Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter

Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter

I have visited Kaeng Krachan National Park twice and both times were very successful visits. On the first trip we managed to see thousands of beautiful, colourful butterflies. The second time was when I went to the Pala-U waterfall, and a wild elephant stood on my way to the park. Meeting an elephant in its natural habitat is a very thrilling experience 

Kaeng Krachan National Park is the largest national park in Thailand, with an area of approximately 2,900 sq km. It lies in the province of Petchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan. The park is listed as a World Heritage Site and is known as an ideal place for hiking and camping. 

The area of the park includes mountains, viewpoints, rivers, waterfalls and caves. Kaeng Krachan is inhabited in large numbers by wildlife, including leopards, elephants, gaurs, Asiatic bears, deer, monkeys, birds and, of course, insects. The park is renowned as an ideal spot for butterfly spotting.

I visited two different sites in Kaeng Krachan. The first time I went to the Ban Krang camp in Phetchaburi, while the second visit was a trek to the Pala-U waterfall.

Butterflies in Kaeng Krachan National Park

obozowisko Ban Krang w parku

My first visit to Kaeng Krachan was in Phetchaburi province. I went there with my children for a short jungle walk around the Ban Krang camp. The road to the Ban Krang camp from the entrance to the park is very scenic and leads for kilometres through a dense forest inhabited in large numbers by animals.

On the drive into the park, a beautiful hornbill with black and white wings flew over us and we saw swarms of butterflies flying among the trees and sitting on the road. At the side of the road we encountered a family of deer and noted a fair amount of elephant droppings. However, we did not meet an elephant that day. 

The Ban Krang camp has all the facilities of the park, with toilets, shop, information desk and camping area. The next camp, Phanoen Thung, is 15 km away and can only be reached by 4×4 pick-up trucks. It is possible to take a guide at Ban Krang for a day or multi-day excursion into the park.

There is plenty to do in Ban Krang as well. We went for a short walk along the path leading across the stream. Beyond the stream begins the easy Vanilla Nature Trail, which we took a walk on. Near the entrance to the trail, by the stream, we met a whole family of langurs and lots of butterflies. Butterflies are most abundant in winter and during the dry season, but we still managed to see them in June, at the start of the rainy season.

From the camp we drove straight towards the lake and the dam. My plan was to cross a rope bridge to an islet on the lake, but access was closed that day. I drove around the lake and stopped for lunch at the Coastly cafe, from where we then drove to Chao Samran at the seaside.

Butterflies in Kaeng Krachan National Park
Park Kaeng Krachan, dusky langur
Park Kaeng Krachan, jezioro

Pala-U Waterfall in Kaeng Krachan National Park

Pala-U Waterfall in Kaeng Krachan National Park

Pala-U is a fifteen-tier waterfall located in Prachuap Khiri Khan province about 54 km from Hua Hin. The waterfall is not high and looks more like a river in places, but it is very picturesque and getting to the next levels is an added attraction for trekkers. I went to the waterfall with my sister and while going there we didn't yet know that we would experience the best surprise there - an encounter with an elephant.

Encountering an elephant on the way to Pala-U Waterfall

Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter

The Pala-U Waterfall is accessible from Hua Hin via road number 3218, called Pala-U Road by locals, known for the wild elephants that are seen here quite often. After passing through the Trien Checkpoint, with a sign warning of elephants, drivers on the opposite lane started blinking. I knew they were warning me of something on the road, but I wasn't quite sure what it was all about. I drove in suspense for a few more minutes and then, in the distance, I spotted cars standing on the road, and between them I saw ... a big elephant. 

I pulled over at a safe distance, enabling an escape, and observed the situation. The elephant seemed calm and showed no signs of nervousness, even when an ambulance drove past with a siren. Instead, he began to approach each car in turn and sniffed it thoroughly in search of the fruit being transported by the farmers.

When I was sure the elephant was about to go into the bushes, he turned in our direction. He headed along the side of the road towards our car. I moved very slowly at that point, but when he approached the car, I stopped the car to not upset it. When the elephant passed right by us, I drove away very slowly. 

After driving away, I was both laughing and almost crying with joy, and my hands were still shaking from the emotion. The feeling when you see a big elephant looking into your car in front of your windscreen is beyond description. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter
Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter
Kaeng Krachan National Park and the wild elephant encounter

What to do when you meet a wild elephant on the road

An encounter with a wild elephant is wonderful, but for your own safety, follow this rules:

  • remain calm and quiet, do not use the horn
  • do not turn off the engine
  • stay at a safe distance
  • don't get out of the car
  • move slowly

The exact rules are described on the website of the national park Khao Yai. Jeśli chcesz spotkać dzikie słonie w Tajlandii, możesz to zrobić z dużym prawdopodobieństwem w parku Kaeng Krachan, Khao Yai oraz w parku Kui Buri. Polecam również wizytę w Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand which is a rescue center and shelter for wild animals.

Pala-U Waterfall hike

Pala-U Waterfall in Kaeng Krachan National Park

Although I didn't have high expectations for the Pala-U Waterfall, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable hikes. The trail to the waterfall's upper tiers is quite challenging, as it leads partly through rocks and jungle, but it is truly beautiful.

Jungle trekking in Kaeng Krachan National Park reminded me very much of the trekking in the Khao Sok. Be sure to bring good footwear, water and repellent. 

Between first and third level the trail runs over rocks, which can be very slippery. After level three, the trail turned into a path through the jungle. It got much easier, although I don't know what the trail is like beyond level four, as we ended the expedition at this level. It took us an hour and a half to get there and back, despite the short sections. However, we were just after the rain and in many places it was still slippery, the waterfall was rushing and we stopped frequently to take photos. I wish we could have stayed longer and walked further, but we had to return to Hua Hin for the specified hour. 

With small children it is better to limit yourself to level 1, as even with a carrier it will be difficult. Older and accustomed to trekking children should be able to get a little further. I recommend going to the waterfall early in the morning, before people arrive.

Pala-U waterfall hike in Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park, wodospad Pala-U
Wodospad Pala-U, park Kaeng Krachan

Piękny wodospad Pha Nam Yot

Na terenie Kaeng Krachan National Park znajduje się jeszcze jeden piękny wodospad, Pha Nam Yot Waterfall. Znajduje się w prowincji Phetchaburi około godzinę jazdy od Hua Hin.

Kaeng Krachan National Park - all you should know

Kaeng Krachan is such a vast park that individual sites have different times and entry rules, which are described on this site

You should plan your access to the park depending on what you want to see, as the distance from Ban Krang to Pala-U waterfall is about 1.5 hours' drive. It takes about an hour to drive from Hua Hin to Pala-U Waterfall, while it takes 1.5 hours to drive to Bang Krang.

There is the essential infrastructure with restrooms at Ban Krang and the Pala-U Waterfall area. Beverages can be purchased on site as well.

Source: https://www.thainationalparks.com
Opening hours

The park's opening hours vary, for different locations.
Ban Krang: 5.00-17.00
PalaU: 8.30-16.30

Admission cost

300 THB/adult
150 THB/child (3-14 yo)
30 THB/car

If you like outdoor activities, hiking and climbing waterfalls be sure to read these posts:

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