The ancient rainforests of the Amazon are perhaps considered to be the oldest untouched forests on the planet, and with the most diverse flora and fauna. It is difficult to imagine any other virgin rain forest older or more diverse. As surprising as it may seem, there is a rainforest that predates that of the Amazon and with a more divergent Eco system supported by it. This incredible area of forested land is part of the Khao Sok National Park.
Khao Sok National Park, created in December 1980 and to be found in Surat Thani Province on Thailand’s Kra Isthmus, is 739 square kilometers of protected land and includes the Cheow Lan Lake. The lake is contained by the Ratchaprapha Dam and is vital in supporting the extreme diversity to be found throughout the park.
Running from North to South, the backbone of the park is a limestone mountain range, which rises to 950 meters above sea level. The mountain range experiences monsoon rains from the Gulf of Thailand to the East and from the Andaman Sea to the West, making it one of Thailand’s wettest regions, annually experiencing 3,500 millimeters of rainfall. The erosive effects of the rains, over the centuries, on the limestone have led to incredible karst formations which we can marvel over today.
Khao Sok National Park, On the Wild Side
To say that the wildlife to be seen in Khao Sok National Park is diverse and exciting, would be a gross understatement. The animal kingdom thrives throughout the park, elephants lumber freely, rubbing shoulders with various species of deer, the Asian black bear, the sun bear, gibbons and several species of monkey. Porcupines, the marbled cat, wild boar and the Asiatic dog all live in a harmonious balance of nature as part of the park protected status.
Ornithologists have, for many years, flocked to the park to feast their eyes on the park’s amazing birdlife. Incredibly, the park supports over 400 different species of bird. Gurney’s pitta, babblers, barbets, trogons, bulbuls and hornbills to name just a few. For avid twitchers, or those that just enjoy seeing nature at its best, the birdlife in the park is fascinating and provides great photo opportunities.
Reptiles, although often harder to spot, are also well supported by the park’s intricate ecosystem. To date, over 70 species of rare reptile have been documented, including 2 rare species of turtle, the leaf and the Burmese peacock softshell. The brown wolf snake and the Malayan smooth dwell throughout the park along with 3 species of pit viper. A plethora of lizard species exists in the park with many newly discovered species being documented every year.
The Khao Sok National Park is also famous for its huge Rafflesia flower (Rafflesia kerrii). It was in Thailand that the Rafflesia was first discovered by a doctor and botanist A.F.G. Kerr in 1927. This amazing flower, the world’s biggest, regularly sports blooms up to 80 centimeters in diameter, although, on occasions, larger blooms have been reported. Rafflesia is now the officially adopted flower symbol of Surat Thani Province.
The Best Wat to Enjoy Khao Sok National Park
Since its beginning, trekking has been an integral function of the park. For enthusiastic hikers and trekkers Khao Sok is a real life paradise. Jungle trails are well mapped and ensure that all of the parks most amazing features are easily discoverable. For those less accustomed to the trekking guides can be hired to ensure you get to see exactly what you wish, successfully and safely.
Another great way to enjoy the beauty of the park is from the water. Canoeing is the perfect way to enjoy the tranquility of the park, its verdant greenery and its diverse wildlife, bird spotting in particular. With the animal life not being spooked by the noise of a motor boat, canoeing is by far the best way to cruise the river or explore the lake.
Interacting with elephants is a wonderful experience. Elephant Hills offers an ethically led approach to allow visitors to get up close to these amazing beasts. There is no exploitation of these animals, you certainly won’t be allowed to ride on one and they don’t perform tricks for your amusement. But you can observe them in their natural environment, help to feed them and wash them.
Khao Sok village is the visitor center of the Park. Here, visitors can equip themselves with all the information and advice they need. Book tours, hire guides and motorbikes. Accommodation can also be booked here, much of which is close to the visitor center. From bungalows to hotels, there is accommodation to suit all budgets. In and around the village there are also plenty of bars and restaurants in which to chill out after a day’s exploration.
Khao Sok National Park, beautiful, amazing, tranquil and awe inspiring, it is certainly all of these things, and perhaps more. The park has a reflective quality, with many visitors leaving whilst reevaluating their own place within our world, having been touched by nature so rarely seen. Very likely, a visit to Khao Sok National Park will remain within you forever.
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