building passes through dipterocarp, mixed decidious and dry evergreen forests. The trail is good for bird watching with possibility to see tracks from other animals like deers and tigers. There are two options for this trail; a shorter option at 2.2 km which takes lesser than 2 hours and a longer at 4.7 km which takes around 3 hours to walk.
Home of Tiger Nature Trail
A 800 meters long circular trail with possibility to see foot prints and traces from tiger, leopard and other mammals. The trail starts near the campsite.
Khao Pakdee Nature Trail
A 3 km long trail that gradually descends a ridge into an area of fertile mixed deciduous forest, takes 2 hours to walk. When the rainy season ends and cold season starts, the forest gets mixed colours in red, orange, yellow and red, creating a beautiful view. Various bird species can be seen along the trail.
The trail starts from same point as the Home of Tiger Nature Trail and splits at a fork north.
Pong Chang Puak Nature Trail
A partly circular 1.5 km long trail passing a small pond and leading to Thap Salao River near near km8. There is a observation tower with the view over open space around river, possible to see banteng, peacock and other species.
Pa Teng Rang Nature Trail
A 1.2 km long trail passing by few artificially constructed ponds that attracts animals. The area is dry dipterocarp forest which changes colour area during the dry season.
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.
Located at the east side of the sanctuary, nearly 700-800 meters from Highway No 3282 on Khok Khwai River.