Kui Buri National Park Trip: Wild Elephant Sanctuary at its best

Nestled just an hour’s drive from the vibrant vacation spot of Hua Hin, Kui Buri National Park is considered the best wild elephant watching spot in Thailand. In 1999 this hidden gem became a haven for more than 300 wild elephants, making it a must-visit destination for ecotourism and wildlife lovers. Park is also home to gaurs (Asian wild bison), leopards and a large variety of birds.

As our family of four had a couple of lazy days at Sam Roi Yot Beach, located 48 km to the south of Hua Hin, we decided to try out the marvels of Kui Buri on our own. We considered buying an organised tour, but changed our mind then and booked just a taxi for 1800 Thai baht (50 EUR/USD) for a round trip. 

Elephant Mom with her baby in Kui Buri national park
Elephant Mom with her baby in Kui Buri national park

Elephant watching is done in the late afternoon / evening, so we left our hotel at 2 pm and after a 50-minute drive (60 km) through picturesque pineapple fields, mango and rubber tree groves hopped out at the main park entrance at Huai Luek Unit. 

Tickets for foreigners cost 200 baht (6 EUR/USD) per person, kids under 11 years get it for 100 THB (3 EUR/USD). Our 12 year old daughter managed to get the discounted ticket, so the total ticket price for 4 members of our family was 600 baht (18 EUR/USD).

Not to forget, as animals can be often distant or partially hidden in the forest, it is recommended to rent the binoculars in the visitor centre for 50 THB (1.50 EUR/USD).

Additionally, private cars are not allowed in the park, so you have to rent a 4WD truck with a park driver and a local guide for another 850 THB (25 EUR/USD). One safari truck can accommodate up to 8 people who can share the cost, but nobody joined ours, so we had a bit more expensive, but comfortable private ride ๐Ÿ™‚ After covering the total entrance fee of 1450 THB (600 baht tickets + 850 baht guide and truck), we were finally able to enter the park at 3 pm.

Kui Buri national park map
Map of 5 wildlife watching areas in Kui Buri national park

Let the elephant safari begin

There are 5 official watching areas in the park, but guides communicate via walkies and they stop the trucks whenever one of them spots the majestic creatures we are after.

We are lucky to see elephants right at the 1st stop. Family of four, they are around 150 meters away, so it is not easy to capture a close up, but it is a neat experience. Our local guide barely speaks English, but we can feel the passion and love she has for the animals in the park. Actually, park concept is highly ecological. They use electricity from solar panels, build water reservoirs and employ guides from local ethnic community. In case some of the elephants cross the park borders to taste the sweet mangoes in the farm fields, rangers try to repulse them back with minimum force, mostly using firecrackers. 

2nd and 3rd stops are similar, beautiful nature and small herds of elephants some 100 meters away. 4th stop is a bit unexpected at the water reservoir, as a couple of elephants decided to have an afternoon drink and stroll on its banks. Interesting fact is that Asian elephants rarely have tusks: in contradiction to their African cousins, Asian female elephants have no tusks at all and only some of the males do.  

Wildlife watching in Kui Buri national park
Wildlife watching in Kui Buri national park

In the last watching area we met an English family from Sheffield. Parents came to visit their son, who has been living in Thailand for twelve years. Guy is a photo enthusiast, carries Nikon pro gear with 200-500 mm tele lens. Actually, he is one of the few in our gang capable of capturing detailed photos of the elephants we see. He notices my old Nikon D90 and out of pure Nikon brotherhood, proposes to lend me his pro tele lens for a while. That one is a complete game changer. Wooey, I am finally able to make a real close up of the elephants ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you, fellow Sheffielder.

After two and a half hours we are back at the entrance. If you are a nature enthusiast and keen on eco adventures, visiting Kui Buri park can be a very enriching experience. Great value for money, suitable for all: solo travelers, couples or families. In my opinion, you get a very authentic experience, nature is magnificent and the likelihood of spotting elephants is very high.

On the other hand, for safety reasons park guides make sure you always stay at least 100 meters away from the elephant herds. So if you expect a close encounter with big animals, something similar to the African Serengeti or Kruger national park safaris, this trip might not meet your expectations.


What time does Kui Buri open?
Huai Luek Wildlife Watching Area, from where the elephant safari tours start, is open every day from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Can you visit the park with kids?
Of course, riding on the trucks is quite fun for the whole family. However, I would not recommend bringing children younger than 5 years.

What is the trip duration?
Visitors from Hua Hin / Prachuap Khiri Khan area (50-80 km): half day
Park safari itself takes 2-3 hours and consider another 2 hours for taxi from/to your hotel. 

Visitors from Bangkok (280 km): one day
You will find one-day-trip offers in Bangkok travel agencies, just I would recommend discussing the transportation details in advance, as the distance can make the trip quite exhausting.  

What is the trip cost?
If you go from Hua Hin or Prachuap Khiri Khan area, all you need to do is to arrange a taxi. Our individual trip (organized on our own) cost us approx. 23 EUR/USD per person, taxi included. 

Anyway, if you want a package and no hassle, then booking via agency is definitely a good idea, just expect to pay from 70 EUR/USD up for a half day trip per person.

4 persons (visit in December 2023)Our trip cost
2x adult ticket400 THB
2x children ticket (4-11 years)200 THB
Park guide and 4WD truck850 THB
Taxi from/to hotel1800 THB
Total cost3250 THB (95 EUR/USD)
Cost per person812 THB (23 EUR/USD)

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