Thap Lan National Park was declared as Thailand’s 40th National Park in December 1981. It is the country’s second largest National Park, covering an area of 2,235.80 sq.km. The highest peak of the Park is Khao Lamang, at a height of 992 m above sea level. Thap Lan National Park extends across two provinces: Nakhon Ratchasima and Pranchin Buri. Park Headquarters are situated about 197 km from Bangkok. The Thap Lan area is comprised of continuous mountain ranges with naturally created valleys, chasms and waterfalls.
Thap Lan National Park is one of six related areas under the management of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, which together constitute Queen Sirikit’s Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, in recognition of Her Majesty the Queen’s 72nd birthday anniversary. The other five areas are Khao Yai National Park, Pangsida National Park; Ta Phraya National Park; Phraphutthachai National Park; and Dongyai Wildlife Sanctuary. See the relevant brochures for more information on each area.
Of Cultural Interest:
The fan palm has a special place in Thai culture as its leaves were used as parchment, on which Buddhist texts were inscribed.
During the 1960s and 1970s, communist guerillas sought refuge in the area we know today as Thap Lan National Park. These refugees cleared forest for rice cultivation, and the remnants of their encampments can still be seen today.
More recently, influential officials exploited local villagers, forcing them to carry out illegal logging within the Park’s boundaries. Often, the loggers settled in the Park to enable them to easily clear new land for agriculture. However, attitudes have begun to change in recent years, and now the villagers themselves are working with Park authorities to help restore the Park’s forests. For example, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand has sponsored one project involving tree planting at the edge of the Park. The trees are provided by the Royal Forest Department and are planted by local villagers. Wildlife Fund Thailand (an NGO) provides expertise and training for the villagers, and has helped them to make an exhibition in the village to explain the project to the wider community.
The landscape is of big and small mountains lining in a large area. The highest peak is Khao Lamang with its height of 992 meters from the sea level. The continuous mountain ranges have naturally created valleys, chasms and waterfalls, which are the sources of rivers, such as Moon River and Bang Pakong River.
Thap Lan has three main seasons, with a mean annual temperature of 28šC.
Rainy Season: May-October. During the rainy season it rains most days, though is wettest in October. In the rainy season around 269 mm of rain falls at Thap Lan, resulting in spectacular waterfalls (although there may be lots of leeches; be prepared!).
Cold Season: November-February. At Thap Lan between November-February, one can expect cool and dry weather, great for hiking the many trails of the Park! This is also the most comfortable time of the year for camping, though nights can be cold. The coolest month is December, with an average daily maximum of 24šC.
Hot Season: March-April. During the hot season, temperatures at Thap Lan can reach 31šC, which is still a welcome relief from the rest of the country at this time. During this season it is dry, and waterfalls can be reduced to a mere trickle.
Fan Palm Forest: Found in Thap Lan National Park, near Ban Thap Lan, Ban Khun Sri Bupram and Ban Wang Mued, are the rare Fan Palm, or Talipot Palm Forests. In the past, these forests covered much of the northeast region of Thailand, though the spread of agriculture saw the destruction of a large number of Palm Forests. Today, Thap Lan is home to one of the few such forests remaining in Thailand. Fan Palms are an ancient plant that produce a single massive inflorescence, the largest in the plant kingdom, containing up to 60 million flowers. After this huge exertion of energy, the tree dies.
Dry Evergreen Forest: Most of Thap Lan is covered in evergreen forest, particularly on the lower mountain slopes of the Park ranges. There are a number of important plant species found within this forest type, including Dipterocarps and Hopia. Bamboo is also often found in drier forests.
Because Thap Lan National Park covers such a large area, and is connected to the areas of Khao Yai, Pangsida, and Ta Praya, it is home to a number of wild animals, including tigers, elephants, buffalos, bangtang, serow, black bears, sun bears, crown gibbons, hornbills, pheasants and lorikeets, amongst others. A total of 149 bird species have been confirmed within the Park, including several rare species restricted to low-land evergreen forest, such as the green imperial pigeon, stork-billed kingfisher and scaly-crowned babbler.
There is faint hope that one of the most endangered mammals in the world, the Kouprey, may still survive in Thailand’s National Parks of Thap Lan and Pangsida. Though one has not been sighted within Thailand for more than 30 years, this primitive cattle species could provide genes valuable in the production of disease-free strains of domestic cattle.
Poaching and illegal cultivation of many animals and plants in the past and present have depleted species numbers in many of Thailand’s National Parks and other natural areas, including Thap Lan. What remains is invaluable, and we must not allow anybody to take further advantage or damage these populations again.