Limestone formations, countless caves, turquoise lake you can overnight at, seeing wild elephants or taking care of a rescued ones, canoeing down the river, seeing flying foxes, biggest flower in the world and so much more. If this is something that makes your heart beating faster, keep reading. When we first heard about Khao Sok was a year ago and I knew we had to visit. No picture does it justice and maybe even our failed attempts seem like a place difficult to refuse. After seeing sea limestone formations in Krabi and on the land in Vang Vieng, we had to see these too. However, planning Khao Sok got pretty complicated for us as it’s still so untouristic compared to other parts of Thailand, so we tried to make it easier for you with this travel guide.
YOU NEED A BASE: ANURAK LODGE
Normally we don’t start our blogs with where to stay, rather as what to see and do. We’re gonna do that anyway, but let’s get you a place to stay first. Why? Because all the activities in Khao Sok are organised at your hotel – every hotel offers more or less same options and if not, they will contact the tour agency for you. You can try for yourself, but when I wanted to do so, they all told me to ask at my hotel, so I am guessing they have some kind of arrangement.
Most hotels in the area you will find in the Khao Sok village and there are plenty. However, it feels a little crowded there and we wanted to feel like being away from hustle and bustle, so we picked Anurak Lodge, that is slightly remote from village, but closer to the lake! It’s nearly 20 tree kinda houses, in the most beautiful environment, nestled in the middle of limestone formations, caves and little jungle. At Anurak they do it the sustainable way – no plastic, replanting the trees on the palm oil plantations and plenty of vegan options at their delish restaurant with one of the best view one could wish. Rooms offer the jungly view yet are modern style with partly open bathroom – however we didn’t notice any bugs in the room as the doors are tightly sealed (I am always checking for bugs for coz of my fear of the crawlies). When booked the room, they already suggested our itinerary and activities and based on my pre-research we just confirmed everything – not something I ever do 🙂 Despite the Lodge is an amazing place itself, we wanted to experience as much as we can and soak up the beauty of this National Park.
WHAT TO DO?
The day we arrived, was greeted with the real jungle dinner at Anurak Lodge, that was prepared in bamboo stem and cooked on fire. We had delish vegan feast at the jungle styled open house and had some cats company making sure we are everything. 🙂
VISIT THE CHEOW LAN LAKE
We did the private one day trip to this picturesque lake, and if you are time limited with and deciding between activities, this one is number 1 to do in Khao Sok National Park! In the early morning they took us to the lake and long tail boat was already waiting for us with a guide that knew all the best spots. Like the turquoise water surrounded by limestone formations wasn’t enough, we saw a wild elephant that came to the shore to drink water and greeted us by splashing the water around. Monkeys playing around, buffalos running, colorful birdies and so many fish! We didn’t even meet much other boats, so you get the feeling it’s just you sitting on the front of the boat having this show all to yourself. Yes, it’s all true and I know it sounds too good to be true – but it’s real 🙂 For lunch break we stopped at the floating bungalows, which is also an option for an overnight stay and I strongly suggest it, but we are saving it for another time. We waited for the sunset on the lake, which was probably prettier then all we’ve seen in Thailand (yes, also the ones by the ocean).
Go for the morning tour since during the day it gets too hot. Again we were picked up and delivered to our canoe chauffeur by the lake – yes we didn’t have to do the rowing which was unexpected but so convenient as you could just enjoy the nature. Our guide did the rowing as well as spotting all the animals like chameleons, huge lizards, monkeys, birds, big spiders, bee hives and even a sleeping fluorescent green snake! It took us about 2 hours and we loved it!
TAKE CARE OF AN OLD ELEPHANT
I was skeptical of doing this one, regardless of the good reviews – as when it comes to animals one can’t be careful enough. You probably know how popular, yet torturing elephant riding is, there are hundreds of Elephant Sanctuaries and so many are just tourist traps. By now we’ve spent 4 months in Asia but haven’t decided to visit any, so decided to give this one a shot after the thorough review! Somboon is an old elephant, that spent his best years working like lifting heavy weight objects, which damaged his health. After the Company didn’t need him anymore, he was sold to the mahout family that used him for riding of tourists and now in his really old age of 54, he’s sick so the same mahout restructured his work into taking care of him and bathing with tourist. Is that good for the elephant or have I failed at my research? Can’t decide. I don’t like the idea that mahout allows tourist to still sit on his back, yet without this new business, the elephant wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving as he needs his daily medicine.
We cooked a meal for him and hid the medicine inside to trick him into eating like for a little kid. Feed him bananas and played around. Despite his age he was so playful and even was running around and drove the mahout crazy (that was the best part, haha :)) Then he took a bath, but I decided not to join him as we weren’t sure it was something he wanted to do, but Ziga brushed him a bit and got splashed! Whether you decide to do this one or not, please always do your research when paying for any kind of interaction with animals.
JUNGLE TREKKING IN KHAO SOK
Just before we left, the hotel suggested us to do a little trekking around and give us the directions for the independent tour – so happy we did it! We passed through a cave, saw monkeys performing us a like in a circus show, saw a chameleon up close and so much more. It’s free and definitely a one to do to take an advantage at staying at Anurak as the tour starts on your door steps.