Khao Sok National Park is one of the largest reserves in Thailand, and it’s chock full of more wildlife than anywhere else. Home to 50 species of mammals that include Tigers, Leopards, Barking Deer, Elephants and Gibbon monkeys. Add in over 300 different types of birds and an unknown amount of species of reptiles and insects, it’s a living zoo.
30 years ago the Government decided they needed a massive water reservoir – and a need to flood out communist gorillas living in the hills – so they started a intensive project, damming a gigantic valley to make a massive lake. With closing off just 1 river exit they created a 165 square kilometer lake inside the park. It pushed out the rebels but unfortunately many species of fish that were in the lake could not survive in the low oxygen waters created and it standard various species in small areas. It did however create one of the most beautiful sceneries I’ve seen though.
All throughout the park there are huge limestone mountains called “Karst mountains”. They’re similar to the Karst’s in Halong Bay, Vietnam, that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. But because of the more remote location of Khao Sok, I really get the feeling not many people go there. But being on this huge man made lake, you float halfway up the Krasts and in a small long-tail boat you can get up real close. It’s like mountain climbing up a limestone cliff but without the effort. Tiny mountain tops peak out of the beautiful waters, varying in size to create the breath-taking landscape. Some areas only tree tops can be see popping out of the waters and other areas long tails will completely avoid due to mountain tops just barely breaking the surface and creating a dangerous place to navigate through.
Some of the farmers that lived in the valleys that were flooded have reopened with floating lake houses. The lake is 80 meters deep and slopes off very quickly, so with a bit of engineering they’ve built what is almost a safe place to stay. Perched on top of logs, metal drums and hope, it’s quite a sight when you first spot them. If you’ve ever wanted to be deep in a jungle rainforest, this is it! There’s monkeys that come up and feed on the food scraps, lots of birds you can shoot your camera at and the fish is as fresh as it gets. I recommend if you go to Khao Sok to stay a night on the lake. Don’t expect comfort, but the sheer beauty of the area replaces that in a heartbeat.
Sleeping on a lake is almost like a treehouse, except if you fall you’ll just get wet. But we wanted a full treehouse experience and went to Art’s Riverview Lodge. This place is more like an eco lodge than the standard concrete walls and hard beds everywhere else in Thailand. You can tell he cares about the environment which is such a nice change. All garbage is picked up and the paths and houses fit into the setting with nature being the theme. It pays off as you see the wildlife all around you; huge flying squirrels, many birds flying around, butterflies and monkeys. Art picked a spot to put his main lodge and restaurant right across from the watering hole that a large family of monkeys use daily.
Each afternoon around 20 monkeys came down to drink the water, cool off and play with each other. Sometimes the “play” wasn’t always PG-13, but the kids have to learn about the birds and the bee’s sometime don’t they? It’s amazing to see the monkeys playing around in a natural setting, doing what they do, rather than behind bars at a zoo. I’m pro zoo and think they do an important job, but the monkeys here just looked happier.
There’s so many more things to do in Khao Sok, we just didn’t have the time to do it all. If you like nature, you’ll love it here. Tubing or kayaking down a river in the middle of the jungle? No problem. Going for a short 4KM hike or a 4 day trek into the deep mountains? Easy to book. Want to see the worlds largest flower (that also smells of decomposing flesh when in bloom)? Let your nose guide you! If your traveling through the Surat Thani province of Thailand, I absolutely recommend stopping at Khao Sok National Park. It’s a great halfway point to stop off at if your are traveling from the Gulf of Thailand to the Phuket/Krabi area and is now one of my favourite places we’ve been to in Thailand. I’m sure it would be yours too!
Have you been to Khao Sok? What did you think? I’d love to hear anyone else’s feedback.