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Friday, June 1, 2012

Exploring Khao Phanom Bencha National Park in Krabi, Thailand


Yes, southwest Thailand is known for its gorgeous coastline, and I’ll admit that the vast majority of my time in the town of Krabi was spent relaxing on the sand. However, my most memorable experience of my holiday in Krabi was exploring Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. Lush and beautiful, the park showed me an entirely different side of Thailand, taking me beyond the beautiful beaches and deep into a truly wild jungle ecosystem.


Getting there
I was surprised at how easily and quickly I was able to arrive at the National Park. It’s just a short 20 km north of the city, so I took the most convenient option and travelled by taxi. More adventurous travellers make the journey on rented motorbikes or tuk-tuks, which is more harrowing but almost certainly more fun. The route starts on Hwy 4, then continues along rural route 1016 straight to the park entrance.

Hiking
Were it not for the Park’s friendly staff, I would have certainly gotten lost among the dense vegetation of Khao Phanom Bencha. Thankfully, the Visitor Centre had all the information I needed to navigate the Park’s many (somewhat overgrown) trails. A quick conversation with Park staff, and my last-minute decision to pack hiking boots, both served me well during my trek through the Park. I recommend other visitors do the same!

Waterfalls
Within minutes of leaving the Visitor Centre, I was standing in front of the stunning Huai To waterfall. Just a short 500 metre walk from the Park headquarters, the powerful waterfall has multiple cascades flowing into what may be nature’s most pristine swimming pool. The cool and shady pond was a welcome break after a hot and humid journey to the Park. After a refreshing dip, I felt revived and ready to explore a bit further.

Caves
Travelling deeper into the jungle, approximately 3 km from the Park headquarters, I was met by the eerily captivating Tham Khao Phung cave. Equal parts fascinating, beautiful and spooky, it was almost hard to believe the cave was real and not just an elaborate prop from a film set. Covered in stalagmites and stalactites, the cave’s ceiling appeared to slowly drip like candle wax, only adding to its mysterious atmosphere.

Wildlife
The rainforests of Khao Phanom Bencha are known as a thriving habitat for some of Thailand’s most exotic wildlife, including black bears, sun bears, Malayan tapirs, black panthers and tigers. I was lucky enough to spot a small monkey and many tropical birds, but extremely disappointed to have left my camera back at the hotel. Witnessing such incredible creatures in their nature environment was perhaps the best part of the entire visit.

So, while holidays in Krabi often revolve around the beach, it’s certainly worthwhile to head north to the jungles of Khao Phanom Bencha. Though I only went for the day, the thought of embarking on the multi-day climb to the peak of Khao Phanom Bencha mountain has me eager to return.

Photo credit: caitriana
This is a guest post written by a Nomadic Experiences contributor

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