Thailand's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are some of the best and most extensive in Southeast Asia, and although abundant wildlife is found everywhere in the kingdom, they are the best places to see rare and protected species. Almost all parks have on-site accommodation and food, trails of varying levels of difficulty, and many organise trips, recreational and educational activities.
Khao Yai National Park, three hours from Bangkok, is another excellent nature study site, with many research projects currently underway on creatures such as gibbons, tigers and hornbills.
Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuaries in Uthai Thani and Kanchanaburi provinces respectively are two of the best places to start. They contain such magnificent creatures as bears, leopards, tigers, elephants, tapirs, deers, gibbons, monkeys, macaque, guars, shy forest ox, and banteng, or wild red cattle.
Khao Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Chon Buri Province has an open zoo which makes its wildlife particularly accessible. Species include guar, dusky languar, barking deer and browantlered deer. In one of the largest aviaries in the world, it also has the sarus crane and black-necked stork, which it is hoped will one day be reintroduced to the wild.
In Kaeng Krachan National Park, the country's largest pristine forest, there are superb walking trails around a 36-kilometre road, and treks of up to two weeks can be organised. Be prepared for some truly inspiring trees, 70 metres tall
and more. Where the forest is open, it is like being inside a living cathedral.