Khao Sok National Park
Located in Southern Thailand, the Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the Kingdom. Established as Thailand's 22nd national park in 1980, Khao Sok has a total area of 739 square kilometers, including the 165 square kilometers of Cheow Lan Lake contained by the Ratchaprapha Dam. The park covers parts of the Khlong Yee and Khlong Pra Sang forests as well as portions of Amphoe Phanom and Tambon Ban Takhun in Surat Thani Province. Khao Sok is part of Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok Forest Complex covering a total area of 5,316 square kilometers. The complex incorporates 12 protected areas including some offshore islands in the Andaman Sea. Khao Sok National Park is the largest virgin forest in southern Thailand and is a remnant of rain forest which is older and more diverse than the Amazon rain forest. According to some sources, the forest dates back 160 million years ago, making it the world’s oldest rainforest. The temperature in Khao Sok ranges from 22° to 36° C throughout the year. The constant humidity and warm temperatures provide the optimal environment for the rich ecosystem of its tropical rain forests. The best time to visit the park is from late December to mid-April, a relatively cool and dry period characterized by constant sunny days. Khao Sok is open to visitors from 7:00 to 16:30 everyday all year round. Admission fee is 300 Baht for foreign visitors, 150 Baht for children, and 40 Baht for locals, 20 Baht for children.
Topographically, Khao Sok is characterized by a dense virgin rainforest crossed by a limestone mountain range from north to south rising to 300-600 meters above sea level, with the highest point at 950 meters. The area contains highly acidic, sandy soil that is easily eroded by monsoon storms coming from both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Heavy rainfall and falling leaves led to the erosion of the limestone rocks and created the towering karst formations that can be seen today. The flora of park consists of a large variety of plants and flowers, including a number of very rare and sacred species such as the Neobalanocarpus Heimil, Genus Hoper, Chisocheton and Anisoptera. Common species include palm, rattan, betel palm, and various types of bamboo. Many kinds of wild fruit can be found within the park that serves as sustenance for animals. Among those fruits are common jackfruit, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, jujube, pomelo, and bananas. However, Khao Sok is perhaps most famous for the huge Bua Phut or Rafflesia Kerrii Meijer, the symbolic flower of Surat Thani Province which blooms only here. It is claimed as the world's largest flower with a diameter reaching up to 80 centimeters when is in full bloom during October and December. The flower can be found at end of a 5-8 hours hiking trail starting from main road south of the park. The park is estimated to contain over five percent of the world's species. Wild mammals include Malayan Tapir, Indian Elephant, Asian Black Bear, Macaque, Gibbon, Serow, Mouse Deer, Porcupine, Wild Boar, as well as Sambar Deer, Langur, Squirrel, Muntjak, Asiatic Wild Dog and many more. Great Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Osprey, Brahminy Kite, Blue-banded Kingfisher, Rufous-collared Kingfisher are few of the hundreds of bird species that can be found in the park. However, although the park has many species of mammals and birds, sightings are very rare in the vicinity of popular tourist areas, apart from some macaques, deers and wild boars that can be seen near the few hiking trails south of the park. Some tour companies advertise Khao Sok as a popular destination to see the tigers, unfortunately this is a fake. There have been tigers at Khao Sok, there may still be a smaller population within inaccessible areas, but nobody has seen any for quite a while. In Khao Sok National Park there are several waterfalls, streams, caves, high limestone cliffs and hills thick with moist forest that contains twisted lianas, young trees, mosses, ferns and wild orchids. Trekking, canoeing, bamboo rafting and elephant trekking can be arranged in the park. Overnight treks into the deep forest are also possible. Most of the attractions and activities that can be practiced in Khao Sok are focused in the south area of park near the headquarters and visitor center, from where the few hiking trails available leave. The other area of tourist interest is the Cheow Larn reservoir formed by the construction of Ratchaprapa Dam.
Cheow Lan Lake: Created by the construction of Ratchaprapa Dam in 1986, Cheow Lan Lake has quickly became the Khao Sok's main attraction. The lake boasts one of Thailand's most breathtaking views. About 60 kilometres from north to south, the lake reservoir covers an area of 165 square kilometers and provide water for a hydro electric power plant. The lake features high limestone karst cliffs and more then 100 towering outcrops that rise dramatically from calm, pristine emerald water. Numerous creeks go to far into the lush forests as long, watery fingers. In the jungle at the more remote parts of the lake wildlife such as tapir, elephant, marble and civet cat, serow and gaur can be found. There are many caves, viewpoints and trails all accessible with boats operating from the raft houses, which are one of the main attractions of the park with beautiful views over the huge water reservoir. Apart from hiking and exploring the lake by boat, many visitors take up the opportunity to do guided bird watching hikes, night safari tours, more extreme overnight camping treks, canoe trips along the Sok River, and elephant trekking, all of which are offered by a plenthy of tour companies operating near the park's western gate. For a truly tranquil experience, spending a night or two at one of floating raft house villages within the lake is a must. Cheow Lan Lake is accessible from the longtail boat pier located near the Ratchaprapa Dam on south-east side of the park, about 65 km east of the visitor centre. There are no public services directly to the pier, this area is like a totally separate destination from the park. The nearest point of public transportation is Ban Ta Khun village located about 12 km south of the pier. As a result, the best option to get to the pier and then the lake is take advantage of tour packages offered by the companies operating near the park's western gate, or organize yourself a private transport. Directly in front of the pier there is a small national park booth where visitors must purchase tickets to the park if they haven't already done so. A trip with a 10 pax longtail boat costs from 1500 Baht up to 4,000 Baht, the price difference depends on the distance to raft houses. Khlong Long tributary on northeast area is the most popular destination in the lake, probably due to the relative distance from the pier. Instead the raft houses on west side are at about 2-3 hours boat trip from the pier at Ratchaprapha Dam.
Hiking Trails: There are few trail options for hikers in Khao Sok, they are limited to a couple of hiking trails starting from the campground area and two trails that depart east of the headquarters and lead to Cheow Lan Lake and the Underwater Cave. Most of waterfalls in Khao Sok can be accessed by hiking on the 7 km long trail that starts on the west side of campsite, while the 4 km long trail on the north side of camping area leading to Sip Et Chan Waterfall. The 6,5 km long trail leading to lake reservoir starts roughly 12 km east of HQ, just next to Highway 401 about 2 km over Khlong Sok Health Center. The 3 km long trail leading to the Underwater Cave leaves the Highway 401 roughly 30 km east of HQ adjacent to Khao Sok National Park Protection Unit, on trail there is the Bang Hman Ranger Station. Tourists who try to hiking on these trails on their own often finds many marked signs telling they are closed, however trails are not really closed, this is just a expedient to advise on using a guide and boosting the local economy. Some of the trails are easy to hiking and very easy to follow, especially those leading to the smaller waterfalls near the campsite. A local guide is highly recommended if you plan to explore deeper into the park, as it is to easy lost the way in a real jungle. Guides can be hired for 500 Baht for half day and 1000 Baht for full day from the agencies near HQ or from your guesthouses.
Caves: Underwater Cave is an interesting 400 meter long cave with two exits and a water-stream flowing between both ends. It is accessible by a 3 km long trail that starts from Highway 401 roughly 30 km east of HQ adjacent to Khao Sok National Park Protection Unit, on trail there is the Bang Hman Ranger Station. The hiking trail is quite challenging and requires the guidance of a ranger or a guide. Most of the walking inside the cave is through the water-stream up to knee level, but near the second exit the depth can be more or less 1 meter. The cave boasts some nice stalactite and stalagmite formations. Due to tragic deaths in another similar cave in the past, the guides won't let anyone walk through the cave if there has been days of heavy rain the water level tends to increase rapidly without warning signs. Nam Thalu is a 500 meter long cave located near the Ranger Station 4 at Klong Pey tributary within Cheow Lan reservoir. The cave has a very wide entrance and water stream flowing through it. Nam Thalu is very dangerous on rainy days when the water level tends to increase rapidly flooding the cave. In 2007, two guides and six tourists lost their lives in this cave, so currently the ranger and guides did not allow you to pass through the cave if there is any chance of rain. Apart from a 26 km boat trip from pier nearby Ratchaprapha Dam until Ton Toey Raft House, 4 km hiking needed to get to this cave, about one hour trek. Alternatively, you can reach the cave hiking the 7,5 km trail starting from Highway 401, roughly 12 km east of HQ, and then the last 4 km of trail that starts near Ton Toey Raft House, in total about four hours trek.
Waterfalls: Namtok Wing Hin, Namtok Bang Liap Nam and Namtok Ton Kloi are three small waterfalls accessible by the 7 km trail that starts on the west side of campsite. Along the hiking trial visitors can also stop for relax and swimming at Wang Yao pool. Namtok Sip Et Chan is a 11-level waterfall falling into a large pond. Located north of the campsite, it is accessible by the 4 km long path that start from the campsite. Waterfall is a great place to swim, take a break and relax on the rocks watching the many species of birds feeding and flying around.
Headquarters, Campsites & Raft-houses
Headquarters and park's west entrance are located next to Highway 401 at Tambon Khlong Sok, about 105 km west of Surat Thani town, 57 km east of Khao Lak and about 140 km north of Phuket and Krabi. Facilities at Headquarters area include the visitor center, restaurant, camping area with toilet/shower facilities, and 8 bungalows that can accommodate from 4 to 9 people. The area is quite spacious with a smaller water stream running through it. Just opposite the parks headquarter there are a few guest houses with restaurants. A plenty of guest houses, bungalow-style resorts, restaurants, shops and other facilities are located along the two km of road leading to the park’s entrance. All guest houses around offer various activities such as canoeing, water activities and guided tours on different areas of park, including 2-4 days tours to the Cheow Lan Lake. Tour packages may also cover tours to other protected areas near Khao Sok. Guides are also available, 500 Baht for half day and 1000 Baht for full day, from the tour agencies near HQ or from any guest houses.
Cheow Lan Lake: The Raft Houses Resorts on Cheow Lan Lake are one of the main attractions of the park. With beautiful views over the huge water reservoir, they offer relaxing stays and a plenty of fun activities. Apart from hiking and exploring the lake by boat, are available bird-watching hikes, night safari tours, elephant trekking, more extreme overnight camping treks, canoeing and bamboo-raft along the Sok River. Cheow Lan Lake is accessible from the longtail boat pier located near the Ratchaprapa Dam on south-east side of the park, about 65 km east of the visitor centre. There are no public services directly to the pier; this area is like a totally separate destination from the park. As a result, the best option to get to the pier and then the lake is take advantage of tour packages offered by the companies operating near the park's western gate, or organize yourself a private transport. Directly in front of the pier there is a small national park booth where visitors must purchase tickets to the park if they haven't already done so. A trip with a 10 pax longtail boat costs from 1500 Baht up to 4,000 Baht, the price difference depends on the distance to raft houses. Khlong Long tributary on northeast area is the most popular destination in the lake, probably due to the relative distance from the pier. Instead the raft houses on west side are at about 2-3 hours boat trip from the pier at Ratchaprapha Dam.Read More
- Address Park Headquarters: Mu 6 Khlong Sok, Phanom, Surat Thani
- Telephone: +66 7739 5154, +66 7739 5139
- Admission fee: 300 THB for Adults and 150 THB for Children
- Website: www.dnp.go.th
The temperature in Khao Sok ranges from 22° to 36° C throughout the year. The constant humidity and warm temperatures provide the optimal environment for the rich ecosystem of its tropical rain forests. The best time to visit the park is from late December to mid-April. A relatively cool and dry period that runs when the monsoon blows northwest, characterized by constant sunny days the daytime temperatures range between 25° and 33° C. The temperatures in March and April tend to rise while condensed clouds gathering throughout the day and offer refreshing short rains in the evening. The rainy season in the area begin in late April and last until the late December, when Khao Sok is influenced by monsoon winds from both the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Most of the rain falls between May and November when the southwest monsoon brings heavy storms, making Khao Sok among Thailand's wettest regions with an annual rain fall of 3,500 mm. The average temperatures in the rain season range between 27° C and 32° C and the humidity increases to over 70% with peaks that reach 90%. The trails become very slippery, many areas are often flooded, and since this is the season when animals hide, sightings are more difficult.
Headquarters and Park's western entrance are located in Tambon Khlong Sok, Amphoe Phanom, in Surat Thani Province. The relatively convenient distance to Khao Lak, Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui makes Khao Sok the most popular national park in Southern Thailand. Headquarters, Visitor Centre and camping area are next to Highway 401 about 105km west of Surat Thani, 57km east of Khao Lak and about 140km north of Phuket and Krabi. The area is easily accessible by public transport, as buses and minibuses from all the southern tourist destinations, but also from Bangkok, stop on the main road just 2 kilometers from Headquarters. Cheow Lan Lake is accessible from the longtail boat pier located near the Ratchaprapa Dam on south-east side of the park, about 65 km east of the visitor centre. There are no public services directly to the pier, this area is like a totally separate destination from the park. The nearest point of public transportation is Ban Ta Khun village located about 12 km south of the pier. As a result, the best option to get to the pier and then the lake is take advantage of tour packages offered by the companies operating near the park's western gate, or organize yourself a private transport.
From Surat Thani the Air-con public buses toward Khao Sok leave from Downtown Transportation Hub 2, known as Talad Kaset 2, located between Soi 31 and Soi 33 in the city centre. The buses run hourly from 7.00 until 14.00 and stop at Surat Thani Train Station 15 min later. Ticket fare is 120 Baht and trip take around two hours. The minibuses to and from Khao Sok leave every hour from 07:00 to 16:00. Fare is 250 Baht to and from city center, 300 Baht from Airport, and trip takes 1,50 hours.
From Phuket buses toward Khao Sok leave from the new Bus Terminal 2 located on Thepkasatri Road, the main road leading out of Phuket Town. At date 2016, there are five daily departures toward park at 7.30, 8.20,11.00, 12.20 and 13.30. The ticket fare is around 180 Baht and trip takes about four hours, including a 20 min stop at Khao Lak and Takua Pa village that you may use to visit the local market.
From Krabi-Ao Nang there is only one minibus per day at 11:00, while from Khao Sok minibuses leave at 08:30, 14:30 and 16:30. Fare is 450 Baht and trip takes 3,50 hours.
From Samui minibuses depart at 07:30 and 13:30, from Khao Sok minibuses leave at 09:00 and 15:30. Fare is 550 Bath including boat fare and trip takes about 6-7 hours.
From Koh Lanta there is only one minibus per day at 14:30, from Khao Sok minibus leaves at 08:30. Fare is 700 Baht including boat fare and trip takes 5 hours.
From Takua Pa buses depart hourly from 6:00 and 18:00. The ticket fare ranges between 40 and 60 Baht depending on the class of bus, and the trip takes about one hour. At Takua Pa village it's possible to transfer from the buses coming from Bangkok, Khuraburi, Khao Lak, Phuket and elsewhere.
From Bangkok there is only one night bus reaching directly Khao Sok. The bus leaves at 20:00 from the Sai Tai Mai Southern Terminal, located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. It is quite far from the city centre, and there aren't Subway or Skytrain stations nearby, accordingly the best choice to get to station is boarding a metered taxi. The trip take 10:30 hours and fare is about 700 Baht. Moreover, there are several daily departures toward Surat Thani from same terminal. The trip takes about 8:30 hours and fare ranges between 450 to 750 Baht depending on bus class.
To get to the park, as alternative to public transport, you can drive a rental car or take advantage of the organized tour excursions departing from all seaside resorts in southern Thailand. In Thailand you can rent a car at prices ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 THB a day, depending on the model and the rental company. At Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani airports you will find the offices of major car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget and Hertz, which offer excellent car covered with full insurance. Inside all southern cities, the local hire agencies offer also cars of good quality at similar price, however, sometimes they do not have insurance that covers the full damage, so make sure of it before you have unpleasant surprises.
Path from Surat Thani and Samui: follow to east Highway 401, between the kilometer markers 109 and 110 there is a turn-off road to the north leading to the park's entrance, about 1.5 km from the main road.
Path from Phuket and Khao Lak: follow Highway 4 to the north until Takua Pa village, then turn right onto Highway 401 and follow it for 40 km, in this case the road leading to the park's entrance is on the left.
Path from Krabi: follow Highway 4, Thanon Phetkasem, to north for about 66 Km until the intersection with the Highway 4118, turn left and follow it until the junction with the Highway 401, turn right and follow it until the road leading to the park's entrance.
Khao Sok Safari One-Day Tour from Phuket, Khao Lak, Samui or Krabi costs between 2,000 and 2,800 THB, depending on the tour operator, the options chosen and your resort of stay. The package includes: transfer round trip from your hotel, visit to Suwankuha Temple (Monkey Cave), arrival at Khao Sok Park, elephant trekking through a tropical rainforest, stop in a charming panoramic view point, lunch in a riverside restaurant, bamboo rafting or canoeing on the river, soft drink, caffe or tea, tourist guide speaking English or Russian, and tour insurance. The departure from all seaside resorts is between 6:30 and 7:30 am, the return is at 6:30-7.:30 pm.
Cheow Lan Lake Two-Days Tour from all seaside resorts costs between 4,800 and 6,400 THB. The package includes: transfer round trip from your hotel with leaving at 6:00-7:30 am, arrival at Khao Sok Park, elephant trekking, stop at a scenic viewpoint, lunch in a riverside restaurant, Flying fox over the jungle, departure by long-tail boat to Cheow Lan Lake from the Sightseeing Pier, check in at a floating raft resort, canoeing on the lake, nature watching, relax and swim in the fresh waters, dinner, nigth safari by long-tail boat. 2nd Day: breakfast, sightseeing and watching various species of animals by long-tail boat, cave expedition to explore stalagmites and stalactites, lunch at a local restaurant, departure from Chiao Lan Lake and arrival at your hotel between 20:00-21:00. The tour includes also tourist guide speaking English or Russian and tour insurance.
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