Since opening our doors at Anurak Community Lodge in early 2016, we have been continuously adapting and developing our gardens – planting new trees and slowly replacing the oil palms on our property, so as to give our guests a truly unique Khao Sok jungle experience.
In fact, one of the key reasons for building Anurak Community Lodge in its current location was because the six-hectare plot of land had previously been part of an oil palm plantation. This meant that we could build our ecolodge in Khao Sok National Park without destroying or clearing away any of the indigenous trees or plants that are part of the park’s unique rainforest habitat.
Our first step was to plant more than 50 new indigenous species of tree, so that as these trees grew up and reached maturity, we could remove the oil palms from our property. Since opening, we have cut down more than 20 oil palms and this process continues – ensuring that we stick to our model of an ecolodge built on the principles of sustainability and conservation.
Along with natural rubber production, palm oil is a large part of Southern Thailand’s agricultural business, making the Kingdom the world’s third largest producer of crude palm oil, after Malaysia and Indonesia. The industry employs around 300,000 farmers, so it’s an important source of income for many communities in the Khao Sok region.
However, palm oil cultivation also has a negative impact on the environment, as natural habitats are cleared to make way for new plantations, leading to deforestation and threatening already critically endangered species of wildlife. Oil palms also absorb a lot of important nutrients and water from the soil, making it extremely difficult for other tropical trees and plants to grow in the same area.
This is why at Anurak Lodge we are committed to transforming our gardens into a more diverse natural habitat that attracts wildlife and blends in with the beauty of Khao Sok’s natural surroundings. In addition to planting new indigenous trees, we have set aside a 2,500m2 area, which we have left to grow wild. Seeds from the neighboring Khao Sok National Park will be able to germinate there, ensuring that overtime it returns to its natural state.
To help boost this process, our reforestation plan also includes planting a number of important indigenous trees which promote growth and recreate a forest habitat. They include: Dipterocarpus alatus, a tropical forest tree that is classified as vulnerable and is a key planting species for regenerating deforested land; Hopea odorata, a species of threatened tree, valued for its wood that can reach 45m in height and is believed to be inhabited by a tree spirit; Syzygium cumini, commonly known as jambolan or Java plum, which has a sweet edible fruit and is an important food source for birds; and Shorea roxburghii, a tree classified as threatened that is prized for its timber and resin, with flowers that have large elongated yellow anthers to attract pollinating bees.
In the three years since we opened our doors, we have seen a marked change in our gardens, with many of the indigenous species that we planted already beginning to transform our grounds with their lush-green foliage. Conservation is a continuous process that needs to be carefully managed, but with time we hope that our reforestation efforts will set an example to local communities and spread the word about the importance of preserving Khao Sok National Park’s flora and fauna for future generations to experience and love.