Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, a sprawling natural wonderland nestled in the heart of Thailand, is the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. Spanning across the provinces of Phitsanulok and Phetchabun, this lush park covers an area of approximately 1,262 square kilometers. As you embark on your journey to explore Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, this guide will provide useful information on its history, flora and fauna, how to get there, accommodation options, activities, and more.
Established in 1963, Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is Thailand’s 7th national park. The park’s name translates to “Royal Hunting Ground” in English, a nod to its historical use as a hunting reserve by Thai kings. Interestingly, the park also played a significant role during World War II, as it served as a training ground for the Free Thai Movement, a group of Thai resistance fighters against the Japanese occupation.
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including evergreen forests, mixed deciduous forests, pine forests, and grasslands. The park’s highest peak, Khao Kho, reaches an elevation of 1,143 meters above sea level. The park is also home to two major rivers, the Nan and Khwae Noi, which meander through the park and provide a vital source of water for the region’s flora and fauna.
Flora and Fauna
The park’s varied ecosystems support a wide array of plant and animal species. The evergreen and mixed deciduous forests are home to more than 700 plant species, including rare and endemic ones such as the Siamese sal (Shorea obtusa) and Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis). The park’s grasslands are dominated by needle grass (Heteropogon contortus) and blady grass (Imperata cylindrica).
As for wildlife, the park is home to over 200 species of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the park’s most iconic mammals include Asian elephants, gaur, sambar deer, barking deer, and wild boars. There are also several rare and endangered species, such as the Asiatic black bear, Indochinese tiger, Malayan tapir, and white-handed gibbon.
Birdwatchers will be delighted by the park’s rich birdlife, which boasts more than 150 species, including the gray-headed fish eagle, white-fronted scops owl, silver-breasted broadbill, and coral-billed ground cuckoo.
How to Get There
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is accessible from both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. From Bangkok, visitors can either rent a car or take a bus to Phitsanulok, followed by a local bus or taxi to the park’s entrance. The drive takes approximately 5-6 hours. Alternatively, one can fly from Bangkok to Phitsanulok and then take a taxi or bus to the park. From Chiang Mai, the drive to the park takes about 6 hours by car or bus.
Where to Stay and Eat
There are several accommodation options within the park, including bungalows, tent sites, and a youth hostel. Bungalows range from basic fan rooms to more comfortable air-conditioned ones, and can be reserved through the park’s website or by calling the park office. Tent sites are also available for those who prefer to camp, and tents can be rented from the park office.
For dining, the park has a restaurant that serves Thai and international dishes. There are also a few local restaurants and food stalls near the park entrance offering delicious, authentic Thai cuisine at affordable prices. For those who prefer to cook their own meals, there are designated barbecue areas within the park where visitors can grill and enjoy a meal amidst the natural surroundings.
The best time to visit Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is during the cool, dry season, which typically lasts from November to February. This period offers comfortable temperatures and minimal rainfall, allowing for easier exploration of the park.
Dress appropriately for the park's varied terrain and weather conditions. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes for hiking, and bring layers, including a rain jacket, as temperatures can drop significantly in the evenings and rain showers are always a possibility.
Carry plenty of water and snacks while exploring the park, as facilities are limited, especially in more remote areas.
To minimize your impact on the park's fragile ecosystems, practice Leave No Trace principles. Dispose of waste properly, stay on designated trails, and avoid feeding or disturbing wildlife.
It is highly recommended to book guided tours or treks with the park's experienced rangers. Not only do they possess extensive knowledge of the park's flora and fauna, but they also ensure your safety during your visit.
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is an ideal destination for a wide range of visitors, including nature lovers, adventure seekers, birdwatchers, and photographers. The park offers something for everyone, from leisurely strolls through its picturesque grasslands to challenging multi-day treks. Families, solo travelers, and groups can all enjoy the park's natural beauty, diverse activities, and the opportunity to learn more about Thailand's unique ecosystems and wildlife.
Hiking and Trekking: Thung Salaeng Luang National Park offers numerous hiking and trekking opportunities, with well-marked trails of varying difficulty. Some popular trails include the Kaeng Sopha Waterfall trail, Khao Kho trail, and the Thung Nang Phaya trail. For visitors seeking a more challenging experience, multi-day treks with overnight stays at remote ranger stations can be arranged.
Wildlife Watching: The park's diverse wildlife makes it an excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to spot animals, and the park offers guided wildlife watching tours with experienced rangers.
Birdwatching: With its rich birdlife, the park is a haven for birdwatchers. Many species can be spotted along the park's trails, and guided birdwatching tours are also available.
Cycling: Bicycles can be rented from the park office, and there are several scenic cycling routes within the park. The flat grasslands provide an enjoyable and leisurely ride, while more adventurous cyclists can tackle the hilly terrain in the forested areas.
Photography: The park's stunning landscapes and diverse flora and fauna make it a paradise for nature photographers. Capture stunning sunrises and sunsets, or try your hand at wildlife and macro photography.
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