Khao Sok: Thailand's Best National Park
Thailand has 156 national parks, 58 wildlife sanctuaries, impressive mountains in the north, fantastic islands in the south, almost 1,000 wonderful beaches, mangrove areas, lakes and waterfalls. That’s quite a lot, the country is bursting with natural beauty. Yet we say Khao Sok is Thailand’s best national park. Why are we so convinced of this?
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Khao Sok national park is home to one of the world’s oldest evergreen rainforests and the huge Cheow Lan Lake. This is surrounded by verdant jungle, caves, limestone cliffs and waterfalls. The park is almost 740 square kilometres in size. That is already a lot, but because it borders three other national parks and several wildlife sanctuaries, the total area of this nature reserve is almost 3,500 square kilometres.
The tone is set by jagged limestone mountains, whose highest peak reaches 960 metres. More than half of the national park is rainforest. That the rainforest has survived here for millions of years is partly due to the fact that it receives the most rainfall in all of Thailand, especially between May and November.
Not only does the limestone mountain range define the image of Khao Sok, so does Cheow Lan Lake. The lake was created when a dam was built in 1982 to provide hydroelectric power to southern Thailand. The result is a water surface that stretches over 165 square kilometres between the cliffs, not in a nice round or oval shape, but with the same unpredictability as the mountains themselves. These erratic shapes only add to the beauty of the nature reserve.
Let’s look more precisely between the trees. There we see, for instance, the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world. And only a handful of places on Earth grow this bright red flower, which can reach 90 centimetres, and weigh up to 7 kilos.
Another special plant you can see in Khao Sok is the Tropical Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes), a carnivorous plant that mainly eats insects. This vine can grow up to 15 metres tall and has pitchers containing a liquid that drowns and helps dissolve trapped animals.
There’s more, because we haven’t talked about the wildlife yet. Khao Sok is home to dozens of mammals, hundreds of species of birds and many more reptiles. There are wild elephants, gibbons, hornbills, monitor lizards, cobras, bears, and one even suspects tigers here.
In Thailand, some 3 to 4 thousand elephants still live in the wild. In Khao Sok, there are still a few hundred. A great place for elephants because it is humid, fruit, bamboo and leaves grow naturally, there is plenty of fresh drinking water, they can spend a lot of time in the shade and there is enough water to bathe regularly.
The elephant is Thailand’s national animal and is considered sacred in Buddhist traditions. Historically, the elephant was used as a beast of burden, by warriors in combat, and to get from one place to another. That is no more, but many Thais still believe that a picture of the animal or walking next to an elephant brings good luck.
There is plenty to do in Khao Sok. You can stay in floating rafthouses, go kayaking or canoeing on the lake, take a boat trip or jungle trek, visit elephants, do a night safari or see caves and waterfalls.
Trust us, it is fun and fine to go canoeing across Cheow Lan Lake for an hour. You experience the surroundings completely differently from the water than from the shore. You can borrow or hire a canoe from almost all accommodation.
And don’t forget to take a boat trip across the lake. The rocks, clear water, and beautiful vegetation change as your boat approaches or takes a turn. If you want to see animals, take a hike or do a guided trek, during the day or in the evening. Bird watching is almost nowhere more fun than here. And look…. is that an elephant?
To get to Khao Sok National Park, you don’t have to travel very long. It is centrally located between Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak and Koh Samui. Chances are you can combine it with a beach destination on your trip. From Bangkok you fly and drive in about 4 hours to Khao Sok.
You see, there are lots of good reasons to pay Khao Sok a visit. That’s why we confidently say that Khao Sok is Thailand’s best national park.
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