For travellers to Southern Thailand, a trip to Cheow Lan Lake, also known as Khao Sok Lake, is a must! Located 45km from Khlong Sok village, Cheow Lan Lake is situated between the party islands of the Gulf, and the pristine beaches of the Andaman coast. If you take a Khao Sok lake tour, you will be rewarded with fairy-tale scenery, jungle wildlife, and additionally the peace and quiet that comes from a remote location.
In 1982, the Ratchaprapa dam was completed in the southwestern corner of Khao Sok National Park. This was the birth of Cheow Lan Lake. It resulted in the evacuation and relocation of hundreds of local people and also thousands of stranded animals. Since this time, the lake has become a major tourism destination, renowned for its spectacular karst, and wildlife spotting opportunities. Displaced locals were given land and also concessions to operate Khao Sok floating bungalows. Furthermore the many wild animals found around Khao Sok Lake include elephants, gibbons, leopards, and 5 species of monkey.
This page will provide you with a history of the lake and, especially relevant, the information you need to plan your getaway to a Khao Sok lake house! Read on to find out more about this incredible place and begin planning your trip.
The Three Sides of Khao Sok Lake
Due to the topography of the area, Cheow Lan lake is a vast, irregular body of water. It follows the shapes of the valleys and ravines that it filled. As a result it has countless bays, coves and fjord-like fingers. Spread throughout this wonderland are caves, hikes, waterfalls, scenic viewpoints, and Khao Sok floating bungalows. The paragraphs below will give a bit of information about the lake’s three main sections.
The eastern section of Khao Sok Lake is home to the famous Ratchaprapa Dam, and also home to most of the “modern” style floating bungalows. The majority of the lake’s most dramatic karst mountains are in this area, and as a result, there are less elephants, red bull, and other ground-dwelling species of wildlife. Two rivers, or ‘Klongs,’ help form the eastern part of Cheow Lan Lake. These are Klong Long, and Klong Kha. Both of these Klongs are home to Khao Sok national park floating bungalows, and feature a few natural attractions as well. A Cheow Lan lake tour to this part of the lake will likely include a visit to one or two of the following:
- Diamond Cave
- Coral Cave
- Guilin scenic area
Heading west along Khao Sok lake brings a heightened feeling of remoteness. The added time and expense necessary to get to this area means that is less popular with casual visitors. This means less Khao Sok accommodation on the lake, and more peace and quiet. This is how the real Cheow Lan experience begins: fewer tourists, increased wildlife sightings, and a more authentic experience! The western section of Cheow Lan Lake contains three Klongs: Klong Yee, Klong Mon, and Klong Pey. Guests on a Khao Sok lake tour based in this part of the lake will enjoy a proximity to the following:
- Nam-Taloo Cave
- Khao Sok Lake viewpoint hike
- Tam Gia nature hike
- Klong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary
The north-western most area of Khao Sok Lake, Klong Saeng is currently a protected wildlife sanctuary. The Khao Sok national park floating bungalows that were once based here have closed. Additionally, foreign visitors are no longer allowed to remain in the sanctuary overnight.
Klong Saeng is still visitable, however, and provides the best opportunities to see some of Thailand’s most impressive wildlife. Due to remoteness, finding a Khao Sok lake tour that guides guests through this part of the lake is difficult.
However, guests willing to spend a bit more time and money will find that Klong Saeng does not disappoint. Animals that can be seen in the wildlife sanctuary include: elephant, gibbons, Sambar deer, sun bear, gaur, pig-tailed macaque, langurs, and hornbills.
Khao Sok Lake Tours
Without doubt, the easiest and most efficient way to visit Cheow Lan Lake is with a tour organized through a resort or company. Farther down, we will provide information for getting to the lake and on the water without booking a tour. In this section, we will look at the different Cheow Lan lake tour day tours and overnight trips available.
The most budget-friendly option for a Cheow Lan lake tour is a joined tour organized through a resort. There are two types of joined lake tours available, beginning with a Cheow Lan lake day tour. Guests on this tour will leave their resort around 08:30, and return around 18:00.
The second joined Cheow Lan lake tour is a two-day/one-night trip with an overnight in a Khao Sok floating bungalow. This tour begins at 09:00, with guests returning around 14:00 the following day.
Please note: joined tour prices are set by the tourism board of Khao Sok. As a result, all Khao Sok resorts sell these tours at the same price.
Limitations of Joined Tours
While the joined tours are the most budget-friendly option for seeing the lake, they do have disadvantages. We urge anyone embarking on a joined lake tour to consider the following:
As a member of a joined Cheow Lan lake day tour or overnight trip, you are part of a larger whole. This means that some of your goals for the lake may be sacrificed for the benefit of the group.
In order to ensure that the trip runs smoothly, a schedule must be in place, and adhered to. This helps to ensure that guests are able to experience everything promised to them by their operator.
Joined tours are built and operated to satisfy the largest amount of people possible, regardless of age, fitness or interest. This means guests on a joined tour may have others in their group with different reasons for visiting the lake.
Rafthouses and activities
Joined Cheow Lan lake tours typically send guests to only a few of the many Khao Sok national park floating bungalow raft houses available. The most frequently visited of these are Tone Toey, Krai Sorn, and Happy bungalow Khao Sok lake houses. These are all located in the western section of Cheow Lan Lake.
Activities are often dictated by the Khao Sok lake house at which guests have lunch or spend the night. For example, only joined tours staying at Tone Toey raft house will visit Nam-Taloo Cave.
Please note: joined Khao Sok lake tours only send guests to ‘basic’ Khao Sok floating bungalows. This means guests will have a small bamboo bungalow, with two thin ‘mattresses,’ and no electricity after 10p.m. These types of Khao Sok lake house also feature shared restrooms, located away from the bungalows.
If you are interested in visiting Cheow Lan lake as part of a Khao Sok adventure, be sure to visit our our Khao Sok Package Tours page We’ve bundled activities and accommodation to give guests the best Khao Sok experience for their budget.
For guests with a larger budget, a private Khao Sok lake tour is an excellent way to see Cheow Lan lake in comfort. With endless formats and options available, there is therefore something for everyone in a private tour. The only limitations will be time, and also the types of activities desired.
The advantages of a private lake Cheow Lan lake tour are easy to see. Since there is no standard program the tour is therefore customized to the guests’ needs. Additionally, guests have full access to their local guide. As a result the guide can focus on fun stuff, like spotting wildlife and sharing information on local culture and lifestyle.
The main expense to consider when pricing a private Cheow Lan lake tour is accomodation. In addition to the bamboo Khao Sok floating bungalow, there are many types of Khao Sok accommodation available on the lake. Guests have the option of deluxe bamboo bungalows, super-deluxe and modern bungalows, with air-conditioning and in-room plumbing. These options range in price from around 3,500B/night to over 6,000B/night. Consequently adding a long-tail boat and a guide, a one night private trip starts at between 4,500 and 6,000 Baht per person, depending on group size.
Some Khao Sok hotels organize private lake trips, but the best and most flexible tours are organized by the tour agency known as Khao Sok Lake. Due to the bespoke nature of a private Cheow Lan lake day tour or overnight trip, prices can only be quoted on request.
What you should know before your Khao Sok lake trip
Cheow Lan Lake is one of the most stunning locations in the world. Due to the combination of scenery, swimming, and wilderness a Cheow Lan lake day tour or overnight trip has something for everyone. However, each trip to the lake does come with potential disadvantages. For example, Khao Sok Lake is quickly gaining in popularity. Each year more and more guests (both Thai and foreign) arrive at the lake, with locals and the local government struggling to keep up. The result is more Khao Sok accommodation on the lake, more people, and more noise, particularly during weekends and Thai holidays. If you are looking for peace and privacy, avoid visiting the lake during Thai holidays, Chinese New Year, or the Christmas-New Year period.
Checklist – what to bring to Cheow Lan Lake
- 300 Baht National Park Entrance Fee (150 for children under 10)
- Sun protection – hat, sunscreen, long sleeves
- Plastic bag for clothes and other dry items
- Headlamp or torch
- Hiking clothes – these will get dirty!
- Hiking shoes (we recommend tennis/running shoes)
- Mosquito repellent for hiking
- Extra clothes for the van ride back to Khao Sok (it can get cold with the A/C on)
- Towel – the floating raft houses will sometimes run behind on laundry
A Note on Safety
Cheow Lan lake is a wild, remote location and is subject to changing natural conditions. These conditions can exact a toll on comfort and convenience. Every visitor should be prepared for less-than-perfect conditions. Weather can be unpredictable, and rain can change the itinerary, create delays, and even cancel the hike or boat tour. Additionally, the remoteness of the lake means that medical assistance is an hour away at least. Guests should to consider this remoteness when deciding whether or not to take part in jungle activities.
Things to consider
Khao Sok lake tour guides are experienced professionals. However, it is impossible for them to monitor all guests at once. Therefore, guests embarking on a jungle or cave hike should be prepared to accept full responsibility for their personal safety. No guest will be forced to engage in any activity that would be considered dangerous for a healthy individual. However, changing weather and trail conditions can lead to heightened risks of injury. We recommend keeping this in mind when deciding to bring young children or elderly family members to the lake.
Another word on safety at Khao Sok Lake concerns the Nam-Taloo cave hike. What makes Nam-Taloo cave exhilarating is the river which flows through it. As a result guests will spend time walking through the shoulder-deep water of this underground river on their hike! While a great adventure, this river poses a threat in the form of flash floods, should it rain above. For this reason, guides will cancel this cave hike in the event or rain, or even if rain seems likely. Please note: Not every Khao Sok lake tour visits Nam-Taloo cave! Guests should inquire at booking as to which cave they will be visiting during their trip.
Getting to Khao Sok Lake
You can easily reach Cheow Lan lake by private car or motorcycle because it is just 66 kilometers from Khao Sok. In contrast, public transportation to the lake can be a bit hit-or-miss. We will therefore examine this option below. Consequently the majority of guests visit the lake on Khao Sok Lake tours organized by a resort or operator. This is also often the best option, as the cost and logistics of arranging transportation is included in the tour price.
Public Transport to the lake
First of all guests will need to board a bus or shared van in Khao Sok that is heading to Surat Thani. They will then get off at the town of Baan Takun which is approximately 50km away. Once in Baan Takun, we recommend hiring a taxi for the remaining 15km to the National Park pier. Occasionally, there are vans going from the Highway in Baan Takun to the pier. You should not rely on these however because they run irregularly.
When you reach the pier, a new challenge will probably arise: communicating your needs with non-English-speaking boat drivers. Furthermore these drivers are essential to reach your Khao Sok national park floating bungalow! You should speak at least basic Thai if you do visit the lake on your own.
Special Trips To Cheow Lan Lake
Guests looking for a deeper connection with Khao Sok Lake and its surrounding villages and forests are in luck! As a result of community-based tourism development in the village of Khao Pang, guests can now connect with local culture at an authentic Thai homestay! This opens the door to locally inspired activities, and also unique Khao Sok accommodation on the lake. Please contact us for more information.
Visit Hidden Gems
Additionally, tucked away in the deep jungle surrounding the lake there are many lesser-known hikes, viewpoints, and waterfalls. Joined Khao Sok lake tours rarely visit them , but they can be included in a private tour. These hidden gems include:
- Bang Hoi waterfall
- Klong Pe Viewpoint hike
- Coral Cave
- Tam Gia Nature Trail
- Klong Saeng Wiidlife Sanctuary
Khao Sok Jungle Camping
Finally, the best way to appreciate the wilderness of this area is to spend a night or two camping. Jungle camping at Khao Sok Lake offers an unforgettable experience, with opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spotting. You should therefore contact us to arrange a camping adventure for yourself!