Khao Sok Park is certainly one of Thailand’s best preserved habitats for tropical vegetation and wildlife, with evergreen virgin jungle, waterfalls, sparkling clear streams, and many kinds of protected wildlife. The hikes in the Khao Sok National park range from easy to hard. As you are hiking into the jungle take a moment to appreciate the beauty and diversity of jungle plants.
Now a reserve of 140,000 acres in a valley of scrub and rubber and palm oil plantations, the park is divided into two parts.
First is the area round park headquarters, reachable by vehicle on a well paved road and passing a small village of shops, guest houses, and eating places. Hikes from the headquarters take you into bamboo forests as well as forests with big old timber trees. With a very annual rainfall of 3500 millimeters, the park abounds in tumbling streams, rapids, emerald pools, rocks, and waterfalls. There are many trails to choose from.
The park has rangers stationed at a few lonely places in the forest to combat poaching of valuable timber and wildlife. While poaching is a problem, tourism clearly has a positive effect on the wildlife. Many local people now depend on tourism for their livelihood and will make sure that poachers don’t destroy the habitat so attractive to the tourists.
The second is the fairy-tale lake, about one hour’s drive towards Surathani from the headquarters. On the Cheow Larn Lake Trip you take the boat across the 28-kilometer long lake, one passes islands of green forest or rocky cliffs and many coves created by the flooding. Since the dam flooded much of the lowland forest, what remains are the steep, often forbidding, limestone mountains with narrow valleys in between. The park is at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, and the tallest peak rises to almost another 1,000 meters. These spectacular limestone cliffs are at least 50 million years old and began their life as sea corals. They were uplifted en masse with the Earth’s crust to form the peaks we see today and were subsequently eroded by rain and the rise and fall of the oceans, leaving the sharp, varied shapes.
This is the scenery depicted in old Chinese scroll paintings, which looks so unbelievable to the Western eye. However, there are ranges of these limestone mountains stretching from the River Kwai area north of Bangkok down to the beach resort of Krabi and south through Malaysia. The same dramatic cliffs have brought massive tourism to Halong Bay near Hanoi, Vietnam.
The river dammed to create the Cheow Larn reservoir actually comes from Phang-nga province and the Andaman seacoast. Trekking for a day or two from Khao Sok, you emerge on the coast at Koh Phra Thong, where the remote and stunning Golden Buddha Beach Resort is located. Built by the same people as Our Jungle House, this resort is one of a kind. It is the only resort on a remote island with a pristine and varied eco-system and 18 kilometers of untouched beach.