Trekking (hiking) guide | Additional info on safety and jungle survival

Camping The following information are taken from various publications and our own experiences for nature walking in the forest of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Whenever you are in a national park, visit the information room to check for the rules and regulations plus curent weather and forest situations.

For park reservations or further information about Thailand's national parks visitors should contact the followings:

Royal Forestry Department in Bangkok
Phone : +66-2-561 4292 / 3 Ext. 722

Chief of National Parks
Phone: +66-2-503 1516
Tips and rules

Remember if you walk a relatively long trail in a national park inform the office ahead. For all overnight treks in the jungle you must inform the park office, and walk with a park's ranger. If you walk pass the hilltribe villages always inform the head man when you arrive a village. This is for your safety, and in the village the head man or his assistant will arrange the place for you to sleep.

Textbooks generally say we have three seasons or climates:
Hot season from February to June
Rainy season from June to October/November
Cool months from November to February

The current weather conditions and forecast should be checked with the meterological department and local people. The period of each season differ from region to region. Flooding (2007) is now a normal occurance during the rainy season till the middle or last week of October in several parts of the country. Jungle walking can be done any month of the year if the place to trek and camp are selected carefully. Always consult the knowledgable local people.

Thailand Meterological Department (Call center 1182)

Camping Dress
Even in the hot season, nights can be cool or even cold at higher elevations. Thus a light sweater or jacket are in order along with a sleeping bag. A thick jacket and heavy sweaters are advisable in the cool season when temperatures in northern Thailand and elsewhere may plummet to near freezing. For daytime wear, long pants and a long sleeved cotton shirt are recommended to prevent scratches and cuts from jungle foliage. So are a hat, good socks and sun glasses. Sneakers are fine during the dry months but in the monsoon season water proof boots are better, along with some light rain gear.

Normally we would recommend to bring a pair of strong walking shoes with good gripping power and a pair of sandals. During wet season nature trails can be muddy, and you will sometimes have to wade through the streams and even walk up small waterfalls. As well, village trails can be wet, muddy and slippery because of heavy use of cows, buffalos, and elephants during the wet months.

A serious nature lover intent to trying to observe wild life should wear colors which blend with the environment. For bird watchers, a hat is essential since an uplifted face is highly visible.

Some parks have tents for rent; the greater number do not and thus be brought along if camping is planned. Other basic gear for campers and trekkers might include the following : mat; a good back pack; first aid kit; basic toiletries and toilet paper; small knife; compass; maps and whistle; binoculars; canteen and plastic water container; flash light and extra batteries; candles; matches; basic cooking utensils; cups and dishes, spoons, can and bottle opener, and detergent in a plastic container. Several small rope lines and clips for hanging and drying clothes; and a larger stronger 20 meter length of rope if you go for a deep jungle trek will make the trip easier.

Proper packing of your stuff in the back pack is also important. Make sure each item is in its own place that you remember, and easy for you to reach. During the rainy season put the items into plastic bags before loading them into another larger plastic bag in your rucksack.

Your tent may not be waterproof (even if it says so) under the heavy rain. Therefore a sheet of light plastic or canvas cover is helpful. You may also need another sheet for camp meals. If you go camping in the jungle find dead wood on the ground for building fire. In this case you will need a trekking knife which normally is carried by your guide.

Please note in the southern Thailand's rain forests you can always expect the rain all year round.

Garbage and litter
Every visitor has the responsibility to ensure that plastic bags, bottles, tin cans and other garbage are disposed of at provided sites. If facilities are not available, visitors should take waste with them to the nearest disposal areas. It is recommended that visitors take a supply of large plastic bags to collect and dispose of garbage.

Wash water and food waste
Waters of natural rivers and lakes must not be contaminated with wash or used water, soaps, cosmetics and their plastic packages, food scraps, etc. Before you wash the dishes pack out all food scraps properly to carry to a safe place. Clean the dishes on the land, not in the river. Below is an example on how to wash them:

Prepare two new garbage bags. Half-fill one with soap water and the other with plain water. While one person is holding a water bag (now a kitchen sink) another team member can clean the dishes. Remember to pour the used water onto the ground at a reasonable distance from natural water sources and the camp site.

Do not wash yourself in the rivers using soaps. Take a swim in the river; but wash your hands, mouth, teeth, etc. on the land.

Disposal of human excrement (poo and pee)
Many camp sites in the national parks have public toilets and wash rooms. However if you are camping out in the forest where there are no such facilities find a place with thick soil layer, 50 meters or more away from natural waters. If the land is not flat choose an area where it is sloping away from the rivers.

Dig a hole of about 8 inches (20 cm) deep using a trowel or any other stuff available. Use a stick to mix your excrement with soil. Properly cover the hole with soil before you leave.

Do not bury the toilet papers and other hygiene products. Carry them in garbage bags (use double or triple bags) or destroy properly in a camp fire.

Peeing should be done far from the camp site.

During the dry months, from November to May, many forest become tinder dry and vulnerable to careless use of matches, cooking fires and discarded cigarettes. Warning are posted in some areas, but extra care must be taken to prevent fires especially during these hot and dry months.

Visitors are forbidden to bring firearms to all national parks. Rangers will sometimes carry weapons.

Plants and flowers
It is strictly forbidden to remove plants and flowers or collect butter flies, moths and other specimens from national parks. This also apply to spearing fish and taking coral from marine parks.

Special permission is needed to drive private vehicles into and within some parks.

Health and fitness

Most visitors come for a day, but those who intend to stay more time exploring a park should be in reasonably good physical condition. Walking in temperatures of 30ºC and more can take its toll. Trails in some of the parks are also rugged and steep.

How difficult are the treks?

If you plan to walk into the jungle out of the marked trails for overnight trek please read this.

Our overnight jungle treks are usually into the rain forest, ever green or semi-ever green, and dry ever-green forests. In Thailand altitudes are not great - the highest being just over 2500 meters above the sea. However you may be walking through thick plants with thorns, going up and down the steep slopes with little hand-holds, and bending yourselves very low under the bushes or going on all four. The trek leader will have to cut the thick plants to make way for walk. If you come from colder places of the world you may get sweat heavier than local people, and thus lose energy quicker.

You may also walk pass many river streams with rocks and stones some of them may be slippery. Sometimes you may even have to walk up a small waterfall on the rock. Being in the tropical zone rain forest which is rich is eco-system, our jungle have millions different kinds of plants and insects like ants, mosquitos, bees, leeches, tits, etc.

On the long distance multi days treks you will normally have to carry own back pack, water bottles, and sleeping bag. If you are not a good outdoor people having regular exercises, you will need to train yourselves at least few weeks ahead of joining an overnight jungle trek and camping. You should be in good shape without any serious health concerns.

Jungle camp sites are not flat grounds. We always try to find the best place closeby the stream. But it is not usually possible to get a reasonably smooth place to pitch the tents. People will have to clear un-wanted stuff on the ground before setting up tents. Due to long distance walk we may not bring mats.

In some jungle (e.g., parts of Kaeng Krachan, Khao Yai) due to steep slopes and valleys there is almost no good place to pitch tents; and thus we should sleep in hammocks. In these landscape people have to scramble and or traverse. If you must sleep in tent, we will provide small one-man tent and the ground need to be prepared using lot of energy.

Other difficult situations include having to build a raft or bridge (using bamboo) to cross a river, passing over difficult rock formation using ropes, building fire for cooking under heavy rain in very wet jungle.

There are montane or sub-montane (or hill evergreen) forests in higher hills (1000 to 2500 meters) of Thailand; for example Doi Inthanon, Phu Kradung, Ramkhamhaeng, Nam Nao, Phu Rua, Thung Salaeng Luang, Chiang Dao, and Phu Soi Dao. In these national parks and wildlife sanctuaries most nature trails are wide and relatively easy to walk. Nevertheless in every region or national park there are both easy and dificult trails. Easy trails and trails that lead to (famous) mountain-top, a view point or a nice waterfall tend to be more crowded especially during the holidays.

Malaria is a tropical disease. It is caused by Plamodium carried by Genus Anopheles (a kind of mosquito). There are two species of Anopheles: Anopheles Dirus and Anopheles Minimus. Anopheles lives in the forest where there are clean water sources. Only the female carry malaria. Malaria areas in Thailand include the forests in Tak, Surat Thani, Kanchanaburi, Yala, Chantaburi, Mae Hong Son, Nakon Sri Thammarat, Krabi, Prachuap Kirikhan and Sakaeo.

Four species of malaria are found in Thailand, namely Plamodium falciparum, Plamodium vivax, Plamodium ovalae, and Plamodium malariae. Roughly 51% of all marlaia found in Thailand are Plamodium falciparum.

Plamodium falciparum could block the blood flow to the brain resulting in coma and death if not treated in time.

Plamodium vivax is responsible for about 48% of malaria cases in Thailand. Plamodium vivax can hide in the liver for some time, and later it would run into the blood flow. Therefore people with Plamodium vivax can have signs of malaria again after the treatment.

The symptoms of malaria could come within 9 to 17 days after the mosquito bite. In the beginning you will have mild fever with headache and muscle pain. Then you will have high fever, and feel chilly. Therefore if you have fever one to two weeks after your jungle trip, you need to go to the hospital. Checking your blood can tell if you have malaria. The chance to find malaria is higher if you have your blood checked during high fever. Proper and quick treatment using effective medicine can kill malaria.

People think that if they take anti-malaria drug before going to the forest, they are safe from malaria. That is not true. Even if you take anti-malaria beforehand, you can get malaria. Generally it is not recommended to take anti-malaria drugs. It will make the disease more resistant to the drugs, and finding malaria in the blood sample becomes difficult. It is also possible that the disease would be found when your condition is worse. To know whether or not you may need a medicine, please see a doctor.

The best way to avoid malaria is to protect yourself from malaria carrying mosquito. Do not wear black or dark clothes. Apply insect repellant on your skin. Sleep in a good mosquito net or in the tent.

Malaria links
Mahidol University FAQ (English) | Siam Health (Thai) | Thai Clinic (Thai)

Upset stomach
Gesture-intestinal problems, which are not uncommon in Thailand, can ruin a trip to the wilderness. Take anti-diarrhea medicines like Lomotil or Immodium for immediate relief and consult a doctor if problem persist. Eating clean food and drinking safe water are the best preventatives.

Cheap and good bottled water is available throughout Thailand. If it is not, ensure your water is boiled for at least 20 minutes. At times, you may be tempted to drink from a mountain stream or river. The water from these is relatively safe unless it is located near human habitation or domestic animals. Water from such streams should not be drunk without boiling.

It is important to drink liquids continuously when undertaking strenuous activity in the tropics. It is worth mixing electrolytes into your water supply to help replace sodium and potassium loss more rapidly.

Cuts, blisters and bites
Anyone who travels into the forest or scrambles around on coral will sustain cuts and bruises. Ensure cuts are properly cleaned and use antiseptics to prevent infections. Pharmacies can provide you with a wide range of insect repellants and anti-histamine preparations to counteract insect bites, including nasty ones by ground-besting wasps. To avoid blisters wear well fitting footwear and good socks.

Ticks and bees
Ticks are the blood suckers, resembling insects. Their favorite places are decaying logs and grasslands. Beside feeding your blood they also give you a great itch. If you are bitten by one don't pull it off right away. Instead apply some balm on the creature so it will withdraw its fangs from your flesh. Then you can remove the tick without pain, but with the itch. However never scratch the bite since it could lead to infection.

Bees are normally safe as long as you do nothing to them. If you try to wipe away a bee on your body by sudden force, your action could stir the bee to sting. Be calm and gently shake off the bee, or if possible do nothing. However never let a bee go inside your clothes since a trapped bee is likely to sting in frustration.

These snackers on human blood are found in most forested areas close to or in water, particularly in the rainy season. They are unsightly but mostly painless and can be removed by (hand or) application of irritants such as salt, vinegar, alcohol, tobacco juice or a lighted cigarette. An old jungle trick is to rub your socks with a mixture of salt and tobacco before venturing into leech country.

In some national parks (for example Khao Yai) leech socks which are made of strong fabric that can not be penetrated by leeches are available for sale.

Snake bite (updated August 2003)
Poisonous snakes abound in most parks of Thailand but are seldom seen. The cobra and viper families are snakes most commonly encountered for which anti-venom exists in all government hospitals.

Information from FDA
In case of snake bite wash the bite with soap and water. Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart. Get medical help as soon as possible. If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom. The bandage must not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery.

A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits.

When you see snakes leave them alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get a closer look at it. Keep hands and feet out of areas you can't see. Don't pick up rocks or firewood unless you are out of a snake's striking distance.

Snakes sometimes come to the toilets and bathrooms in the campsite, to hunt frogs. So be careful when going to such places. If you find a snake in the bathroom stay away and immediately inform the forest workers.

Beware of hiding crawlies
During the wet season ground dweling creatures such as centipedes, scropions and some snakes seek dry places to stay. Such dry places happen to be your boots or bags! Therefore at night, before you rest, keep your things inside the tent or in plastic bags. It is also advised to check your shoes throughly before you put them on.

Man and carnivore
Waterfalls are far more dangerous than tigers or any other wild life found in parks. In Khao Yai, for example, there has been no known attack on tourists by big cats but there have been a number of deaths and injuries at waterfalls there and other parks. Slippery rocks, strong currents and foolhardiness ( some attempt to dive off ledges into pools below ) can be very hazardous. By far the biggest killer in parks is man behind the wheel of a vehicle. Elephants should, however , be treated with respect.

Medical kit
For a trip of one to three days, take an antiseptic, bandages, anti-diarrhea medicines, a tube of anti-histamine cream, sun block for sensitive skins and cotton wool, and packs of salt minerals (electrolytes) to supplement for the losses in sweating. First aid is available at park head quarters while more serious conditions can be dealt with at the nearest town.

Marine parks

Boating Anchors should be dropped in sand and not in coral heads. The forestry department has supplied buoys in some places which should be used whenever possible. It is strictly forbidden to spear fish in all marine parks.

According to the National Parks Act of 1961, the following activities are permitted: swimming, diving, sports, picnicing, and camping. Tents are permitted provided you set them up yourself. Leave anything valuable with park staff if you plan on being away from your camp for many hours. Please follow any warning or advice that park staff may have.

Be sure to notify park staff when making a fire. Do not take branches off trees; instead use the naturally fallen wood found on the ground, and put the fire out completely with water and sand before leaving.

Respect the local culture and religion; nude or topless sunbathing is forbidden. Do not disturb other guests and wildlife. Stay on established trails and in some places it may be necessary to have a park's guide (ranger) with you.

Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son

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