Nothing calms the soul like retreating into the serenity and beauty of mother nature. Environs where our minds are at peace as we gaze undisturbed at fauna and flora. Thailand is gifted with an abundance of such places, but few of them combine forest and sea as nicely as our Let’s Go feature this month. Located in the cosy province of Prachuap Khiri Khan and boasting of two islands, the Hat Wanakon National Park is a marvellous place in which to spend one or several days of tranquillity, alone or with loved ones. The Park is located off of Petchkasem Road (Highway 4), about 23 km’s from Prachuap Khiri Khan town towards Thap Sakae. From Bangkok, it’s about a 4-hour drive, covering 300 km’s in distance.
The Hat Wanakon National Park got its start as a forest park before it was upgraded to a national park in 1992. Covering a total of thirty-eight square kilometres, it is one of the smallest national parks in Thailand, which makes exploring it a convenient feat.
Sixty percent of the Park is land, with the balance water. This includes a long stretch of beach and out into the sea for seven kilometers encompassing two islands. The Park is home to an extraordinary number of different varieties of plants. The stretch of sandy beach across the Park is very clean and well maintained. More than sixty types of wildlife can be found in the area, including porcupines, the tree shrew, squirrels, the Burmese hare, skunks, the golden jackal, and various snakes.
Birds are also plentiful, with more than forty-eight species populating the area. Not surprisingly, bird watching is a common hobby amongst people who make their way here. Some of the more interesting birds that can be viewed include the Pacific Reef Egret, the black Drongo, the Black Naped Oriole, the Blue Tailed Bee Eater, and the Indian Roller.
Likewise, the sea is home to a large variety of aquatic creatures ranging from the common to more unique, such as the snakehead fish, the walking catfish, and the climbing perch. The area is also home to dolphins, which inhabit deeper waters but can be seen from the shoreline.
To me, the highlight of the Park is the two islands, Ko Chan and Ko Tai-si. About 7 km offshore, they boast the most abundant coral reef in the Gulf of Thailand, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Thankfully, fishing boats are not allowed to enter.
Hat Wanakon National Park extends up to the peaks of the Tenasserim Hills, which separate Thailand from Myanmar through the creation of a natural border—allowing you to trek into the mountains and stroll on the beach all on the same day. There are several trails that hikers can take, amongst them the Hua Krang and the Hin Chuang nature trails, which extend two kilometers and three and a half kilometers, respectively. Hua Krang leads you on a casual two-hour stroll, while the Hin Chuang route takes about three hours. The trails take you through a large variety of flora, including an extensive array of mango and bamboo trees.
There are a variety of beaches popular at the Park. The most prominent one is Wanakon beach, which on days of low tide extends up to a hundred and fifty metres into the water, allowing for visitors to venture into the sand and feel as if they’re endlessly walking out to the shoreline. It is common for visitors to venture into the Park at dawn and watch the stunning sunrise above the crystalline shoreline. This part of the beach gets a great breeze, making for a cool atmosphere even during the hottest days of the year.
Another popular area is Makha Bay. The visuals from here are so striking that visitors often remain for hours.
Getting to Hat Wanakon National Park is easy and can be done in several ways. The most convenient is by car, as it is just an hour and a half from nearby Hua Hin. If you are not in a hurry and don’t mind travelling with a group, you can always take the bus or train. If traveling by train, you’ll have to arrange transportation from the train station to the Park.
With so much to offer, the Hat Wanakon National Park is a site that must be visited for sure if you’re an avid lover of nature, of the sea, of the mountains, or all of the above. This relatively new Park is the perfect place in which to spend a few casual hours or days getting your fill of the beach, hills, sun, wildlife, flora, and seaside breeze. If you have yet to go, you’re definitely missing out.