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Nam Nao National Park
 Introduction

Orange-breasted Trogon
(By Suppalak Klabdee)
 

Nam Nao National Park covers 966 square kilometres in Petchabun and Chaiyapum provinces in northeast Thailand. The park consists mainly of dry dipterocarp, mixed deciduous, hill evergreen and pine forests. The open and dry nature of the deciduous and pine forests, with their lush ground cover of grasses, allows birdwatchers to obtain good, unobscured views of many species that are seldom seen elsewhere.

The area around headquarters has many trails, both long and short, which go through a variety of forest types allowing the birdwatcher to see a high number of species. On one memorable trip in March 2002 I saw 108 species in thirty six hours!

The pine forests at Nam Nao are picturesque and quite different to the habitat types that most birders visit on their trips to Thailand and there seems to be a very healthy and obvious population of Asian Elephants in this park. I find Nam Nao a relaxing place with some of the more knowledgeable and approachable staff of any National Park in Thailand and some excellent food is available to break the monotony of fried rice and noodles. Nam Nao definitely deserves to be on the main birdwatching tour around Thailand.

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 Birding Highlights

Nam Nao seems to be seldom visited by bird watchers these days but it is a great place to see many species which are tricky to get good views of elsewhere. This is an excellent place to see Woodpeckers, with Lesser and Greater Yellownapes being particularly common. Common and Greater Flamebacks are also easily seen as are Grey Capped Woodpeckers. Many other species of woodpecker are present, and I usually see about eight species of Woodpecker in a three day visit. White-hooded Babbler is a bird which seems unusually abundant here as are Red-headed Trogon and Green Magpie. Other notable birds that I often see in this park are Blue Pitta, Collared Falconet, Silver Pheasant, Bar-backed Partridge and Blossom-headed Parakeet.

Birds apart, there are still good populations of large mammals here and vegetation which has been flattened by Asian Elephants is widespread. If you get out onto the trails where this occurs in the very early morning you are quite likely to hear or even see the elephants themselves; be careful, on one occasion I was watching small birds in the grass when a male elephant walked out onto the trail only a few metres away! Other large mammals I have seen here are Leopard and Yellow-throated Marten.

 
Greater Flamebacks
(By Suppalak Klabdee)
Click here for a checklist of the birds of Nam Nao National Park
  Bird Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
Nam Nao National Park  

Getting to Nam Nao National Park is not too difficult but if arriving by public transport good timing is essential. From Bangkok take a bus to Lom Sak from the Mor Chit bus terminal; these leave quite regularly but it is essential to get on one leaving by 9 am at the latest. The journey takes about 6 hours, terminating at Lom Sak bus station which is a quiet out-of-town place at a large crossroads. From here catch a bus to Khon Kaen: in the past I have had to wait quite some time for this. Usually I have managed to get this connection by four o'clock and arrived at Nam Nao about 1 hour before dark; just enough time to set up the tent! When on the bus tell the conductor you want to get off at Nam Nao and they will stop at the right place for you - in the forest at the start of a dirt track where there is a gatehouse. Pay the entrance fee and either walk about 2 Km to HQ or hitch; sometimes the guy at the gate will call for a lift.

Travelling by car is easy; from Bangkok head north and follow the signs for Petchabun and from there to Lom Sak. At the large crossroads just before Lom Sak turn right and continue until seeing the HQ sign. Turn left down the dirt track and continue for 2 Km where HQ is situated. Driving from Bangkok will take just under 6 hours

If coming from Chiang Mai any bus to Petchabun will pass Lom Sak bus station, although for some reason does not actually enter it. One must get of at the large crossroads and then get the bus heading to Khon Kaen to enter the National Park. If coming from Chiang Mai leave early to ensure a convenient arrival time as this is a surprisingly long journey with the bus going at walking pace over some large hills. If coming from Khon Kaen any bus to Lom Sak or Petchabun will get you to park HQ.

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 Finding Birds

Due to the different habitats that Nam Nao possesses, certain places are more likely than others to find specific species. The open pine forests are great places to observe Woodpeckers and Barbets, with White-bellied Woodpecker a notable highlight. I have seen this species and Great Slaty Woodpecker close to HQ and along the trail to Dong Paek.

The lush evergreen forest along the river valleys is a great place to find many species, including Blue Pitta and Silver Pheasant. Trogons are plentiful in these areas and a large tree just behind the HQ building is an excellent place to sit and observe many species feeding.

Dong Paek Phu Goom Khao Headquarters  

Dong Paek : The trail to this tiny area of grassland begins a little way along the road towards Lom Sak; a dirt track and gate can be seen on the southern side of the road. It is a pleasant trail through open pine forest and excellent views of birds can be had here. Woodpeckers are abundant and Barbets too and it is also a good place to get a sighting of Blossom-headed Parakeet and Small Minivet. Grassland birds can be found along here too, with Yellow-eyed Babbler and Brown Prinia often being seen along with the more common Rufescent Prinia as well as the darker (non-breeding) blanfordi subspecies of Plain Prinia.

One might also be rewarded with a sighting of an Elephant on this track.

Phu Goom Khao : This a large area of open pine forest located at the end of a 14 kilometre dirt track which can be driven without 4-wheel drive in the dry season. Similar species to Dong Paek can be found but this place has a strong feeling of wilderness. A river here is a good place for Slaty-backed Forktail and I have seen Collared Falconet and Oriental Turtle Dove (which does not seem to be reported very often) at this location. The forest canopy is very open here and sunscreen is advisable as it gets very hot in the sunshine.

Trail 1 : This 1 kilometre circular trail has a hard surface so is suitable for all weathers. There are a number of small trails to follow off of the main trail allowing plenty of birds to be found. White-hooded Babbler, Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Blue Pitta and Black-throated Laughingthrush are all regulars here. Bar-backed Partridge can usually be found along here if one is quiet and there always seem to be mixed bird flocks feeding in this area. Collared Owlet can nearly always be heard here, but I have never managed to get a decent view of it as it hides in dense foliage.

Trails 2, 3 & 4 : These trails are the main ones here and are progressively longer versions of each other. The area along the river has some very productive birding with regular Long-tailed Broadbill, Speckled Piculet, White-hooded Babbler and White-crowned Forktail. On a number of occasions I have seen male Silver Pheasant along here. I find the shorter trails 2 or 3 pleasant walking at 3 Km and 4.5 Km respectively and trail 4 is worth walking until it becomes quite indistinct where it veers away from the stream. Where these trails unite in open pine forest plenty more birds can be found with Woodpeckers becoming easy to spot and Collared Falconet often putting in an appearance.

Trail 5 : I have never walked this 3.5 Km trail, but it appears to go through some excellent habitat and ends up at a fine viewpoint. The main disadvantage of this trail is that it emerges on the road 5 Km from the HQ access track leaving a long walk back.

  Trail 1 Trails 2, 3 & 4 Trail 5
 Facilities
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Nam Nao is a pleasant place to stay as the National Park facilities are quite good, which is lucky because there is not really anywhere else to stay. There is a large and well-maintained campsite, which has plenty of clean and operational toilets and showers. Camping equipment  such as tents, blankets, pillows, lights and braziers can be cheaply rented here. The two-man tents are tiny and pretty rotten, so it's best to go for the bigger version if you don't bring your own tent. The campsite closest to the headquarters building can get busy with noisy and quite discordant guitar playing so walk a little further to the campsite extension where it is usually quieter.


Car park & Restaurants at Nam Nao
(Photo by Nick Upton)

There are also cabins for rent ranging from 800 to 3000 baht per night. Most of these cater for large  groups, and only 3 of them are for groups up to 5 strong (these are the 800 per night ones). The quality is  not fantastic, but they do have electricity and hot showers. The cabins are supposed to be booked before arrival at the National Park Department in Bangkok; 61 Phahonyothin Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900. If  your Thai isn't up to scratch I'm not sure how successful this would be, but the number to call is; 02 579  7223 or try booking through the internet at www.dnp.go.th However, the staff at this park are friendly and accommodating and if you just turn up and ask they'll give  you a cabin if one is unoccupied (they WILL be full at weekends or holidays though). The following table gives the accommodation options in full, but please remember that these prices are a few years old now so don't be surprised if they are slightly higher.

Accommodation Price List
Accommodation
Name
No of persons Price
(baht per night)
Nam Nao 101
Nam Nao 102
Nam Nao 103
Nam Nao 104
Nam Nao 105
Nam Nao 106
Nam Nao 107
Nam Nao 108
Nam Nao 109
Nam Nao 110
Nam Nao 112
Nam Nao 113
Nam Nao 114
Nam Nao 115
Tent
Tent
Tent
Own Tent
11
12
6
9
12
4
4
30
4
12
4
4
4
8
2
3
4
-
3000
3500
3200
1500
3500
1000
1000
3000
1000
3500
2000
2000
2000
4000
40
250
800
30
National Park Entrance Fee: (Non-Thai Nationals) Adults - 200 baht, Children - 100 baht
At headquarters there are some restaurants that sell very good food cheaply, and beer so you can celebrate some of your sightings. Deep fried fish with garlic or chilli is very tasty here and ridiculously cheap at about 50 baht. These restaurants open at about 6 a.m. and close at about 9 p.m. or later if you are still spending money. Basic supplies such as candles, toilet paper and soap can be bought here and if you are cold you can choose from an extensive selection of bizarre woollen hats.
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 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Tours

Other Northeastern Thailand Birding Locations

 Photo Galleries


Mixed Pine/Deciduous Forest


Forest Trail


Bungalow


HQ Area
 Trip Reports

Nam Nao, 16-18th July 1999

Nam Nao, 2-5th August 2000

Northeastern and Northern Thailand, 28th June-21st July 2007

 

by Peter Ericsson

by Peter Ericsson

by Stephen Totterman

 Related Blog Entries
Tour of Thailand, 17 January to 6 February 2008 - posted 05/03/08
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