Namtok Samlan National Park – Saraburi

Namtok Samlan National Park (formerly Phra Puttachai National Park) is located a little over 100 km northeast of Bangkok, in the province of Saraburi.  I first stumbled upon this place while heading back to Bangkok from a weekend away at Khao Yai NP, a little further to the northeast. On that occasion, my wife, friends and I only stopped for an hour or so, and walked a few hundred metres to the the park’s namesake waterfall.  While this park doesn’t seem to offer anything too special, it makes for a pleasant getaway from Bangkok on weekends, and is even quite easily accessed via public transport (explained in the November 11-12th, 2017 post below).

The park itself has several trails that lead through the dry forest, with several small reservoirs about as well. There are also a few small waterfalls, but they are mostly nothing more than water flowing down rocks or very small drop offs. To add to these, there is meant to be a trail starting from near the accommodation blocks that leads up a hill to a viewpoint, but if you do find the trail head, it becomes apparent very quickly that this trail hasn’t been maintained for a very long time. My only attempt of this trail had me turning around after less than 100 m.

As far as facilities are concerned, the park offers some simple, but comfortable cabins, as well as a couple of campgrounds, and tents etc. can be hired from a small shop that also sells supplies and food. Since 2019 there is also a restaurant where you can order food if you don’t bring any with you.


The following entries are very simple trip reports from my visits to Namtok Samlan National Park, with newer visits first.

Trips to Namtok Samlan NP

March 26th-27th, 2022

As usual when we visit this park, it is more due to our need to escape Bangkok, not because of the amazing bird life on offer here, and this was again the case on this visit, our first here in close 18 months.  Having not been for so long, I was pleasantly surprised that my assumption from the last visit (that the trails wouldn’t be cut even after the wet season had finished) was 100% wrong – all the trails I’d previously walked on – and some new ones – were both cut, and had information boards in both Thai and English – if only some of the more interested national parks were this proactive!

This visit was the latest into the dry season that we’ve ever come, and because of this the weather was hot, and the forest was very dry; however, the open, dry forest meant what birds were about were quite easy to spot, raptors in particular, with highlights being a magnificent Mountain Hawk-Eagle being harassed by a Shikra, a flock of Crested Honey-Buzzards migrating south, and a lone Rufous-winged Buzzard found deeper along the trail. On the afternoon we arrived, I set off along the long loop trail, and all the usual species were about including the flamebacks and parakeets among others, and at the reservoir was the seemingly ever-present Oriental Darter; however, other sightings included a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, a Himalyan Cuckoo, as well as other unidentified cuculus cuckoo. Because of the dryness of the forest, insect life was quite minimal, although I did stumbled upon a really cool looking moth that flew past while being chased by a robber fly. eBird Checklist –> March 26th – afternoon

The campgrounds in the evening also proved quite productive, with a Brown Boobook calling at dusk right next to our bungalow, Large-tailed Nightjars and Asian Barred Owlets calling frequently, and a Collared Scops Owl calling from the forest. eBird Checklist –> March 26th – evening

I ended up sleeping through my alarm, but after breakfast still had time for a short work, so I walked to Samlan waterfall – which isn’t flowing at all – and though quiet, still adding Forest Wagtail and Eyebrowed Thrush to the trip list, and also came across a nice Lipinia species skink, and a large stick insect. Once back at the bunglow, I also happened upon an interesting little longhorn beetle, and after putting it on iNaturalist, found out that it was a very rare species, and my observation was the first in the world to be put on iNat! eBird Checklist –> March 27th

Despite the weather, I actually added quite a few bird species to my own national park list, and ending this trip at 112 species seen at Namtok Samlan overall.

November 21st-22nd, 2020

Another weekend trip up the highway to escape Bangkok, we arrived at the park a little before midday, and after lunch and relaxing for a bit, I set off along the long loop trail, going past the namesake waterfall and reservoir first. The conditions were a little overcast, but there were still good numbers of birds, and at the reservoir, I saw several species that I’ve not seen before at this park, including Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Black-headed Bulbul, Bronzed Drongo and Asian Fairy-bluebirds. There were also plenty of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters around, and an Oriental Darter swimming in the reservoir.

The trail itself was very overgrown, and looked like it hadn’t been maintained since my last visit over a year ago. We mentioned this to the park rangers as we returned our bungalow key the following day, and she said that they hadn’t re-cut the trail since the end of the rainy season yet, but I didn’t really believe that to be the case, as there was one section of the trail that was the same as last year, having a scrubby tree across it – I simply believe they rarely bother cutting the trail because few people walk them.  Anyway, some more good birds were seen in the afternoon including Red-breasted Parakeets, Common Flameback and various phylloscopus warblers. After returning to the bungalow, my wife and I went for a walk around the campground, and on the return to our bungalow found that macaques had raided some of our food – this was my mistake for not leaving it out! eBird Checklist –> November 21st

The following morning I walked around the campgrounds and the small loop trail, adding a few birds to the weekend list, but overall there was nothing out of the ordinary. eBird Checklist –> November 22nd

One thing that had changed from our last visit is that the campgrounds now has a restaurant where food can be ordered, as well as a small cafe. There has even been more buildings erected, and a bike trail had been created that winds around the campgrounds. All this construction – which takes effort and money – made the unmaintained trails even more frustrating, and shows that most visitors are not interested in walking trails at all, being content to stay close to the campgrounds.

August 31st/September 1st, 2019

Having not been away for a month or so, my wife and I decided to escape Bangkok for a quick getaway, and as we now had our own car, Namtok Samlan NP, at about two hours from our house seemed a good option. And while the weather forecast for the weekend wasn’t great, with a tropical storm heading Thailand’s way from the Philippines, when we awoke Saturday morning, the sky was relatively clear, so we headed up the highway for a quick, green getaway.

We didn’t leave Bangkok until after 8:30 am, and by the time we’d driven to Saraburi and bought food for our quick stay, it was just before midday when we arrived at Namtok Samlan NP. As on previous visits here, I had pre-booked accommodation via the DNP’s website, and once again we experienced something that we’ve only experiences at this NP – neither of us (nor the car) were charged an entrance fee due to the fact we’d prepaid for NP accommodation. We were both pleasantly surprised!

Once checked in, we sat next to the small lake behind our cabin to have lunch, and immediately the bird life was evident. Both a single Common Kingfisher and White-throated Kingfisher were seen fishing in the lake, while a adult White-breasted Waterhen was taking a large fledgling out exploring. However, while numerous Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters hawked above the lake, the biggest surprise was a single Lesser Whistling-Duck, which my wife had first spotted, seen flying from the near side of the lake to the far side, upon where it stuck close to the waterhens for the remainder of the time I sat watching.

I had a small lay-down in the early afternoon, but decided to head out along the park trails at around 2 pm – the weather was overcast, but not terribly muggy, as I walked through the campgrounds and along main trail that leads to the eponymous Namtok Samlan. There were a few people checking out the dry waterfall – any rain around the region had obviously not affected this forest – and the trail up to and beyond this waterfall was very quiet bird-wise, although the time of day undoubtedly played a part, too.

I first checked out the small reservoir just past the waterfall where a single Bronzed Drongo was seen among more Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, but little else was about. I then headed along the loop trail that was quite overgrown at places, and similarly quiet. It wasn’t until I was deeper into the forest when a few small bird waves came about which included a small band of White-crested laughingthrushes and a Puff-throated Babbler, while in the trees, a few Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes were flitting about. I did also flush a medium-sized raptor from quite close, but as the canopy was quite low and thick, I wasn’t able to make out any distinguishable features.

After coming to the fork in the trail which heads either back to the campgrounds or away to another substation several kilometres away, the overhead clouds and thunder made the decision of which direction to go easy. And while there were a number of interesting insects seen along the trail, bird life was once again low, although closer to HQ a vocal flock of Red-breasted Parakeets and a single male Hainan Blue Flycatcher kept my interest.

Later in the afternoon, my wife and I walked around the main lake at the campgrounds and took in the fresh country air, but as the light was fading, I added a couple of new species to my site list, including a flock of Thick-billed Pigeons and a couple of Common Hill Mynas and a pair of Greater Flamebacks. eBird Checklist –> August 31st

The following morning I was up early and mostly walked around the campgrounds, though I did venture along a small trail to another of the waterfalls. One thing that was obvious to us on this trip, was that quite a bit of developed had occurred here since our last visit. Two of the three short trails to waterfalls now had concreted sections, while several new building had been erected. And while the campground was once again busy at night, and local tourists can be seen on the short waterfall trails, I’ve yet to come across anyone else on the longer trails, even when weather is fine.

I was back to the cabin after a couple of hours exploring and as we had things to do back in Bangkok, we had breakfast and left before 9 am. Nothing much of note was seen on this morning, but I did have a close encouter with a Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo, and several Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds were also seen. eBird Checklist –> September 1st

January 27-28th, 2018

On my second proper visit to Namtok Samlan, I managed to drag my wife along, and while the initial travel was the same, once at Saraburi train station, we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the NP; and while initially my wife thought the tuk-tuk’s price was a little expensive (a couple hundred baht), once we finally arrived at the park, she was more than happy to tip the driver due to the distance from the train station.

Unlike my previous visit, my added company meant that I wasn’t out and birding until lunch had been eaten and a rest had been taken. By about 2 pm, we were off on the trail, but despite several hours walking both trails I’d previously walked along, nothing new or unexpected appeared; it wasn’t until much later in the afternoon, after my wife had returned to the cabin that numerous flycatcher became evident. While I managed to identify one as a male Tickell’s Blue, there were several other cyornis flycatchers that remained unidentified. However, the biggest surprise of the late afternoon came in the form of a male Siberian Blue Robin (a lifer), flitting around the base of a dry waterfall.

The following morning I was out birding by around 6:30 am, but my wife decided that she would prefer to stay in the cabin. Nonetheless, I headed off along the same path that passed the lower waterfalls, and had quickly made it to areas along the trail I’d previously not visited. It was near a signed fork in the path that I at first flushed a Crested Goshawk, which landed in a tree just above me, and then all of 20 metres further along flushed a Jerdon’s Baza, which likewise sat, looking at me curiously, just above the trail for long enough to get great views.

The trail that turned left at this fork, and supposedly towards another reservoir and ranger station went through more open forest, and at times small bird waves passed through the trees, containing drongos, bulbuls and Pin-striped Tit-babblers. However, after a while of walking this trail, I decided to head back and upon the same fork, took the left path (right from the other direction).


It was this path that eventually connected to the path I’d walked along on my last visit, and a seemingly overgrown section was not as it seemed, with the thick, apparently fallen foliage covering only a very small section of the path. I was now heading down the gentle slope towards Namtok Samlan (the NP’s namesake waterfall), and the small reservoir; it was along this path that I flushed (almost stepped on!!), not one, but two different Large-tailed Nightjars, as well as numerous Asian Emerald Doves. Also surprisingly, when approaching the reservoir, the unmistakable form of a soaring Oriental Darter was evident in the sky, and was it was quickly followed by an adult Shikra, which landed briefly in a nearby tree.

Once the trail finally made its way to the waterfall, I encountered both an accommodating Grey Wagtail and Black-capped Kingfisher, while other birds were heard among the bamboo scrub. After returning to the campsite, my wife and I decided that it was about time to pack up and head back to Bangkok, so we did. –> January 28th  –  January 27th


November 11-12th, 2017

Finally, I decided that Namtok Samlan NP was worth another shot, and on top of a chance to go birding in a place I’d only been once previously, it was also a chance to simply escape Bangkok and adventure – and the journey there and back was definitely an adventure, and a cheap one at that!

I left my apartment at Rama III early enough to get the 8:20 am train from Hualampong Station, and after paying a nominal price for the ticket, I was off to Saraburi. The trip itself takes approximately two hours, and the train gets quite busy due to day-trippers heading to Ayutthaya, but if you’re able to get a window seat, the train travels through agricultural regions, some of which were quite waterlogged, allowing birding to be done from the (open-air) train window – on both my trains trips combined, I managed to over 30 species, with highlights being Brown Shrike, Purple Heron, Lesser Whistling Duck, and Green Bee-eater. Undoubtedly, a more vigilant birder would be able to see more species than me on this trip.

Once I arrived at Saraburi train station, I wandered out and saw a few motorcycle taxis. Along with my backpack, I asked whether one of them would take me to Namtok Samlan NP, and after a little bartering, one agreed to take me for a couple of hundred baht (I ended up giving the driver an extra hundred, as the park is actually further from the train station than I anticipated). Once at the NP, I exchanged phone numbers with the moto-taxi driver (an essential if you have no transport and want to get back), and was subsequently driven to my pre-booked cabin (600B a night) by NP staff.

Once I’d settled into my cabin, around 11:30 am, I decided to start birding, beginning by spending time around the small lake adjacent to the NP cabins. And before I’d walked more than 100m, I was greeted with a blue-and-white/Zappey’s flycatcher – the bird was either a first year male or a female, and despite close views, with the bird being silent, a positive ID wasn’t possible. Regardless, not much further around the lake, I was afforded great views of several Chestnut-flanked White-eyes (a lifer), as well as several other species of flycatcher: Verditer, Taiga and Hainan (another lifer!), as well as views of a Cinnamon Bittern that was flushed from the scruffy lakeside.

After some time spent around the small lake, I headed off up the nature trail towards the NP’s namesake waterfall, and once there, decided to head further along the trail that led off to the left of the waterfall – something I hadn’t done the last time I was here. Once I had passed the (very) small three-tiered waterfall (Namtok Samlan), the trail quickly came to a fork; I decided to follow the right trail which led to a small reservoir where a trail quickly becomes thick and impassable; however, while there I did see both Common Kingfisher and White-throated Kingfisher, as well as a couple of Little Cormorants and a Little Grebe swimming on the lake.

Back at the fork, the trail that led left headed up a small, gradual incline, into much thicker forest, and along this path I was once again rewarded with close views of a male Hainan Blue Flycatcher; it was also along this trail that a small band of White-crested Laughingthrush was seen. Further along this trail, a sign appeared that once again directs hikers in two directions; once again, one of the paths (this leading more-or-less straight ahead) impassable, so I turned left down a path that lead to another waterfall. This path, too, was quite overgrown, and at times I wondered whether I’d have been better off turning back, but as I wasn’t really that far from the campsite, and was actually heading back in that direction, I soldiered on.

Despite the thick forest, there was relatively little bird activity, and though I stopped at a number of small clearings, nothing much was seen along this trail. Eventually I came across a stream that lead to a dry waterfall, and after jumping the narrow stream, I found myself a nice large rock to sit upon to take in the more open aspect I was presented with; it was while here that a small flock of Red-breasted Parakeets vocally made there presence clear, as well as Black-naped Orioles, Racket-tailed Treepies, Black-crested Bulbuls, and numerous Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers.


After a while sitting on the rock by the stream, I headed down along the trail that followed the stream to the campsite area, and preceded to walk around the area to see what was about. The highlights of this late afternoon walk included yet another Hainan Blue Flycatcher, a Dark-sided Flycatcher, a soaring Oriental Honey-buzzard, a single Oriental Pratincole probably heading to roost, and an Asian Barred Owlet that was quite active around the campsite, which was now quite busy with campers.

The following morning I was up early and headed back along the trail I’d exited the previous morning to spend time at the rocks about the stream. This morning, however, proved to be lacking in bird activity, and after a while on this trail headed back to the cabin to have breakfast. It was while sitting outside my cabin that a small accipiter flew past quite close, and stirred up some smaller birds. Among these birds were both Asian Brown, and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, as well as a Drongo-cuckoo and a pair of Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds.

After breakfast and another brief walk around the campgrounds where several drongo species were very evident, I packed up and called my ride from the previous day, and subsequently left the park to return to Bangkok.

While Namtok Samlan NP is not an ornithological hotspot, it is definitely a great place to escape Bangkok for a day or so, and I’ll be sure to return! –> November 12th  – November 11th

January 29th, 2017

As mentioned above, my first visit to Namtok Samlan NP was a simply an excuse to break up the drive back into Bangkok from Khao Yai NP. Arriving just after midday, it was quite hot, despite the hillside setting and time of year. Regardless, we parked the car and set off up the trail that led off to the right of the visitors centre, towards the actual ‘Namtok Samlam’ (three-tiered waterfall).

The actual waterfall (nothing more than several drops of little more than a couple of metres), was very dry, though while we walked along the path, we disturbed a pair of Jerdon’s Bazas (a lifer) that had been perched above the dry stream bed. While we weren’t able to get a great look initially, the pair only flew further along the dried-out stream, and after a few minutes of walking we were afforded quite good views of one of the birds. Other than these bazas, we also came upon a very vocal, soaring Crested Serpent-eagle, a couple of Shikras, and a single Grey Wagtail among numerous other common forest birds.

While this visit was brief, I did take note of the NP cabins, and both myself and my friends noted that this place could be a nice, simple escape from Bangkok that didn’t necessitate a long weekend to fully enjoy. –> January 29th

BIRD LIST (93 identified species)

  1. Lesser Whistling-Duck
  2. Scaly-breasted Partridge
  3. Red Junglefowl
  4. Little Grebe
  5. Red Collared Dove
  6. Spotted Dove
  7. Asian Emerald Dove
  8. Zebra Dove
  9. Thick-billed Green-Pigeon
  10. Greater Coucal
  11. Green-billed Malkoha
  12. Asian Koel
  13. Banded Bay Cuckoo
  14. Plaintive Cuckoo
  15. Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo
  16. Large Hawk-Cuckoo
  17. Himalayan Cuckoo
  18. Large-tailed Nightjar
  19. Brown-backed Needletail
  20. Germain’s Swiftlet
  21. Asian Palm-swift
  22. White-breasted Waterhen
  23. Red-wattled Lapwing
  24. Oriental Pratincole
  25. Asian Openbill
  26. Oriental Darter
  27. Little Cormorant
  28. Cinnamon Bittern
  29. Little Egret
  30. Cattle Egret
  31. Chinese Pond Heron
  32. Striated Heron
  33. Oriental Honey-buzzard
  34. Jerdon’s Baza
  35. Crested Serpent-Eagle
  36. Mountain Hawk-Eagle
  37. Rufous-winged Buzzard
  38. Crested Goshawk
  39. Shikra
  40. Collared Scops Owl
  41. Asian Barred Owlet
  42. Brown Boobook
  43. Eurasian Hoopoe
  44. Common Kingfisher
  45. White-throated Kingfisher
  46. Black-capped Kingfisher
  47. Blue-bearded Bee-eater
  48. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  49. Indian Roller
  50. Dollarbird
  51. Coppersmith Barbet
  52. Blue-eared Barbet
  53. Lineated Barbet
  54. Greater Flameback
  55. Common Flameback
  56. Red-breasted Parakeet
  57. Ashy Woodswallow
  58. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
  59. Common Iora
  60. Ashy Minivet
  61. Black-naped Oriole
  62. Black Drongo
  63. Ashy Drongo
  64. Bronzed Drongo
  65. Hair-crested Drongo
  66. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  67. Malaysian Pied-fantail
  68. Black-naped Monarch
  69. Racket-tailed Treepie
  70. Large-billed Crow
  71. Barn Swallow
  72. Red-rumped Swallow
  73. Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher
  74. Black-headed Bulbul
  75. Black-crested Bulbul
  76. Sooty-headed Bulbul
  77. Stripe-throated Bulbul
  78. Streak-eared Bulbul
  79. Grey-eyed Bulbul
  80. Yellow-browed Warbler
  81. Dusky Warbler
  82. Eastern Crowned Warbler
  83. Two-barred Warbler
  84. Pale-legged Warbler
  85. Arctic Warbler
  86. Common  Tailorbird
  87. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  88. Plain Prinia
  89. Chestnut-flanked White-eye
  90. Pin-striped Tit-babbler
  91. Puff-throated Babbler
  92. White-crested Laughingthrush
  93. Eyebrowed Thrush
  94. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  95. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  96. White-rumped Shama
  97. Hainan Blue Flycatcher
  98. Indochinese Blue Flycatcher
    1. Blue-and-white/Zappey’s Flycatcher
  99. Verditer Flycatcher
  100. Siberian Blue Robin
  101. Taiga Flycatcher
  102. Common Myna
  103. Great Myna
  104. Common Hill Myna
  105. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
  106. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  107. Brown-throated Sunbird
  108. Olive-backed Sunbird
  109. Asian Fairy-bluebird
  110. Forest Wagtail
  111. Grey Wagtail
  112. White-rumped Munia

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