Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is considered by many to be the most alluring wildlife reserves in Thailand. It is also one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The national park covers 738.74 square kilometers in Surat Thai province so even regular visitors will keep on finding new areas to explore. Khao Sok is sometimes referred to as the Thai Gui Lin because it shares many of the same attributes as the most beautiful place in China. This was once the home of communist guerrillas who protected the area from loggers and miners. It became the 22nd national park of Thailand in 1980.
Visiting Khao Sok National Park
Those who just want to come to Khao Sok for the day will need to plan carefully. They will not have enough time to see even the main attractions. It is therefore recommended that they choose their itinerary before they come – otherwise they might waste too much time deciding on where to go next. Those that really want to see what the park has to offer are advised to come for at least three days. Wild Kingdom Tours offer 3-4 day packages which include all the main highlights of the park.
Location of Khao Sok National Park and the Rajjabrabha Dam
Khao Sok National Park is situated in Surat Thani province. It is located 73km from Surat Thani city. It is also near enough to Krabi and Phuket to make it a worthwhile day trip for people staying in these tourist areas – although it is recommended that people visit for at least a couple of days to get the most out of the trip. The Khao Sok National Park covers a number of different locations including:
- Rajjabrabha Dam/ Chieo Lan Reservoir
- Khlong Pra Sang Forest
- Khlong Yee
- Krai Son
- Khao Pung
- Khlong Sok
Entry Fee to the National Park
As of 2012 the entry fee to Khao Sok National Park is 200 THB for foreigners, 100 THB for students, and 40 THB for local Thais. Those foreigners who have a Thai driving license can sometimes get the reduced rate.
Activities in Khao Sok National Park
Those who enjoy nature will have plenty to keep them entertained during their visit to Khao Sok National Park. There are also other activities for the easily bored including:
- Elephant riding
- Jungle trekking – this is best done with a guide (the usual cost for this is 500 THB per day).
- Visit the stunning waterfalls
- Get to observe tropical jungle wildlife in a natural setting – there are even tigers and Malayan Sun Bears living here.
- Canoeing on the Sok River
- Tubing on the Sok River
- Bamboo rafting
- Boat tours
- Caving/ spelunking
- Take lots of photographs – Khao Sok is probably one of the most photogenic locations there is
- Walking is the most popular activity for visitors to this national park
- Zip lining rides – this is where people get to see the jungle canopy with the assistance of zip lines.
- Look for fossils which date back to a previous ice age
There are also additional activities available for those who visit Rajjaprabha Dam (see below).
Accommodation at Khao Sok National Park
It is possible for visitors to stay at the park in accommodation owned by the Royal Forest Department. There are hostel beds and bungalows to rent. The accommodation is spread out over 5 zones, and ranges in price from 400 THB to 800 THB. The more expensive bungalow rooms have fans, toilets, and hot water. It is also possible to camping if people are feeling truly adventurous.
As well as the official park accommodation there is also a number of local resorts and guesthouses. These can be found on the main road before reaching the park. Some of the most popular places include:
- Khao Sok Paradise Resort offers tree house accommodation and standard bungalows. The price for a night ranges from 1,500 THB to 2,800 THB for a family room.
- The Cliff and River Jungle Resort offers villas with their own terraces. There are a number of accommodation options with rates ranging from 2,000 THB to 5,500 THB.
- Tree Tops Jungle Resort is another option for those who have always wanted to spend the night in a luxurious tree house – there are also some raft houses available too. A basic room costs 2,000 THB while the deluxe accommodation costs 3,600 THB.
- Las Orquideas Resort offers villas and private rooms in the midst of tropical gardens. A standard room costs 1800 THB and a family room costs 3,300 THB.
- Less expensive accommodation can be found at Morning Mist Resort. There are bungalows available to suit different budgets with the cheapest being 550 THB.
- Khao Sok Green Valley Resort is located just 200 meters from the entrance to the park. It has accommodation options ranging from 700 THB to 1,800 THB (900 THB to 2,400 THB in the high season).
- Art’s Riverview Lodge is another possibility for those who are on a budget. It is possible to get accommodation here for as little as 350 THB.
- Khao Sok Island Resort offers accommodation options ranging from 200 THB to 800 THB. This resort also offers Thai cooking courses.
Eating and Drinking Near Khao Sok National Park
There are quite a few restaurants and a couple of bars near Khao Sok National Park including:
- Pawn’s Restaurant can be found on the main road just before the Khao Sok entrance. It is a good choice for those who enjoy vegetarian food – it is probably the only choice for vegans.
- Jungle Hut offers an elevated eating area known as the restaurant in the sky. It serves western as well as Thai food.
- Morning Mist Resort offers good Thai food and it is also a popular drinking establishment.
- There are a couple of Reggae type bars outside the park; Rasta Bar and the Chill Out Bar.
Almost all of the resorts have their own restaurant. Most of these serve a combination of Thai and western food.
Rajjabrabha Dam (Chieo Lan Reservoir) is one of the main attractions in Khao Sok National Park – it is a large body of water that covers 185 square kilometers. It has been described as one of the hidden treasures of Surat Thani. It closely resembles Halong Bay in Vietnam but it is not as well known. Most people who arrive at the reservoir will hire a long tail boat to take them on a tour. Despite the fact that this is classified as a dam, and therefore manmade, this location is actually full of natural beauty. It is hard to believe that this inland lake didn’t exist prior to 1988. There is even remnants of the villages that were once located here deep under water. Rajjaprabha Dam is a one hour drive from the National Park headquarters.
Things to Do at Rajjabrabha Dam
There are a number of activities available to visitors at Rajjabrabha Dam including:
- Scuba diving
- Playing golf – there is a reasonably priced (600 THB) golf course nearby.
- Take a tour of the dam in a long tail boat.
Accommodation at Rajjabrabha Dam
It is possible to stay overnight at the dam. There are small huts for rent that cost 300 THB per night. These huts are quite small and may not suit those who expect luxurious accommodation – they will be fine for those individuals who don’t mind roughing it occasionally. There is also some new accommodation available on the water that is slightly more luxurious.
Getting to Khao Sok National Park
It is possible to travel to Khao Sok by bus from:
- The bus from Phuket bus station (in Phuket Town) can take about 6 hours to get to Khao Sok. Tickets for the trip cost 180 THB.
- There is a bus from Surat Thani bus station that can take 1 to 2 hours to reach Khao Sok. Tickets cost 80 THB.
- Those who wish to travel from Bangkok need to first get a bus to Surat Thani from Sai Tai Mai (Southern Bus Terminal) Bus Station.
There are also private tour busses that can take people to Khao Sok. These tend to be much faster than the government bus and make it possible for those staying in Phuket, Krabi, and Surat Thani to visit on a day trip.
If people are driving they can usually make the 160 Km trip in 2 ½ hours from Phuket – depending on traffic. Those driving from Surat Thani should be able to get there in less than an hour. Anyone driving down from Bangkok should expect to spend at least 10 hours in their car for this 723 km trip.
Staying Safe at Khao Sok
Khao Sok covers a vast area of jungle, and it can be a dangerous place. In order to stay safe it is advised that people:
- Only go trekking when they are accompanied by an experienced guide.
- Those individuals who do not normally exercise would probably be wise to avoid signing up for one of the more adventurous treks.
- Visitors should not enter Namtaloo Cave when it is raining or when it looks as if it could rain. It is possible to get trapped in here, and this could lead to disastrous consequences.
- People should take the usual precautions to protect against heat stroke and excessive ultraviolet rays. Even when people are under the canopy of the jungle it is still possible to be burnt by the sun.
- It is best to stick to sign posted tracks. Trouble tends to start when people leave these paths.
- It is recommended that people carry some water with them at all times.