Sometimes we’re in such a hurry to get to where we think we want to go, we miss out on new and memorable experiences. So it was for us with Khao Sok. Because this stunning national park is within easy striking distance of the likes of Koh Samui and Phuket, you can easily pass it by without a thought. Oh what a mistake! Until we took the road less travelled.
Khao Sok is a wildlife haven without rival. Here you will find a tropical evergreen rainforest that’s even older and more diverse than Amazonia. In fact, it’s the oldest of its kind in the world.
Green, misty and alive with jungle sounds, this is a land that’s peppered with waterfalls and soaring limestone karsts. And thanks to Yonder, there is handpicked Khao Sok accommodation just waiting for your arrival.
Song of the gibbons
In Khao Sok, you can hear gibbons calling from the treetops; see brilliant beaked hornbills flying above the emerald canopy; and glimpse wild elephants roaming freely over lush mountainsides, where tigers, leopards, and jungle cats stalk their prey by night.
In fact, more than 48 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and thousands species of trees and plants have been recorded here. And there are many discoveries yet to be made.
Avian highlights include several species of kingfisher, the Asian paradise flycatcher, red-bearded bee-eater, trogons, hornbills and the seven-colour banded pitta.
And if you visit between December and early April, you might even witness one of the rarest events on earth – the blooming of the world’s largest and rarest flower, the Rafflesia, also known by the less than alluring name, Stinking corpse lily!
At the heart of the national park lies Cheow Lan Lake, created decades ago by the building of a dam on the Sok river.
One of life’s most remarkable experiences is to stay one one of the lake’s floating raft houses, where the dawn chorus that awakens you will not be the calls of British songbirds but the songs of the gibbons high in the jungle canopy. In our book, surely one of the most compelling bucket list experiences on earth.
And higher still is the looming presence of Khao Sok’s limestone karsts, or cliffs, jagged formations that rear up above the jungle, some to almost 3,000ft in height. They are the remnants of a coral reef system created 250 million years ago from shell and coral deposits.
Activities here are numerous and almost as diverse as the wildlife. If you prefer to be afloat, You can take a cruise on the lake by longtail boat, power yourself in a kayak, or take a river adventure in a rubber inflatable.
On land, you can take a half-day or full-day trek, visiting a beautiful waterfall and learning about the extraordinary biodiversity of the park. You can take an elephant ride through the jungle to visit another hidden waterfall. Or you can take a night safari when you can expect to encounter some of the forest’s nocturnal citizens such as frogs, owls, civet cats, flying squirrels, barking deer (yep, they bark!) and wild boar.
And you can even take an overnight safari, trekking through the forest before making camp beside the river where you can swim, explore and watch the passing wildlife.