Don’t Miss Thailand’s Green Jewel – Khao Sok National Park
What if I were to tell you that the oldest living evergreen rainforest in the world is easily accessible and home to elephants, tigers, bears, underwater caves, waterfalls and sleeping huts that float on the water? It almost sounds too good to be true, but this is what Khao Sok National Park in Thailand has to offer.
Flickr by: everest451
Located in southern Thailand between between the popular coastal city Phuket and the resort island Koh Samui, this national park and is often overlooked by tourists visiting the country. Khao Sok has been a national park for over 25 years and is a must-see destination for those in the know. I was lucky enough to hear about the park while in Thailand and got to see for myself the incredible wildlife, terrain and activities it provides.
If you’re not already convinced, here are a few top reasons why you have to visit Khao Sok next time you’re in Thailand.
Experience the Most Diverse Evergreen Rainforest in the World
You can tell your friends that you spent a weekend in a 160 million year old jungle that managed to make it through the ice age untouched. It’s even older and more diverse than the Amazon Rainforest! It spans 285 square miles and during your visit you’ll cross its massive lake and weave through impressive limestone hills that rise from the water like spears. The jungle is home to over 600 species of wildlife that include Asian elephants, wild dogs, sun bears, leopards, wild boars, gibbons, and even tigers. It has a huge diversity of tree and plant life and is the most popular place to find the Rafflesia kerrii, the largest flower in the world, which can grow up to three feet wide and smells like rotten meat when blooming.
Swim Through Caves
There are a number of caves to explore in the park. They vary in size and difficulty but the most unique experience is trekking through a cave that has an active river running through it. These caves require visitors to wade through water up to their necks and at times even swim in order to get the exit on the other end. Our Thai guide mentioned that he’s had friends lose their lives in the caves after sudden rainfall, much like the event that trapped the Thai soccer team in 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tham_Luang_cave_rescue). If you do this, be sure that you are visiting in the dry season.
There were plenty of bats in the caves when I visited but I was surprised to see giant spiders all over the ground and walls. They aren’t dangerous but they can cause quite a shock when you first see them expand big enough to cover a basketball.
If you’re feeling really adventurous there are companies that offer scuba diving trips in Khao Sok. Some of the things you’ll see down there include giant catfish, underwater caves, submerged trees and even a sunken village!
Your Lodging Will be Floating on the Lake
One of the coolest parts about visiting Khao Sok for more than a day trip is that you will be sleeping in raft houses that float directly on the water. These floating huts generally sleep one to two people and lay just an arms length above the water. The gentle rocking of the hut at night is very soothing and you’ll fall asleep to the sound of cicadas chirping nearby. It’s a unique experience staying on the lake and I loved being able to wake up and walk just a few steps before jumping into the lake for a morning plunge.
View Incredible Wildlife
Any place that has wild elephants, bears and tigers is considered exciting in my book. In reality you’re not going to encounter any tigers (luckily) but there are hundreds of other animal species in the park that you won’t find in the bustling cities nearby. For instance seeing monkeys in and around the cities of Thailand is common, but it is a different experience to see them in their natural habitat. Taking a boat ride around the lake gives you an opportunity to see and hear the different types of monkeys and apes while they swing from tree to tree, take grooming breaks, and call from the jungle canopy. It brings an almost magical feeling to the park when coupled with all the other unique sounds you can hear.
There are almost 40 species of snakes in the jungle and you’re likely to run across a few if you spend enough time hiking. It is very important to be aware of the snakes because some of them are lethal, like the one pictured above which we encountered on a trail.
One of the most memorable experiences I had was canoeing around the lake and docking near a family of wild pigs. We watched them graze the hillside while sharing it with a pack of monkeys during their grooming hour. After snapping a few photos we were charged by a monkey flashing its fangs, clearly warning us that we had wandered too close.
Incredible Hiking Trails
The best chance to see and hear a variety of great wildlife requires you to strap on your boots and start hiking in the park. There are trails throughout the jungle and they will lead you through caves, rivers, and occasionally down (yes, literally down) waterfalls. It’s important to have a guide when trekking in the park because it’s very easy to get lost and the threat of some of the wildlife is real. Though I didn’t see any elephants on my visit, our group did come across a large footprint that was proof of their existence in the area. Hiking is really a must do when visiting Khao Sok and will give you some of your most memorable stories and photographs.
There really is no good excuse for passing up this amazing place so if you’re heading to Thailand any time soon, make sure Khao Sok makes it on your itinerary. There are a number of companies that provide tours anywhere from a half day to 4 days in the park, and travel is easily coordinated from any of the cities and towns in the south. It’s worth staying at least one night on the lake in order to make it on multiple hikes, experience the jungle at night, and get a chance to sleep in a raft house.
Been to Khao Sok before? Tell us about your experience below!
About The Author: Marshall Dunford is a traveler, writer, and owner of BookAndStay. When he’s not scouring the internet for travel deals you can find him learning to surf in the sunny smog of Los Angeles and working on his tennis serve.