This was my first visit to Nam Nao National Park which is located in Phetchabun Province. I had been intending to visit the park for a while, so with decent weather forecast I set out early on Tuesday 24th April 2018 to spend the day in the area. As things turned out I had to cut short my visit, but more of that later.
First Impressions of Nam Nao National Park
Arriving at the park entrance about 8.30am I was met by friendly staff, invited to book in and charged ฿230 which is the entrance fee plus 30 Baht for my vehicle. I drove down the access road for a couple of kilometers and arrived at the visitors centre(VC on map) where there is a large car park, shops and a place to buy cooked food. As I parked up another friendly member of staff approached me and offered me a map(see opposite) and brochure showing the parks facilities.
This is mostly in Thai. But if you look closely at the map image you can get the general layout of the site. Google maps also provides a good view of the area on the satellite image.
The lady spoke to me in Thai, some of which I didn’t understand, especially when she pointed to my footwear. She also indicated I should bird the campground and not the jungle trails. It was only later that I understood the significance of this advice!
I was already familiar with the general layout of the trails and campgrounds having researched them on various Thai birding sites so I decided to explore the short(paved) trail near the visitor centre despite the advice I had received!
Exploring the Nature Trail Nam Nao National Park.
Several trails can be accessed from behind the visitor centre but the one to the left(at the foot of the access stairway) is a short loop of around 1km distance. The trail leads through primary rain forest and is quite dark with few breaks in the canopy. It is also undulating and the paving is broken in many places. At one point I had to cross a shallow stream with no choice but to get my feet wet since the bridge is clearly long gone.
There were lots of birds in this area with a group of White-crested Laughingthrush providing plenty of noise. I also got a view of a couple of Scarlet Minivet in a break in the canopy, but in the main, although the birds were vocal, I saw very few.
There was also evidence of recent elephant activity in the area, in several places bamboo was broken by the animals and blocking the trail.
I completed the loop and exited the area via the stairway back to the car park somewhat disappointed. While I am sure an avid bird watcher would find the trail interesting trying to get any usable images would be beyond my technical abilities.
With photography in mind I then decided to explore the extensive area of the campgrounds, which are open and surrounded by mature trees.
Exploring the Camp Grounds Nam Nao National Park
The camp grounds at Nam Nao NP cover several acres and are surrounded with mature trees, many of these are pine. Initially I walked the area to get some orientation before settling down in a shady spot near a stream to see what turned up.
I didn’t have to wait long before a Greater Yellownape and a Red-billed Blue Magpie put in
appearances. These birds were then joined by a flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes and a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Several other smaller forest dwellers were observed and heard.
A family of Red Junglefowl wandered by my location while the Laughingthrushes approached quite close to where I was sitting enjoying a packed lunch.
Unfortunately it was at this point that I noticed a red stain spreading up my socks above the top of my trainers! Further investigation revealed two extremely bloody socks with some black blobs in the blood.
I had been leeched. I had bites on both feet but the leeches were dead, having sated themselves on my blood and got crushed as I walked! The wounds were bleeding profusely.
Suddenly I realised what the park employee had meant when she pointed to my footwear at the visitor centre on my arrival. She was telling me trainers were not suitable footwear for the nature trail!
Fortunately the visitor centre provided some antiseptic and sticking plaster but with bloody socks and soggy trainers and an 80km drive ahead of me I reluctantly quit my activities and headed home at 2.30pm.
Final Thoughts on Nam Nao National Park Phetchabun
Although I did not explore all the trails or indeed all of the camp ground area my first impressions are that Nam Nao could well be a birders paradise and given the right light pretty good for photography too.
On the day I visited I was the only visitor, the park staff are very friendly and helpful and the entrance fee is reasonable for a Thai National Park. There is also food and drink available on site as well as accommodation(bungalows or tents) for anyone wanting to overnight.
I will certainly return, probably after the rains end in November, more suitably attired I might add, because leeches are clearly an issue on the wet jungle trails whatever the season.
A list of species I observed in my curtailed visit to Nam Nao can be viewed here on E-bird.
Getting to Nam Nao National Park
Nam Nao is located at the side of Highway 12(Km406) about 50km from Lom Sak as you drive in the direction of Chumpae. The road is good although there are considerably roadworks near Lom Sak(April 2018). The mountain sections are steep and undulating with some serious curves! Mostly there is an overtaking lane in favour of ascending traffic.