Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary

Due to it's remote location Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary is still well off the tourist radar. Nestled deep in the forest is Thi Lor Su Waterfall, Thailand's largest and most spectacular waterfall.

Umphang wildlife sanctuary is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site near to Umphang district in Tak province, northern Thailand. The area was formally announced as a protected sanctuary in 1989.

To the east of Umphang wildlife sanctuary is Mae Wong National Park, to the south is Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary and then several national parks in Kanchanaburi province. The whole area surrounding the sanctuary forms the largest protected area in South East Asia and is home to a vast array of exotic birds, plants, reptiles and mammals.

Thi Lor Su Waterfall

Deep in the forest you will find Thailand’s largest and most spectacular waterfall, Thi Lor Su. Thi Lor Su means “black” waterfall in Karen language. Due to the remote location the waterfall was only discovered and ‘put on the map’ around 20 years ago.

umphang wildlife sanctuary thi lor su waterfallThi Lor Su waterfall, hidden deep in Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary

During the peak of the wet season from August – October, water thunders down huge limestone cliffs and can stretch up to 400 metres wide and 250 metres high. It is the largest waterfall in Thailand and considered to be in the top 5 of the largest waterfalls in Asia. There are multiple falls, streams and pools to bathe in and whilst the most spectacular time to visit is between July and November, water flows throughout the year.

It is possible to swim all around the waterfall during the dry months, but the wet season is far too dangerous, although there is still a small section which is safe enough to bathe. It is also possible to trek to the top of the waterfalls which is particularly adventurous during the wet season. Thi Lor Su waterfall also has a large camping area with toilets, shower facilities, and a small shop.


Getting to Thi Lor Su waterfall

There are various ways of getting to Thi Lor Su waterfall, by road or by a combination of rafting and trekking. The falls are only accessible by road between November and May, after arriving at the sanctuary headquarters, the waterfall is located a further 1.5km walk along a marked trail.

During the rainy season the access road is closed and the only way to get to the falls is by rafting along the Mae Klong river followed by a 3-4 hour trek, it is also possible to drive part way and then go on foot. It is not recommended to attempt it on your own as the terrain can be very unforgiving during the wet season. Most people go on organized tours which are guided by local Karen people who know the area very well.

Thi Lor Su is 47km by road from Umphang and around 180km from Mae Sot. Journey times from Mae Sot to Umphang usually take 3-4 hours due to the twisty mountain road. Once in Umphang Thi Lor Su can be reached by road within 2 hours, the road is a bumpy dirt track and is most comfortable by 4WD especially after rain.

Mae Klong River

Several river networks are also main features in the sanctuary, most notably the Mae Klong and Mae Klong Yai rivers. The Mae Klong Yai river runs through the heart of Umphang wildlife sanctuary and through Umphang town, the river is lined with huge dramatic limestone cliffs and feature jurassic Park style scenery.

umphang-rafting-trekking-camping-tourScenery along the Mae Klong River

The river can be accessed from Umphang town, certain sections are safe for swimming (November – May). To fully explore the river guided tours are available, and generally consist of river rafting down the Mae Klong Yai River, jungle trekking through the sanctuary, visiting Thi Lor Su waterfall, and staying at one of the many Karen villages in the area.

Photo Guide – Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary

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