National parks in Phuket draw in nature lovers with their extensive range of exotic flora and fauna, impressive waterfalls, and natural caves. Phuket also has many beachside parks that combine cooling sea breeze with easy access to the ocean. And don't forget the sensational viewpoints that afford sweeping vistas over this lush island.

    There's an entrance fee when visiting a national park in Thailand, which goes towards maintaining the many facilities onsite and paying the park rangers. For tourists, the rates are around 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for kids, though they can vary from park to park.

    The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project rescues abandoned pet gibbons and prepares them for being released back into the wild. Located in the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, near Bang Pae Waterfall, the centre has been around since 1992. Volunteers who can commit to at least 3 weeks in Phuket can help feed the animals and take part in outreach education programmes. Donations and T-shirt purchases will also help keep the project going.

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    Location: 104/3 Moo 3, Paklock, Thalang, Phuket 83100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)88 590 9714

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    Khao Phra Thaeo National Park

    Located in the northern part of Phuket, Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is the island's last significant virgin rainforest. You can spend a morning taking a leisurely walk up by Tonsai Waterfall. There's also an 8-km trail right through the park from Bang Pae Waterfall to Ton Sai.

    It's a good idea to hire a guide to explore the national park. Most of the forest's wildlife tends to stay out of sight, but your guide should be able to point out the telltale sounds of all sorts of animals. A small museum and information centre is located near the bottom of the waterfall.

    Location: Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, Thep Krasattri, Phuket 83110, Thailand

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    Khao Rang Hill is a nice shady area to enjoy a brisk walk, jog, or simply relax under large, old-growth trees. The hilltop has a bronze statue of Phraya Ratsada Nupradit, the first Governor of Phuket. It's a fairly short drive up Rang Hill, with parking areas near Phuket View Restaurant and at the summit. There's plenty of covered and non-covered seating, while its one-way system at the top assures safe parking and access.

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    Location: Talat Yai, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Loma Park

    Loma Park, located at the north end of Patong Beach, offers a quiet spot for those looking to relax in the shade. Surrounded by local food stalls, this public playground spans around 14,000 sq m. Many festival events take place at the park year-round. It's a popular park for local families in the afternoons, as its children's recreation zone has many toboggans and swings.

    Location: 186/15 Thawewong Rd, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

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    Phang Nga Bay is known for its limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just 2 of the more famous spots in this bay. The best means of enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only brief encounters with the tourist crowds at James Bond and Koh Panyee, is by boat from the northern end of Phuket. A leisurely day of cruising through the dramatic limestone islands, occasionally stopping to enjoy quiet beaches, is far more rewarding than the standard bus-boat tour.

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    Location: Phang-nga, Thailand

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    Saphan Hin is a large, multi-purpose park with fitness centres, a stadium, jogging trails, a software development centre, restaurants and food stalls, and a mangrove walkway. Located at the south end of Phuket Road, the park hosts festivals and fairs throughout the year. Muay Thai kickboxing matches take place at the stadium on Friday evenings. You'll often see families enjoying picnics on the pebbled shore of Phuket Bay at weekends, too.

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    Location: Wichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Koh Similan is one of the best-known island groups in the Andaman Sea. One of the most interesting dive areas in the world, this little archipelago is also a favourite destination for yachts and tour boats.  More than 200 species of hard coral alone have been identified in this area. A popular way to visit the Similan Islands is by joining a liveaboard boat trip from Phuket, which usually run for 4 days. Many Phuket-based liveaboard operations are available, offering varying levels of luxury and facilities.

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    Open: Daily from 15 October to 15 May (dates may vary)

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    Sirinat National Park

    Sirinath National Park covers an area of 90 sq km, from just south of Phuket International Airport to the island's northern tip. Nai Yang, Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches are part of this national park. There's a mangrove forest at its northern end, where saltwater swamps support unique ecosystems. A nature trail and 800-metre wooden walkway have signs indicating and explaining the various species of plants and animals in the park.

    Location: 89/1 Moo 1, Sakhu, Thalang, Phuket 83140, Thailand

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    photo by Andy Mitchell (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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    Suan Luang Park

    King Rama IX Park (Suan Luang Park) is a lovely green park in Phuket Town. With large trees, lotus ponds and walking paths, it's often busy in the early morning with joggers and Tai Chi practitioners. Visit the park on late afternoons to see strolling couples and takraw (kick volleyball) players.

    Location: Wirat Hong Yok Rd, Talat Nuea, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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