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.
I am just back from 3 days in Phu Khieo (northern Chaiyaphum). Its a place I like a lot but the drive from Bangkok makes it impossible to do in a weekend for me (oh the issues with being a weekend warrior) - so decided to take a long weekend. I nearly did not go in the end as my 300 and 80-400 are being repaired and the last word from Nikon was another two weeks, but I figured what the hell, I still have the old 80-400 in a box somewhere and I can have a long lens weekend anyway.
So that was my plan - a nice weekend away sat by the lakes, aiming a long lens at the opposite bank, and waiting and hoping for excitement to play out. Of course I was anticipting low water levels as elsewhere and the need for animals to come to water was a major part of my thinking.
But I had underestimated the professionalism of the Phu Khieo DNP team! Their water management skills are terrific! There was a slight drop in level at the first dam but all the rest were full and water was being fed out of the 2nd dam to supply all the lakes around the HQ (which were all full). I had a run by all the lakes and ponds that I knew of in the forest and all had water!!
The only places without water were the Thung Kha Mang extension. This has been undergoing more habit improvement and had just undergone controlled burning, so there was smoke haze in the air, putting an end to my thoughts of long lens use over the water. I would say I arrived a week or so too early. I have to say their improvement of this habitat for grazing animals is quite major and impressive.
The amazing thing was the temperature! It was like winter!! Thursday night I was whimpering in my hammock from the cold - Friday night saw me fully clothed, with jacket and two sleeping bags! It was still cold enough to wake me if the sleeping bag fell to the side. I was not expecting that and it was lovely - crisp night air, wrapped up with a nice warm beverage (with two cubes of ice) and the soothing smells of smoke and pine pitch in the air. The best stay I have had in a park for a long while.
And even though my photo plans were somewhat thwarted, and I did not see anything really special - I have still ended up with a few photos that I am very happy with - all considered.
For the logistics of travel, this time I tried trusting the GPS and went via Khon Kaen - route there was 7.5 hours to the Major Hotel in Chumpae (park gate is still another 40 K or so). On the way back I went straight from the park gate via Phetchabun and it was 7 hours to my door in Bangkok (but a better route to drive IMHO). I have a friend who swears by the Chaiyaphum route but I keep getting lost when I try it.
I fancy going there myself next week after reading the thread and seeing the pics... I am mainly into the birds, so can anyone help me with details of good locations for birding and accommodations...cheers guys
Brian, for accommodations, this is what I know...............
Within the Sanctuary:
a) rooms are available at the HQ, they cannot be booked in advance by tourists (us) but always seem to be available. You book them on arrival at the HQ/visitor centre. They are basic but clean and comfy - includes beds (2 per room), bathroom, pillows/sheets, electricity for about 3 hours a night (with a plug in the room so you can recharge). They ask you to make a donation to use the rooms and they give you an official receipt for your donation. In another thread you will see comments on what may be the "standard" to donate.
b) Camp site (my personal preferred option). There are actually two camp sites but one has been closed for some years (but signs not taken down). The usable site is opposite the rooms for rent and next to the shop. At night there are more animals in this camp site than in many parks!! Whenever I have stayed in the site I have been the only person there, except when I stayed on a long weekend holiday (I promised myself never again).
There's a shop and a restaurant at the sanctuary HQ area (I have not used either as I like to do my own camping thing). The HQ is about 20 kilometres from the entrance gate.
Outside the Sanctuary
a) there are bungalows for rent close by at the Chulaborn dam complex. Not sure how to book, they are mentioned in the other threads (I have not stayed there)
b) nearest town is Chumpae, there lots of accommodation there BUT its about 40+ kilometres away from the park gate.
If any one has anything to add/correct pls step in - I have only been about 4 or 5 times.