Thailand has 96 national parks, 100 wildlife and non-hunting sanctuaries and 65 forest parks, which together make up a full 13 percent of land area. The park system, managed by the Royal Forestry Department, provides the visitor with easy access to the country's nature reserves, from the mountain pine forests of the North to the southern rainforests to the spectacular coral and marine life off both coasts.
Some of the wildlife and non hunting sanctuaries adjoin one another. Most of the parks are accessible by road, offer simple accommodation and charge a small admission fee. In the larger ones such as Khao Yai, rangers can be hired as guides for long treks. Wildlife sanctuaries are not tourism areas, however, so visitors must bring food and camping gear and observe the no-disturbance rules set up to protect the animals.
CHAING MAT: This northern capital is an important bird-watching destination. Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand at 2,565 metres above sea level, forms the southernly end of the Himalayan range and provides a home for 364 species of birds, many of them not seen elsewhere in the country. The best time for bird-watching is from November to February.
NAKHON RATCHASIMA: Khao Yai is a major bird-watching hub, being home to rare species including all four species of hornbill: the great, wreathed, oriental pied and brown.
PRACHAUP KHIRI KHAN, PHETCHABURI: In the South, the narrow, peninsula province of Prachuab Khiri Khan and its neighbour Phetchaburi offer an attractive mountain and sea combination: Within their parameter, they contain the twin beach resorts of Hua Hin and Cha-am, and two large havens for wildlife, Sam Roi Yot and Kaeng Krachan National Parks. Sam Roi Yet (Three-Hundred Peaks) National Park has sandy beaches, caves and mangrove forests and provides a home for 300 species of birds. Kaeng Krachan is the largest national park. Its birdlife includes 250 species, among them the great hornbill and the grey peacock. Kaeng Krachan also offers abundant hiking delights - wildlife, birds, lush jungle - along the trail to Tho Tip Waterfall, which takes about three hours.