I had been contemplating a trip south for a while and was going through my usual web researching when I saw that Krung Ching Waterfall, a sub-station of Khao Luang National Park in Nakorn Sri Thammarat had gotten some particularly good reviews from birders for the birding. So I started to tentatively consider a trip there.
I was just in the initial stages of thinking about it because its quite a long way from Bangkok.
And then one day I found myself in Baan Krang (Kaeng Krachan National Park) grumbling to myself about how quiet the forest is this year with lots of water around still - my plans and tactics at this time of year normally revolve around a lack of water. When my phone pinged and I saw that Geoff had sent me some excellent info on Krung Ching sub-station. I had one of those "just do it" moments and at 9 a.m. my rickety old wagon was on its way - I had no plan, no supplies, no clothes, nothing .... just an urge.
9 hours later I was rolling into Nakorn Sri Thammarat looking for accommodation before heading to the sub-station the next morning. The next morning's drive up to the sub-station was reminiscent of the north of Thailand but greener! The forest still works as a biome and as a result nearly every morning (not just winter as in north and central Thailand) the road is shrouded in a thick fog bringing a cooling damp mist to the whole area. It was thick enough on all 3 mornings to make me turn the wagons lights on and drive very cautiously.
I had elected to make the most of my lack of planning/disorganization by staying at the coast and driving each day, it was 50 minutes from Nakorn Sri Thammarat, 40 from Sichon and over an hour from Khanom. These times are quite doable as the mist from the park ensures that good photography conditions (i.e. sun) start after 7:30 most mornings.
Nakorn Sri Thammarat, was just a town, Khanom was very nice indeed (a friend had recommended the "Khanom Seafood" restaurant which is probably the best seafood restaurant I have ever visited in Thailand so do yourself a favor if in the area) - Khanom's a bit like a better version of Pranburi. Sichon was were I stayed the most and it was a quiet beach area with good accommodation. One thing I found was that the prices and quality of accommodation were much much better value than you will find in central Thailand.
When first getting to the park I had a head start because of the info Geoff had given me so I decided to do the waterfall first. What a spectacular waterfall! Photos do not do it justice. It is BIG.
Theres a couple of carparks at the substation as well as a visitor's centre, pay your fee (200 B) at the visitor centre. The path to the waterfall is 50 meters from the visitor centre and clearly marked and is the only prepped path leaving the site. The pathway is concrete a lot of its length so no need for a GPS unless you are planning to go off the path.
The park says the path is 3.7 km to the waterfall and hence a total of 7.4 km but I measured it on the GPS to be 4.24 each way, a total of 8.5 km. As you can see from the log the trail is flat and very pleasant on the top section but be aware that theres a 100 meter plus climb/descent at both ends so take water, especially on hot days. I took a liter but for an oldy like me it was not enough after doing the final descent/ascent twice (when I climbed out the first time I realized my camera was set to ISO 3200 so had to go back). I ended getting another litre from the river with my trusty Sawyer filter.
On the way up the first part of the track I stopped at the top of the elevation for a rest and saw a black "thing" at the top of one of the huge trees that populate the area, pulling out my bins I realized I was having my first ever sighting of a White-crowned Hornbill. With this "success" I was then onto the top (flat) portion of the track - the forest is really quite beautiful from the light in the morning and quite cool temperature wise, its a nice walk with a cacophony of bird sound - even though the bird sounds were many and very different from the calls of central Thailand, I am not a birder so other than a nice soundtrack I don't have any knowledge of what they actually are. Mammals are my thing and I was surprised to see such a variety of mammal sign on such a well used and prepped track. Within the first kilo I had seen muntjac and pig sign as well as a sign of lone male elephant - over the whole track I found 3 separate incidents of elephant sign, maybe the same animal. About 2K in I bumped into a troupe of Southern pig-tailed macaques - I so wanted to get a picture of them but the forest is very "jungly" and they were too hard to follow.
At 4k you come to the river that feeds the waterfall, and it is a river - not a stream. Big sandy banks with a variety of mammal tracks and the perfect place to relax. The base of the river seems to be granite and consequently the rivers in the park are wide and shallow. This area really peaked my interest for a return visit.
And then you come to the waterfall itself, photos do not do it justice - its is REALLY impressive. Much bigger than any photo impression. If you are in the area its well worth a visit just to see the waterfall. I intend to return with some camera gear to photograph the waterfall properly in the future.
Back at the sub-station I had a good old explore, the river valley downstream of the visitors centre is very interesting and was chock full of birds, indeed there were quite a few birders there over the 3 days I was there but they were concentrated on the sub-station area and its immediate environ.
And lastly to cap it all, I put Geoff's advice to the test :+) and was rewarded by not one but two sightings of a Rufous-collared Kingfisher! I so want to photograph this bird.
All in all a great sub-station, a great experience for me and a stunning waterfall. I will definitely be back.