Despite only covering about 20 percent of Khao Sok National Park, Cheow Lan Lake is a major attraction for visitors to Khao Sok, who can either hire local boats for day trips, or overnight in one of the many raft house accommodation options on the lake.
There are both government and privately-owned raft houses, where you can simply spend a night or two relaxing in the stunning surroundings, or opt to take part in such activities as trekking, visiting waterfalls and cave complexes, or kayaking through the tranquil, glassy waters to enjoy the scenery and observe the diverse variety of wildlife.
Hornbills are a common sight flying over the lake, and if you take one of the early morning boat trips with a guide to the more remote northern inlets, you may even spot wild elephant, barking deer, banteng (wild cattle), wild boar, macaque, gibbons, and a whole range of birdlife, such as great hornbill, helmeted hornbill, kingfisher, osprey and other birds of prey species, to name just a few.
At Anurak Community Lodge, we are only about a 40-minute drive from Cheow Lan Lake and while our ecolodge, situated on the edge Khao Sok National Park, offers a whole range of exciting nature activities that are aimed at discovering Khao Sok’s wildlife, rivers, caves and jungle trails, several of our packages also combine adventure activities with overnight trips to Cheow Lan Lake.
The spectacular 165 km2 Cheow Lan Lake was created in 1982 with the construction of a vast shale-clay dam called Ratchaprapha. During construction it was often referred to as the ‘Cheow Lan Project’, leading to its more popular name today – Cheow Lan Lake. The karst limestone cliffs and mountains protruding from it are the remnants of a colossal reef system that stretched across much of Asia in the Permian period. Reaching up to 960m, they are roughly three times higher than the formations you see in Vietnam’s famed Ha Long Bay – also part of the same reef system.
The only real way to explore the lake is by boat and these can be hired from local fishermen by the day at the entrance to the lake for about 2,000 baht a day (approx. US$30) – unless of course, you have an all-inclusive overnight package. Depending on which raft house you are staying at and how far it is from the lake’s entrance, the journey by boat can take between 30 minutes to an hour, or longer – giving you some idea of how vast this body of water is. However, the almost magical scenery, the vast open sky, the wind, and the tranquility of the awe-inspiring mountains, tiny islets and rolling jungle, make the boat journey a truly memorable experience in itself.
Accommodation at most raft houses is rustic – especially at government raft houses, which tend to be a little more basic – but this is quickly made up for by the glorious lake attractions, even if it’s just an early morning swim, with the dawn mist rolling in over the water and the whoop-whoop of gibbons echoing through the forest!
At Anurak Community Lodge we offer a 4-days, 3-nights Khao Sok Jungle & Lake Package that whisks you away on day three to spend the night at Keeree Thara – a beautifully secluded floating raft house, only about 30-minutes boat ride from the lake entrance. Hidden away in a little inlet, Keeree’s comfortable wooden luxury raft-house bungalows are fitted with private bathrooms and include converted loft spaces for families or larger groups.
Doors at the front of each bungalow open onto a little balcony with unforgettable views of the lake, mountains and jungle. A pool ladder drops directly into the lake, meaning that you can literally open your bungalow door and dive straight into the lake. Kayaking is a great pastime here, as Keeree is surrounded by tiny inlets and rias with pristine jungle and an abundance of wildlife.
To fully appreciate the tranquility of Cheow Lan Lake, an overnight stay in a floating raft house is a must, and one that should certainly be on your adventure bucket list of things to try while traveling in Thailand and Southeast Asia.