Kui Buri National Park
It’s promoted as the best place in Thailand to see groups of elephants in their natural habitats and having visited a number of locations throughout the country, I’d say that would be an accurate assessment. According to the park guides, there are approximately 250 – 300 wild elephants in the vicinity of the national park. The park entrance is approximately 78 kilometres South West of Hua Hin City. A day trip there can be done with a tour company or, for those of a more adventurous nature, privately with a rented car or motorbike. Travel time from Hua Hin to the park ranger’s office is around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Motorbikes can be rented at most hotels or street side tour agents in Hua Hin for approximately 250 – 300 THB (USD 7 – 9) per day. The most direct route from Hua Hin is to travel South on Highway # 4 for 58 kilometers then turn right onto route #3217 and then follow the signage all the way to the park. However, please take note of the following.
It’s well worth making the effort to go here but there’s a couple of things to be aware of as this is not such an easy place to find due to confusion created by having two locations advertised as “wildlife viewing.” If you go on an arranged outing with a tour company then that isn’t an issue but if you are doing it yourself all you need to remember is to take the turn to the right off route # 3217. That will be the first sign you see, take it. If you continue on to the other location, at the southern side of the dam, you will end up wasting at least an hour or more of your time. This location is the site of the national park headquarters and even though you will see signage saying “wildlife viewing,” IT IS NOT THE CORRECT LOCATION. The staffs there are very friendly. They speak some English and they will give you a poorly drawn map directing you back to the correct location. This map is hopelessly inaccurate in terms of distances and road directions and you will end up driving around in circles on dirt roads on the western side of the dam. I was fortunate that I can speak some Thai so I eventually managed to get on the correct road to the correct “wildlife viewing” place. Once there a guide will approach you telling you the costs etc. The price per person for the tour is 850 THB. If you are coming independently in a vehicle you will be charged an additional 200 THB to park your vehicle in the parking area. The tour through the wildlife viewing area is done safari style from the back of a pick-up truck with bench seats. There are three wildlife viewing areas along a 7 km dirt road. The guides are very helpful as there are some positioned at each location and they keep in touch with 2 way radios so they know exactly at each moment if there are elephants in the areas. Please note, the wildlife viewing tours are only done between 2 pm – 6 pm, so if you arrive in the morning you’ll have a long wait. According to the guides, 4 pm – 6 pm is the best times as the heat is least intense and the elephants will come out of the forest.
Kui Buri National Park
Location: Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, THAILAND.
Nearest town: Hua Hin, approx. 78 km from Hua Hin Station to park entry point
Nearest Airport: Bangkok.
Nearest rail terminal: Hua Hin.
Recommended accommodation in Hua Hin: Subhamitra Hotel (price approx. 1000 THB per night). http://www.megaworldasia.com/hotels-and-accomodation/thailand/subhamitra-hotel-hua-hin/
National Park access: From Hua Hin – go south on Hwy #4 for approx. 56 km until the turn off to route # 1026. Turn right at route # 1026 and follow until T-Junction of route # 3217. Turn right at route # 3217 and follow until turn off to Kui Buri National Park.
NOTE: the turn off to Kui Buri National Park is indicated by a sign which says “elephants/wildlife viewing” and is the FIRST sign you see on the right. The distance from route # 4 to the turn off is approx. 14 km.
Turn right at the turn off to “elephants/wildlife viewing” then follow for approx. 6 km until a T-Junction. Turn right at T-Junction and follow signage a short distance until arriving at the parking area and entry point.
NOTE: as with all national parks in Thailand, there is an entrance fee for foreigners. The individual tour fee = 850 THB and you will be provided with a guide for the duration of the safari. If you are going in your own vehicle you will be charged an addition 200 THB.