Most visitors to Thailand come for the beaches, jungles, nightclubs, and shopping malls – but the wildlife in this tropical country is equally fascinating. Some animals in Thailand can only be seen in zoos and controlled environments, but others are still out there, waiting to be discovered.
Elephants - not dangerous, but don’t provoke them
Let’s start off this list with Thailand’s national symbol – the elephant. Their overall population is declining, but you can still find them all over the country. The first place you should visit is Elephant Nature Park, near Chiang Mai. It’s a respected place, and serves as an elephant conservation project. Elephant Nature Park is home to a number of elephants that have been rescued from other places, and are now able to roam freely. Another great Chiang Mai destination is called Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. This organisation actually has a few locations around the country, but Chiang Mai is home to their biggest branch. The staff here give elephants essential health treatment, while spreading awareness about the issues that the world’s elephants are facing – as well as the respect they deserve. For a chance to see these gentle giants in the wild, pay a visit to Khao Yai National Park.
Macaques – not dangerous, but beware of your belongings
You may come across the occasional crab-eating macaque when you’re at the beach, as they find their dinner in the same place where you might go to work on your tan. Yet these interesting little creatures do eat other things also, such as fruits. They are easy to spot, and you’ll most likely find them in groups. When you arrive at the beach, they will be there waiting for you. Just be careful of your surroundings and protect your belongings, since they have been known to snatch unguarded items.
Tokay geckos – try to not get too close to them
You may have stumbled upon lizards before, but have you seen a tokay gecko? They can grow up to twelve inches long, while normal geckos usually only grow to about one to two inches. Geckos are commonly seen in Thailand due to its warm and humid climate. They like to live in trees, where they can hide and eat insects. However, some of them have adapted to urban areas, where they stick to walls and ceilings. Their mating call is loud, deep, and raspy – a sound that can be heard from a distance. This curious noise is one of the tokay gecko’s well-known characteristics.
Asian monitor lizards – keep a good distance away
Another type of animal you may come across is the Asian monitor lizard, which grows to be up to two metres long – even larger than the tokay gecko. Whether you’re at the park, beach, or the forest, you’re likely to see one of these hefty animals. They can even be found in urban locations, especially when it’s the monsoon season. If you’re in Bangkok and want to meet one in person, then visit Lumphini Park. These remarkable lizards spend most of their time on the grass by the water, just minding their own business. Incidentally, Lumphini is the best park in Bangkok, and maybe all of Thailand, thanks in small part to the special charm of the Asian monitor lizard.
King cobras - dangerous
Animals aren’t always lovable or peaceful. Dangerous snakes like the King Cobra can be found in Thailand, even though they are rarely encountered. Most of them are in the jungle, so you should be aware of your surroundings, especially when you’re hiking or camping.
Whale sharks – not dangerous, but respect their space
For those who love to go scuba diving and snorkelling, you can have the opportunity to see a magnificent whale shark. Don’t let the name scare you. These gentle giants are totally harmless. They love the warm tropical weather, and if you’re lucky enough, you can have an unforgettable experience swimming alongside them. Whale shark sightings are common in the month of April, and sometimes in February and March. The Richelieu Rock in Phang-nga and Hin Daeng in Krabi are two of the most popular diving sites where you can find these majestic creatures.
Tigers - dangerous
Last but certainly not least, the tiger is a legendary beast. If you want to see one for yourself, your best bet is finding them at the zoo or in captivity. Safari World is a good option, as part of a day trip from central Bangkok. If you’re travelling with your family, it’s a good place to visit, as there are plenty of other animals to see as well. Other possibilities include Tiger Kingdom in Phuket or Chiang Mai, which let you get up close with this big cat – even getting the chance to pet, feed and take photos with one if you wish.
So, get out there, and see for yourself why the animals in Thailand are so remarkable. Walking (and swimming) among some of nature’s greatest creations could give you newfound respect for our world, along with plenty of stories to tell once you get back home.