Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary is close to the Chulabhorn Dam and the nearest large town is Chumpae in Khon Khaen. It has an area of 1,560 square kilometres. The geography consists of a sandstone mountain range with high cliffs. It is one of Thailand's premier sanctuaries that allows limited tourist access.
Just a tip for those who ever decide to visit
Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary
I am quite sure this won't apply if you are a regular visitor, but for the new ones like myself today this could be useful.
The entrance gate officially opens at 6:00am and closes at 16:30, at least according to the sign on the gate.
We arrived at 15:45 and were refused to enter.
The usual reason that it was too dangerous to enter. Wild elephants could be on the road. Obviously these animals are of no danger if you enter at 15:00 :silly:
After a 5 hr drive I have to say i had to count to ten a few times to remain calm. The woman remained very friendly, so I did the same even though it was boiling inside, haha.
Yes I know this is not a national park, but since it is written on the gate that it closes at 16:30, I more or less expected we could enter. They told us to get there before 15:00 in the future. Slightly ridiculous if you ask me.
Camping at this entrance gate was not an option either, because elephants could walk up to the entrance...
A few kms down the road, outside the sanctuary, is a dam with a campground, and various types of bungalows available starting at 800 baht. We took the 800B bungalow which is really quite OK. And I have to say that I am impressed about the area near the dam. Pig-tail Macaques were hangin around, and even a Great Hornbill made its appearance. The latter proves the quality of the forest. And there is lots of other birdlife present. Haven't even started looking for wildlife...
Can not wait to get deeper into the actual sanctuary.
Tomorrow when all dangers have gone, we will safely enter the reserve ;) and spend a few days/ nights.
I won't take the risk showing up at 6:00am. That has caused me enough trouble in HKK as well. The woman with the tickets is never there in the morning.
If anyone has useful tips for visiting Phu Khieo WS, it would be much appreciated if you could share it!
I have been just the once (2010 I think) - enjoyed it greatly and have always wanted to go back but its just that bit too far from BKK for a weekend. I had problems at the gate as well. It took me forever to get there and I arrived after 9 p.m. and could not find anywhere local (didn't get to see the dam complex until the next morning) so I slept in the car. I was up and waiting at 6:00 a.m. and they told me visitors can enter at 8:00 because the rangers and researchers were doing their work between 6 and 8. Thats when I found the dam complex.
Trip report - Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary - August 2014
I did not risk waking up early and showing up at 6:00AM to be refused again. Even though they had told me it was fine...
Instead walked around near the Chulaphorn dam and was surprised to find elephant tracks near the bungalows.
After entering the actual park I soon noticed that it was well worth the waiting.
Much of the long road from the entrance to the HQ is lined by impressive tall forest. Quite a lot of saltlicks/ mudpools can be found just off the road.
Some parts, mostly near the entrance gate and just around the HQ is mixed pine forest which is not too interesting for wildlife (IMO). But most of the area looks in great shape.
I found many trails along the main road, well-marked. But you're not allowed to get into the forest there. Most if not all of these trails were research trails. There is a long term study project going on researching the Assamese Macaque.
I've talked with one of the researchers and the stories he told were jealous-making.
The last few months he has encountered bears about once or twice a week! (Both species)
Elephants and gaur crossed his path quite often, both on the road and in the forest.
He has seen Clouded Leopard quite a few times during his morning drives to the research areas. But never in his 8 years study - working 20 days a month in the field, from the very early morning till sunset - had he seen a tiger or leopard. From what I understand the numbers of these bigger cats are not too high here.
Another interesting fact: About 10 years ago the last Sumatran Rhino footprints have been found. It will probably not occur there anymore, but still it is nice to dream about a small population living deep in the reserve away from the people...
What activities can be done in the park? Well, sadly, that's gonna be a short list.... It's a wildlife sanctuary so tourism is not a priority.
However, I found the rangers at the HQ very helpful, friendly, and willing to inform you as good as they can.
Near the HQ are two birding hides just 100m of the road in the forest, but these were closed at the moment after some trouble earlier this year when a few birding tours arrived and from what I understood there were too many people, and just 2 hides with each space for only 2 - 3 photographers/ birders. That caused a lot of trouble, so the rangers have decided to temporarily close these hides for visitors.
Just 5 - 10m in front of the hides there is a tiny pool (about 50cm diameter). They've made a system with a tap in the hide to fill the little pools, quite a nice idea actually, and surely it will attract lots of birdlife (and perhaps other wildlife) especially in the dry months.
Big signs have been put up at the trail entrance that you need to ask permission to take a seat in one of the hides, and even though I did not specifically ask - I'm not a bird photographer - I more or less understood from the rangers that they won't give permission at the moment. But perhaps if you arrive in a quiet time of year and get acquainted with the rangers, who knows... doors might open.
There is a trail that passes one of these hides and makes a loop around one of the many reservoirs. Most of the trail is through pine forest. I was not exactly impressed by this trail. Apparently there should be a trail branching off this trail and going a bit deeper, bringing you to a point about 2 km down the main road where the forest looks a bit better, but I haven't tried this options. Next time I will ask a ranger to show me around there.
The most popular sight, is the Thung Ka Mang grassland. Lots and lots of Hog Deer, and some Sambar Deer can be seen throughout the day. Unlike the Hog Deer in the 'permit-free' area of Huai Kha Khaeng, here most of them do not have ear-numbers, so better picture opportunities.
According to the ranger July & August is the main breeding season. Quite a few males were fighting.
There is another trail to a reservoir called Beung Mon (Mon Lake).
It's not allowed to do this trail without a ranger. The trail is 5.7km if started from the HQ (one-way, so a 11+km roundtrip). The track is wide enough to drive with a 4x4 and there's not too much difference in elevation.
The forest almost immediately changes from pine to tall mixed evergreen forest. The trail is quite straight and since it is wide you can look quite far ahead which is good for spotting animals crossing. We saw quite a few animals and found tracks of many more. At the Mon Lake we got to see Oriental Darter and the White-winged Duck, though both species we had encountered earlier on the lakes closer to HQ. However, we were told that the White-winged ducks near HQ were reintroduced, and the ones on Mon Lake were truly wild.
The main road has been the most succcesful area for us in terms of wildlife spotting.
White-handed Gibbons could be heard and seen in many areas, Phayre's Langurs are quite a common sight. And we've seen Assamese macaques and Northern Pig-tail Macaques.
Other mammals we've seen were Golden Jackals, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, Black Giant Squirrels, various other squirrel species, Hog Deer, Indian Muntjac, Sambar Deer.
Bengal (or Clouded) Monitors and Water Monitors. Great and Pied Hornbill, heard Wreathed Hornbill. Siamese Fireback and Silver Pheasants, some tame Green Peafowl, two trogon species, and lots more. And probably the birding highlight (at least if I would have been a serious birder) was finding a nest with 2 eggs of the Rusty-naped Pitta.
I don't know how common it is, but I can imagine that finding nesting sites of pittas is not too common so to avoid similar problems like they've had with the birding hides, I think it's better to keep the location secret... Don't want to disturb this bird more than I already did...
Not sure if I forget anything. We were not fortunate to see elephants or gaur but tracks were easily found, as well as wild boar. Also found quite a lot of Bear tracks, even recent foot prints in the mud. Dhole scat and tracks. Leopard cat or Jungle Cat pug marks. And some scratches on trees that appeared to be from a medium-sized cat like perhaps Clouded Leopard or Asian Golden Cat.
Maybe of interest to the 'buggers' of this forum - I had never seen this species, but perhaps it's common in other areas, it sure is in Phu Khieo - a pretty cicada.
I will definitely return here, even though the options are limited.
Some more info about lodging. There are several cabins that can be booked on site. No fixed rate, just up to you. Same for camping, you decide what to donate the park. I didn't ask, but I don't think they have camping gear for rent, we brought our own.
Restrooms are basic Thai style. There is electricity between 18:00 - 21:00.
A restaurant on site just 50m from the HQ has Thai dishes for sale. They charge 70 baht per person and that gets you 2 curries and you are free to take as much rice as neccessary.
In a small shop behind the sport field they sell cold drinks, even beer, and some other snacks and neccessities. Still I think it is wise to bring some food and especially water by yourself, just in case.
At the HQ was a friendly ranger, his name is See, who can arrange rangers for you to accompany on the trails. But don't expect much English to be spoken in the park.
Connecting to Phu Khieo is Nam Nao national park. I've been there quite a few years ago, but did not have time to visit the place this time. It was one of the first parks I visited when I got in Thailand, and was the first place after starting in the North, where I actually heard lots of birdlife and found tracks of mammals. So it could be worth it to check it out if you are in the neighbourhood.
As you know I am not really the right person to ask if there were bugs. And even more than usually I put all off my focus on mammals. I wanted to know if the area is interesting for future visits. Generally speaking, if you see enough mammals it means there should be more than enough of other creatures like reptiles, birds, etc.
Let me think if I remember anything. Did see a large moth, about 16 cm wide. Made a picture with my phone. ID is welcome!
And a big black caterpillar, about 12cm. Did not really encounter any large groups of butterflies.
Some well camouflaged forest hunts mans. Enough grasshoppers, and did see some mantis.
Loads of horse flies Haha. A nice looking species though, and they did not really tried to sting. But they kept following our car.
That cicada was very common. Sweat bees. But can't recall seeing any plant hoppers.
I guess you really need to go back yourself to take a closer look. But I understand it is along way from Bangkok. For us it was a 5 hr drive from Khao Yai. About the same as driving to Huai Kha Khaeng from KY.