|Tours to Khao Sok|
Driving Tour to Khao Sok National Park
Here are the most beautiful rain forests still surviving in Southern Thailand
Looking for beautiful rain forests? Want the adventure of doing it yourself? Here is a beautiful self-drive tour with a great reward at the other end.
Yes, there are several tour companies offering packaged tours to Khao Sok National Park, and yes, that’ the easy way to go. But going it alone is not difficult, and can be much more rewarding. Here’s why, and how.
You need a road map, obviously. There are many available, even if you might have to hunt a little for one that stretches well north of Phuket Island. Some of the petrol companies, including SHELL, sell good ones. (NOTE: When our on-line map is complete it will give sufficient details for navigation, though we still suggest buying a detailed regional map).
Khao Sok National Park lies in the most rugged mountains in the middle of the southern Thai peninsula. These mountains have saved the forests here from being cleared for rubber and oil plantations, as happened to the rest of the South. But they are not entirely untouched, for the long fingers of a hydroelectric dam, Chiew Lan Dam?????, penetrate deep into the heart of this wilderness area. That opens many otherwise inaccessible, pristine areas to boat travel.
Few of the organised tours go into the lake; their clients rarely have the time. Instead they stop overnight at a series of quaint forest bungalow resorts clustered along the southern edge of the park, close to National Parks headquarters, and just off the main highway. From there they venture into the tattered outer fringes of the forests. Some longer tours are available, taking visitors on a day trek north from the highway into the lake, where they spend an overnight stop on the National Parks’ floating accommodation. This should give a true feel for the wilderness of Khao Sok.
For those with the time, we suggest driving to the dam and taking a National Park’s boat to one of the three floating hotels they maintain there. Booking must be done through the National Parks, though during all but Thai holiday times or long weekends, one can arrive at the boat departure point and book on the spot. Arriving at the dam site one must pass a guard post; tell them you are going to the National Park, and you may enter. Finding the National Parks post is a little complex, but watch the signs, or ask if need be. The boat landing is at the far west of the dam complex.
Surprisingly few people take the trouble of going there. The cost is 500 Baht per person per day, including three meals of rice and local dishes. The boat is extra, being quite cheap if you join a communal craft, a bit more expensive, but much more rewarding if you hire your own for the duration and use it to tour the lake and its beautiful forested fringes. Hiring one’s own boat will cost about 1,500 Baht per day, though you also pay for the driver’s accommodation.
There are three sets of floating bungalows run by National Parks on the lake. We find the first one, about an hour’s ride in, to be set in the most dramatic scenery. Each of the others take two hours or more to reach. Several small fishing villages are seen floating on the lake, but no-one is allowed to settle on land.
It is safe to leave your car by the National Parks departure point for a few days, something that all Thai visitors, who make up the vast majority of visitors, always do.
Stopping overnight at the group of privately owned bungalows on the southern edge by the highway is also fun. Some have built their rooms into trees, others overlook rainforest scenes while yet some are built in the plantations that run right to the very edge of the park boundary. Those with time to spare should stay overnight in both places.
There are two roads leading to Khao Sok, one directly north from Phuket through Khao Lak, turning east on Highway 401 a few kilometres after Takuapa. This is the fastest way to the Park headquarters by the highway. To go directly to the lake one should turn east after leaving Phuket Island towards Phang Nga, follow the normal route to Krabi, then five kilometres after Thapput turn left (east) on the route marked for Surat Thani. This then runs into the same highway on which the Park headquarters is situated. Turn right (east) here until reaching the sign-posted turnoff to Chiew Lan Dam.