Overview of Khao Sok National Park
This page provides an introduction to Khao Sok National Park and the Cheow Lan lake. Next, it explains Khao Sok weather, and why the Khao Sok park contains the most unique jungle in Thailand.
Khao Sok Park is centrally located between Phuket, Krabi, and Surathani provinces. Koh Sok has two centers of activity: the headquarters and village to the West; and the lake to the East.
Khao Sok National Park Headquarters
West Park – Headquarters, village, hikes, river activities, elephant camps,
The village of Khlong Sok is the central area of Khao Sok Park, home to the headquarters and many Khao Sok hotels. Public transportation is easily available, and a number of restaurant and shops cater to foreign visitors. Restaurants, a pharmacy, and ATM machines are easily accessible. This is a great launching point for activities including hikes, canoeing, and Khao Sok elephant bathing.
The east side of Khao Sok National Park contains the Cheow Lan Lake. It is 45km from the park headquarters. The area is fed by a system of seven rivers, or ‘Klongs,’ from which each region of the lake consequently takes its name. Rajaprabha Dam was completed in 1982, inundating 64 square miles and displacing 3 villages. More recently the waters of the lake have provided a livelihood for displaced villagers through fishing and tourism.
There are several floating bungalows on the lake, most of which are frequented by Thai guests.
Visitors choose between private tours to modern bungalows and group tours to bamboo rafthouses with shared bathrooms.
The nearby town Takun has several markets and banks, but is not well prepared to receive international guests. Guests travelling to the lake independently may have trouble communicating unless they can speak basic Thai.
Khao Sok Weather
When is the Khao Sok weather best for a visit? All times of year have advantages. From mid-November through mid-May is usually the dry season, and rainfall is less common. March and April are considered the best months for seeing animals at the lake, and while hiking by the river. From June through October, rain is more common, mostly in the form of afternoon showers. The rain also brings more water in the rivers to enjoy tubing and canoeing.
It is common for Khao Sok weather visit to include both sunshine and rain.
Here is a list of items we recommend for your trip:
- Long sleeve shirts and pants to protect from intense sun.
- Lightweight poncho or waterproof jacket.
- Tennis or running shoes that dry quickly
- Waterproof flashlight
Plants and Animals
Visitors come to Khao Sok National Park expecting to see wildlife, and with enough time and patience, it often happens. To see the most wildlife, it is necessary to go on a guided full day hike in the Khao Sok park or a private trip to Klong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Most animal activity in the jungle occurs between 7am to 9am and again from 3pm to 5pm. Hikers will often see long-tailed macaques and silver leaf monkeys swinging through the trees. Keep an ear out for the hornbill, a large-beaked bird resembling a toucan. It’s a noisy flyer, and the whooshing sound of its wings can often be heard overhead.
At night, fruit bats, civet cats, and the adorable slow loris come out from their hiding places. A night safari with a good headlamp and a skilled guide will therefore give you a glimpse into the dark side of Khao Sok.
Plants and Jungle Hazards
Like all jungles, animals in Khao Sok are often hard to see, but the plants can’t run away. Khao Sok is home to a number of plant species found nowhere else on earth. The Rafflesia is a mysterious vine species that produces the largest flower in the world. Higher up in the canopy, bats make their homes under the giant leaves of the endangered Langkaew Palm tree.
Always take an experienced guide when hiking in the deep jungle because some plants and animals can be dangerous, so . Elephants are the most feared, but they are rarely encountered. Another hazard is the “Crying Elephant” leaf that leaves a burning sensation for several weeks. The most dangerous animal in the jungle is you. You can avoid almost all hazards by watching your step, paying attention to your surroundings, and listening to your guide.
The area that is Khao Sok has a history beginning 300 million years ago. Rising oceans consequently created a shallow sea with conditions perfect the growth of coral. The result was a massive reef which stretched from China to Borneo. Eventually, more sediment buried this reef deep below the surface, and the pressure compressed the coral into limestone. It is this limestone that forms the Karst mountains we see today!
About 60 million years ago, the Indian tectonic plate collided with the Eurasian plate and as a result formed the Himalayas. At the same time, Thailand was rotated clockwise and moved to the south-east as the Himalayas rose. The ancient, buried limestone was thrust up, folded, faulted, and then eroded into its current form.
Between 300A.D. and 1300 A.D., Khao Sok was home to an ancient trade route between China and India. Ancient Hindu statues have been found in nearby Kapong and Pra Narai.
The Modern Age
Until the modern era, Khao Sok has been sparsely settled. In the last century, however, small villages and fruit plantations were established.
In the 1970’s Khao Sok served as a stronghold for student activists fleeing Bangkok, following the military crackdown on October 6, 1976. Their headquarters and hospital were located in the area of Namtaloo cave on Khao Sok Lake. For eight years they kept the Thai military at bay. The students also held off logging companies that would have cleared massive areas of the forest that became Khao Sok National Park. Everyone avoided hunting, as unnecessary gunshots on either side would give away positions. Additionally poachers kept out of the occupied areas. As a result, wildlife thrived in an active combat zone, and to this day the area around Cheow Lan remains one of the best places in Thailand to see wildlife.
The jungles of the Khao Sok park are a meeting point of two Eco-systems. The western rolling mountains of the Khao Sok park are a sharp contrast to the dramatic limestone peaks of the east park.
This makes for a range of habitats therefore, from lowland swamps up to river valleys and grassy highlands. Rare Eco-types found in the park include highland forests (with wild lemon groves) as well as karst sinkholes.
Nearby Protected Areas
Khao Sok National Park is part of the largest protected area in Southern Thailand. To the south is also the rarely visited Klong Phanom National Park
Despite being home to ancient cave paintings and the world’s largest species of Bamboo, the steep terrain and lack of trails make it hard to access.
Heading north from Khao Sok, Sri Phang Nga National Park and two adjacent wildlife sanctuaries are also practically inaccessible.
Bordering Khao Sok National park to the east, Klong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary is accessible via the lake, but only through private tour companies.
Khao Sok National Park is the easiest way to appreciate the beauty and diversity of this otherwise inaccessible protected area.