There are many reasons to come to Thailand, which is why more than 30 million visitors traveled the “Land of Smiles” from all over the world last year. People are drawn to the kingdom for myriad reasons: the chance to buzz around in a tuk tuk amid Bangkok’s temples and skyscrapers; or maybe it’s the allure of chillaxing in a hammock on one of Thailand’s many spectacular islands . . . then there’s the food, that delicious Thai cuisine full of bold flavors and spices.
However, another truly wonderful element that Thailand boasts is its breadth of bountiful nature. There are almost 150 national parks and more than 50 wildlife sanctuaries and more than 100 forest parks where visitors can encounter a wide range of animals. It’s easy to see playful (but potentially thieving) monkeys, beautiful exotic birds and, with a little luck, you might even see leopards, bears or plenty of other mammals you may have never heard of before.
In Thailand, there are 336 mammals, almost 400 reptiles, more than 150 amphibians, close to 3,000 types of fish and more than 1,000 types of birds, and more than 500 species of them (118 mammals, 168 birds, 49 reptiles 18 amphibians and 202 fishes) are classified as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List—considered to be the world’s most authoritative published inventory of globally threatened plant and animal species.
Molly Ferrill has spent more than three years in Thailand documenting wildlife, and she has written and taken photos for “National Geographic,” which has awarded her a Young Explorers Grant.
“Many people look for experiences with captive animals when they come to Thailand, but I think it is so much more special to witness them in the wild,” Ferrill says. “Not only to see them, but to hear them—when I first stayed overnight in a national park in Thailand, I was amazed to hear how deafening the sounds of the forest can be at night; it’s so full of life.”
Switching ecosystems, if you are planning to hit the beach in Thailand, the water is clear in many areas and you can see beautiful tropical fish and marine life while snorkeling. If you go scuba diving, you will have more of a chance to see sharks or turtles. And if you take a special boat trip in certain areas, you can even see pink dolphins or giant Bryde’s whales jumping out of the water.