Khao Sok National Park in 2 Days, Surat Thani, Thailand

15 March 2020, by Oana Badiu

With its amazing karst landscape, Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited! Perhaps the most famous attraction is the man-made Cheow Lan Lake with its tower-like limestone formations rising from the blue and turquoise waters!

During my 2 weeks visit in Krabi, after reading about the national parks close by, I really wanted to go and experience Khao Sok. I booked “Khao Sok: Luxury 2-Day 1-Night Jungle Expedition” tour from getyourguide.com. I originally wanted to book 2 nights in Khao Sok, but that would have come with a really steep price, so I had to settle with only 1 night. One very important thing to notice is that you will be spending the night at the 500 Rai Farmhouse, which is not the resort with the cabins floating on the lake. It turns out there are two 500 Rai resorts, one is the floating resort on Cheow Larn Lake and the other one is the “500 rai Farmhouse”, which is close to the jungle. During the first day you will have lunch at the floating resort and some time to rent a kayak and explore for 1.5 hours, after which you will be transferred to the farmhouse resort.

Khao Sok National Park History

Khao Sok National Park was established in 1980 and it is home to some of the world’s oldest forests, however this region hides a darker past, which has shaped the national park to what it is today and will continue to change it. This is why I decided to include a large section of the article to the history of Khao Sok, since it’s quite fascinating to me and I think it is a good read.

The mountains of Khao Sok (and other regions that look very similar, like northern Vietnam) have formed from the same tectonic collision of the Indian Plate and Eurasian Plate, which have formed the Himalayan mountain range. Unlike other places of the world, this region hasn’t changed dramatically during the ice ages, still receiving a lot of rainfall to maintain its forests. The forests in Khao Sok are believed to be older than the Amazon rain forest.

Unlike lots of other parts of Thailand where the forests disappeared due to increasing human population, a series of events helped Khao Sok to preserve its rainforests until it was declared a national park and protected.

In the 1940s there was a deadly epidemic in the area which resulted in the deaths of many people living here. As a consequence, many people fled the area and there is now a village called “Village of the Dead (Ban Sop)” and a mountain called “Corpse Mountain (Khao Sop)”.

In 1961 a road was built between Surat Thani and Phang Nga, which opened up the whole area to human exploitation, such as plantations, logging and mining. Between 1975 and 1982 Thai students who had joined the communist insurgency groups took base in Khao Sok and, while trying to keep the Thai Army at bay, they also managed to keep others away as well and so, preserving the forests.

In 1987, Rajjaprabha Dam was complete, and Cheow Larn Lake was formed by flooding the entire area, in order to provide electricity to Southern Thailand. Even if they tried to save the species living here, the operation was mostly unsuccessful and most of the species couldn’t adapt to the flood. This piece of information made me question whether I should visit this national park or not. It is a bit weird to me that even though the place was supposed to be protected from human activity due to the “National Park” establishment in 1980, this dam was still constructed.

After talking to my guide who lives here, it seems that the area was constantly flooding and the people living here had a hard time before the dam was constructed. After the lake was formed there were no floods and the lake attracted many tourists, which actually helped the people. There is a fine line between nature and human needs, and I am not sure how I should feel about the whole thing. I guess it’s good that these forests are preserved while making money in the same time. This means that there is no reason to cut down the forests, so, in a way, tourists are “preserving” this area.

Things to do in Khao Sok National Park

Our 2 days were fully booked and everything was organised by 500 Rai Resort. A minivan from 500 Rai Resort picked us up from our hotel in Krabi around 06:20 in the morning. This was really early in the morning, so we didn’t have time to eat breakfast. I strongly recommend taking some snacks with you because lunch will be served quite late (around 2 in the afternoon).

After 2 hours of driving we finally reached the Rajjaprabha Dam and had about 15 minutes to go check out the viewpoint. You can already see a bit of the mountains and the beautiful colour of the water.

After this the minivan dropped at off at the pier, where we would start exploring Cheow Larn Lake.

Cheow Larn Lake by Long-Tail Boat

Even if man-made, Cheow Larn Lake is such a beauty! I was really impressed by the limestone mountains and the water had a beautiful colour, which changed from deep blue in the mountain area to a light turquoise when we reached the 500 Rai Floating Resort.

During our lake exploration we went to take a picture of the iconic Khao Sam Kler (aka “Three Sisters“) limestone cliffs in Khao Sok, place where most of the pictures on the internet are taken from.

While comparing the limestone cliffs from Khao Sok with the limestone cliffs in Krabi, the ones rising from the waters, you can see some differences in the level of erosion at the bottom of the cliffs. You can tell from this detail that Cheow Larn Lake hasn't been around for so long.

Nam Talu Cave

After about 1.5 h hours on Cheow Larn Lake, we stopped at the 500 RAI Floating Resort to drop off our stuff. This was around 10:00 o’clock. Our itinerary was saying that we should go explore Nam Talu Cave, however I am not a big fan of caves and this one was no joke of a cave from what I had read. Before you decide to go, please check online videos and pictures of this cave.

You will get water up to your neck, there are giant spiders and you may even encounter a cobra. As one of our guides explained, the cobras are taking refuge in the cave in the rainy season and when the dry season comes, during the first tourist visits to the cave, there are actually quite high chances to see one. I have even read a blog post where a group of people got stuck in the cave for some time because the cobra was blocking the entrance.

Another thing to consider is that the cave gets flash floods if it starts raining, so you should never visit this cave if there is any possibility of rain. A tragic incident happened in 2007, where 8 people drowned while being swept away by a flash flood.

The cave is quite long, 500 m deep, and it will get really dark in there, so ask yourself if you really want to be in the dark, with water up to your neck and bats and spiders? The next day I also found out from another guide that there is also a high possibility to get leeches stuck on you, which was just the cherry on top of the cake.

After knowing all this, I decided to skip the Nam Talu Cave and just enjoy the pool and the resort and get a kayak free of charge to explore the area. When the people got back from the cave (it took around 3.5h for them to get back) they were all pretty ok and they said it was quite an adventure! If you enjoy caves and adventures, then Nam Talu Cave might be actually great for you!

I have to admit that, in a way, I was regretting a bit my decision after talking to some people, but, in the end, I know I wouldn’t have been comfortable with any of that. The people visiting the cave saw a snake and a gibbon on the trail leading to the cave.

500 RAI Floating Resort

This resort was awesome! First of all, there is no internet connection, not even a network signal, so all the connection with the outside world is non-existent.

The water around the resort has a wonderful turquoise colour and there is breathtaking view towards the mountains. You can rent a kayak free of charge and go explore on your own.

The floating resort also has a pool, where you can just chill and perhaps drink a fresh coconut. I would have loved to see the sunset and the sunrise from one of these cabins, but the resort where we were staying was the “500 Rai Valley Retreat”, also known as “500 Rai Farmhouse”.

500 RAI Farmhouse (aka 500 Rai Valley Retreat)

At 15:30 a boat picked us up from 500 Rai Floating Resort and got us back to the pier close to Rajjaprabha Dam, where we started from. Then a minibus picked us up and after about 45 min we arrived at our resort and we were surprised to find out we had actually booked the executive suite! We thought that we would be without internet the whole time, but, as it turns out, the farmhouse has WIFI connection. The resort is located at the jungle’s edge and it has a really nice view towards the rain forest. You can hear all the birds and gibbons sounds, while enjoying your dinner. We didn’t really have much time to spend around the resort, as we had only 30 minutes between our arrival and the time they served dinner, so we just took a shower. This was our room view!

I have noticed already during dinner that there is a viewpoint about 2 km away from the hotel, but with the busy schedule, I was sure that we wouldn’t have time to get to it. During dinner our guides for the next day asked us if we would like to see the sunrise over the rainforest at the viewpoint the next day at 7:30. I immediately said “yes, of course I do” and I was really happy that they had offered this opportunity!

Next morning at 7:30 the rainforest looked amazing, with a lot of mist and awesome sounds of all kinds of creatures!

Walk to Bang Hua Rat

After the viewpoint trip, we had breakfast and then we went on a jungle trip with our tour guide, Nim Nim, towards Bang Hua Rat. Nim Nim is speaking excellent English and she was the best tour guide we had in Thailand! The trail is not really a jungle trail, but more of a wide, normal forest road. On our way we saw macaques and wild boars. The wild boars were wild, but they were fed by locals, so it’s actually really common to encounter them. I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t see any gibbons, nor snakes, but you could hear the gibbons were really close.

Once you reach Bang Hua Rat, you can check out the river here, with some big stones and a small waterfall. You can also enjoy some Coca Cola and water, which you can buy from Bang Hua Rat hut.

If you would really want to experience more of a jungle-like trail, you should continue from Bang Hua Rat on the Ton Kloi Waterfall Trail, however you would need to bring lunch with you. We didn't have time for that and we had to turn back, as our lunch was waiting for us at the hotel.

On our way back we saw a giant spider and some small lizards.

You don’t need a guide to go on this trail, so you could just explore by yourself if you are staying at a nearby hotel, however you need to pay a small fee to enter the national park.

Canoing Trip on the Khao Sok River

After our walk we went back to hotel, had lunch and then we went on an awesome canoe ride along the Khao Sok River! This was my favourite activity! The nature here looks amazing! I encourage you to buy a polarised filter for your trip to Khao Sok! I wouldn’t have gotten these vibrant colours in the pictures without it!

We visited Khao Sok on 24th of February and the water levels of this river was quite low. Our guide was saying that later on, in the dry season, the river will dry out completely. The water levels were so low that we got stuck quite often and the guy who was paddling had to get up and drag us out of the shallow water. He was saying that this is quite an exercise for him and it keeps him in good shape.

Our guide was also saying that during the rainy season the river area changes completely and the water can reach quite high levels, however, since the dam was built, there are no more floods.

At some point during the canoeing trip the guide threw some bread in the water and suddenly a massive gathering of colourful fish surrounded our inflatable canoe.

After the canoe safari, we stopped at a small hut and we prepared traditional thai coffee in bamboo leaves. The coffee was tasting so good compared to our normal coffee, the one we buy from the store. We drank the coffee in fresh bamboo cups, which were cut in the morning, and we took the cups as souvenirs. This is our guide, preparing coffee.

After enjoying our coffee we got in the van and the driver drove us back to our hotel in Krabi. Our Kho Sok visit was my favourite from all the 2 weeks we had in Thailand.

In retrospect, I think it would have been better to book a cheaper resort, stay longer in Khao Sok and just book the activities separately. We really didn’t get to enjoy our beautiful resort, with an awesome nature pool, which we never got to see. Other activities in Khao Sok include “Jungle walk to Tarzan Viewpoint”, “Afternoon wildlife safari by long tail boat”, “Jungle trekking, cave exploration and bamboo raft ride to Coral Cave”, “Cooking class”. You can find out more information about the hotels and the tours on their website, 500rai.com.

Check other hotels in the Ratchaprapha area on booking.com!

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