About Khao Sok
Being the most popular mainland national park destination in South Thailand, Khao Sok is a rainforest with great diversity of plants and wildlife. It is one of the few bigger national parks in the country relatively easily accessible by public services from nearby Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak, Surat Thani, Ao Nang (Railey Beach). The main attractions of the park are iconic limestone hills, waterfalls accessible by hiking through the lush jungle, raft houses sperad over Khao Sok lake, caves, few waterstreams of which Sok River is the most popular one.
Khao Sok was established as Thailand's 22nd national park in 1980 by The Royal Forest Department. The park covers 739 km² land area of Amphoe Phanom and Ban Takhun in Surat Thani province and includes the Cheow Lan reservoir dammed by the Ratchaprapha dam. The relatively convenient distance to Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak makes this park the most popular national park in South Thailand.
Khao Sok is part of Khlong Saeng - Khao Sok Forest Complex covering allthogether around 5,316 km². The complex incorporates 12 protected areas including some offshore islands in the Andaman Sea. Khao Sok has Thailand's largest virgin forests and claimed to be one of the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world.
While the park is home for many exotic wild mammals such as Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, gibbons, it is more famous for the symbolic flower of Surat Thani Province, the huge Bua Phut (Rafflesia kerrii) flower found on a trail starting from main road south of the park. The flower can be up to 70-80 cm in diameter, blooming only around October to December.
The park is home to a wide variety of mammal species such as elephant, gaur, banteng, sambar deer, sun bear, Asian black bear, malayan tapir, macaque, gibbon, serow, mouse-deer, porcupine, marbled cat, wild boar, Asiatic wild dog and many more. Some of these animals are rare, not easy to find even if stayed in the park a year.
Great hornbill, helmeted hornbill, white-crowned hornbill, osprey, brahminy kite, blue-banded kingfisher, rufous-collared kingfisher are few of the hundreds of bird species that can be found in the park.
Although the park has some of the most exciting mammal and bird species in Thailand, it is very rare to see any of these around the popular tourist areas. Lucky tourists will see long-tail macaques, distant call of gibbons may be heard in the morning, sometimes boars or deer may show up on trails. Banded-langurs are quite common around the campsite or along the trails at Khao Sok headquarters area, can be seen some days.
Some tour companies advertise Khao Sok as a popular destination to see tigers. There have been tigers in Khao Sok, there may still be a smaller population deep inside the inaccessible areas, but no one has seen any for quite a while. The top tiger destination in Thailand is Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary where nearly 40 to 50% of Thailand's tiger population lives, but even there tiger sightings are very rare.
While it is not easy to find bigger animals in Khao Sok's accessible areas, it is a great destination to find reptile and amphibian species. With a bit luck, many of Thailand exciting lizard, snake and amphibian species can be found along the trails to the waterfalls.
Among the more rare birds to mention, great argus can be seen relatively easy with a bit effort at Klong Saeng tributary of Khaso Sok Lake. Helmetted hornbills used to be quite common in the park, but due to poaching it is now a rare sighting.
To see a longer list of species found in Khao Sok, visit our Wildlife at Khao Sok page.
There are two main areas of the park; the area around the headquarters (the visitor center) and Cheow Lan Lake (aka Khao Sok Lake). See further below in attractions section about location and more info.
The wet season is between late April and December with heavy rain between June-November, the dry season is January to April, average temperatures ranging from 22°C to 36°C all year around.
What time of the year to visit the park depends completely on what you think about the weather. The park can be very wet, but at the same time very lush and full of wildlife during the rainy season. During the certain periods of the rainy seaons there can be too much daily rain for most people. The less rainy/drier months are December to April/May is preferred by most tourists when it is minimum chanse for rain, easier to walk the trails and not too strong waterflow in the rivers with more clear waters.
The park is open 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. but it is possible to have night hiking in the jungle on late hours with a guide (see further below for costs and details).
The entrance fees are 300 THB for foreigners (children 150 THB) and 40 THB for Thai citizens (children 20 THB). (July 2018 prices).
Tents available for rent from 250 Baht for 2 people or 300 Baht for 4 people. Accessosires cost per person; pillow 10 Baht, blanket 10 Baht, sleeping bag 30 Baht, sheet 20 Baht. (July 2018 prices)
The headquarters area is easily accessible by public transportation. Buses and minivans from several touristy destinations around stops by at the main road junction 1.8 kilometres from the park entrance. Most hotels are located in the area between the entrance and the main road, but quite few spread out some 3-4 km further east. Once dropped off at the main road, you will have to walk to your hotel which can be up to 2-4 kilometers away or arrange a transportation from your hotel to pickup from the junction. There are many options for stay in the area on a walking distance to the visitor center.
Cheow Lan Lake, which is the most popular destination of the park needs a bit more efford to get to, it needs partly private transportation. The lake is accessible from a longtail boat pier near the dam on south-east side of the park, 65km from HQ. Raft houses are one of the main attractions of the park with beautiful views over the lake. There are many caves, viewpoints and trails all accessible with boats operating from the raft houses. A round trip longtail boat for 10 pax starts from 1500 Baht up to 4,000 Baht, the price difference depends on the distance, it is also possible to hire a boat for overnight stay for around 400 to 500 Baht more.
There are no public service transportation options all the way to the pier of Chew Lan Lake. The nearest point public transportations options can get to is Ban Ta Khun village, 12 km south from the pier. For info about private transportations to headquarters area or to Cheow Lan Lake Pier, visit our taxi details page for Surat Thani (From 1,700 Baht), Phuket (From 2,800 Baht), Krabi (From 2,500 Baht) and Koh Lanta (From 4,000 Baht), these market rate quotes are nearly 500-1,000 Baht cheaper than what most agencies and hotels offer.
For more detailed info about public transportation options from nearby towns, visit the get there section for Khao Sok.
Getting around & activities
Around the headquarters area there are only 2 relatively short "trail" options tourists allowed walk on their own, the longer bits of both options requires guide assistance. See more detailed info about these trails further down in Attractions-section.
Nearly 35 km east from the headquarters, there is an interesting trail starting from Bang Hman Ranger Station. See more details and location of this at "Cave Underwater Trail" on attractions section.
There is another trail nearly 10-12 km east from the headquarters, starting from the main road to Cheow Lan Lake. It is 6.5 km long one way, but this trail is normally used for hiking in combination with a boat trip to caves and/or rafthouses, simply said an overnight stay required.
Local guides must be hired latest the day before, can be hired for 600 THB for half day and 1,200 THB for full day, night hiking 600 Baht for 6 pm till 9 pm. (July 2018 prices), can be arranged from the visitor center, agencies or from hotels/guesthouses. More professional English speaking guides can be arranged from the hotels for higher price that normally includes drive around, meals and refreshments etc.
You are not recommended to walk longer trails on your own by breaking national park regulations. It is easy to get lost and it is real jungle with wild animals we are talking about.
Various tour companies offers up to 3-4 days tours including hiking deeper into the jungle on alternative trails all over the national park. Some of these trails are around Cheow Lan Lake, accessible with long-tail boats, leads to various caves and viewpoints. Tour packages may also cover tours to other protected areas around Khao Sok.
Guesthouses around the headquarters area offers various activities such as canoeing, rafting and guided tours on different areas. There are plenty of restaurant and shops along the main road to the entrance of the park.
Various hotels or tour operators offers longer hiking trips inside the national park with possibility to sleep in jungle. Some hotels also have their own trails not mentioned here.
In the lake, guided tours offered to take tourists to caves, trails, wildlife watching or paddle around on a canoe.
Some resorts around the headquarters area offers pathetic and cruel tours with elephants in captivity. If you are considering attending one, please read about "elephant crushing" and see various videos on YouTube about the subject. Rangers trying to protect wildlife in various national parks from poachers gets killed or injured almost on monthly basis. This wile confronting poachers who targets various wildlife, sometimes killing entire families of elephants to catch a single elephant baby to feed this dirty market with elephants.
Attractions of Khao Sok
Cheow Lan Lake
Also called Khao Sok Lake, one of the most popular national park destinations in the country for foreign tourists. The lake has many raft houses/floating bungalows spread all over the lake, offering trips to many attractions. Kayaking among limestone hills in morning mist is a must. There are also some trails into the real wildlife areas with possiblity to see some mammals.
The lake contains over 100 limestone outcrops and has six tributary regions; Klong Long, Klong Ka, Klong Pey, Klong Yee, Klong Saeng and Klong Mon. Klong in thai means river and parts of the lake belongs to Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Partly because of the distance to the pier, Khlong Long tributary on northeast is the most popular destination on the lake. Raft houses on west side of the lake are about 2-3 hours from the pier at Ratchaprapha Dam.
A return trip with a 10 pax longtail boat starts from 1500 Baht up to 4,000 Baht, the price difference depends on the distance to raft houses or various attractions, it is also possible to hire a boat for overnight stay for around 400 to 500 Baht more.
Some raft houses can be booked in combination with various activities like hiking, kayaking, visiting various attractions and more;
There are number of tour packages that can be booked, includes overnight stay on the lake;
Khlong Long is the most popular destination within the lake, situated at northeast side of the lake, approximately 15-16 km from Ratchaprapa Dam. The main attractions of this tributary are limestone hills, a cave trip and a great viewpoint accessible by a 2.5 hour long hiking through the jungle.
There are five raft houses in Khlong Long;
- Chiew Lan Raft House
- Plern Prai Raft House
- Sai Chon Raft House
- Panvaree Raft House
- Prai Wan
The popularity and quality of raft houses are higher compared to the other raft houses in the other tributaries.
Khlong Ka is situated on south side of the lake, approximately 15 km from the Ratchaprapa Dam. This tributary has one of the best caves in the park and great view over a group of limestone hills. The land area south has some great hiking trails between limestone hills. Although the sighting is rare, there are tapirs in this area.
Klong Ka and Nang Prai are two rafthouses in this part of the lake.
Situated at the southwest end of the lake, approximately 20 km from Ratchaprapa Dam. Ton Toey Rafthouse in this tributary was the lake's first ranger station. There is a trailhead few kilometers west from this rafthouse to Nam Thalu Cave, the trail is 4 km long and partly circular. Another 6.5 km long trail at the south leads all the way to the main road further south.
Situated on west side of the lake, Khlong Yee is approximately 27 km from Ratchaprapa Dam. Main activity and attractions at this end of the lake are guided kayak tours, wildlife watching, hiking to Krai Son viewpoint and hiking to a waterfall during wet seasons.
Raft houses located in this area are;
- Krai Son Raft House
- Tree Tops Floating Bungalows
- Keeree Warin Raft House
- 500 Rai
Situated on northwest side of the lake in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary, this tributary is approximately 26 km from Ratchaprapa Dam. Klong Saeng River is the largest watershed feeding the lake, it was the widest river in Thailand before the dam was build.
Visitors entering this area must obtain special permission in advance from Khao Sok National Park HQ and pay an additional fee for the wildlife sanctuary.
This remote part of the lake is very ideal for hiking and wildlife watching. It is possible to hike into the wildlife santuary with guidence of park rangers to waterfalls, old mines from 60s' and get chanse to see some common animals like gibbons and deers but with some luck even more exciting species like elephant, gaur, mainland serow, great argus, king cobra and many more. There are also tapirs, clouded leopards and bear species roaming in the sanctuary.
The only raft house in this tributary area is Klong Saeng Raft House owned by the national park, the quality of the bungalows are poor.
Situated on north side of the lake, Khlong Mon is approximately 24 km from Ratchaprapa Dam. The area consists of high hills and steep valleys, ideal place to spot hornbills, eagles and other wildlife. A nearly 3 km long exciting trail through the jungle will end up in Khlong Saeng tributary further west. There are few other shorter trails at the north side of the tributary. Tam Gia is the only raft house in this tributary, owned by the national park.
Pra Kay Petch Cave
Also known as Diamond Cave, this cave is situated in Klong Ka tributary of Cheow Lan, in south side of the reservoir, nearly 18 km from the main pier. It is one of the best caves in the park with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, home to bats.
Nearest raft houses are Klong Ka (2 km) and Nang Prai (4.5 km), flashlights needed to visit this cave.
Nam Thalu Cave
This 500 meter long cave is located near the Ranger Station 4 at Klong Pey tributary. The cave has a very wide opening and water streams through it.
The cave is very dangerous on rainy days. 2 guides and 6 tourists lost their lives in this cave back in 2007 when it was rapidly flooded during a rainy day. Guides won't take you through the cave if there is any chance for rain during that day.
Apart from boat trip to Klong Pey, 4 km hiking needed to get to this cave. Tourists will be allowed to visit this cave only during the cold and hot seasons from 14th December until end of May (these dates may change).
This cave is on the banks of a smaller lake north of Klong Long tributary, it is one of more popular cave destinations of Cheow Lan. Coral fossiles have been found in the cave.
The cave was used by comunist insurgents in the past. It is easily accessible by boat from a nearby raft house.
HQ area and Campsite
The HQ is located in a convidient walking distance from the area where most hotels are located. There is a camping ground, visitor center in the HQ area as well as a restaurant and toilet/shower facilities. The restaurant is run by a resort at the edge of the park, but plenty of restaurants and shops are in walking distance from the campsite right outside the park. The area is quite spacious with a river running through it.
Many of the waterfalls in the park can be accessed by hiking on the dirt road that starts on the east side of the campsite. There are also couple of trails on the north side of campsite, one of them leading to Sip-et Chan Waterfall. Read about the trails and waterfalls further below.
Ton Kloi Waterfall Trail
This 7 km long trail along the Sok River is the main trail of the park,. There are many shorter side trails between the trail and the river.
The first 2.9 km of the trail until a checkpoint guarded by rngers is freely accessible by tourists and is more like a narrow dirt road. On this bit of the trail 2 waterfalls and one swimming pond can easily be visited without any guide requirement.
A guide will be required to walk the 3rd to 7th kilometers of the trail, which is proper jungle trail, passing by several waterfalls, one swimming spot and ends at Ton Kloi Waterfall.
Wing Hin Waterfall
20 m high waterfall is about 2.8 km in a relatively convinient walking distance from the visitor center. It is located on the other side of the Klong Sok River from the road, but easily accessible by step across on rocks.
Wang Yao pool
For swimming, 3km from the visitor center
Bang Liap Nam Waterfall
Small waterfall, but nice walk along the river, trekking through bamboo and giant trees. 4.5 km from the visitor center.
Bang Hua Rat Waterfall
Popular for rafting activities, this waterfall with rapid water is 3km from the visitor center.
Than Sawan Waterfall
It is on a tributary of Sok River, accessible through a slippery trail and wading that can be dangerous during the rainy season. 6km from the visitor center.
Tang Nam Gorge
A pair of cliffs which Khlong Sok river runs between, nice place to swim. Located approximately 6km east from the headquarters accessible by the same trail to Ton Kloi Waterfall (the last waterfall).
Ton Kloi Waterfall
One-level waterfall Located 7 km from the visitor center, it can be admired all year around. Approximately 1 km away from Tang Nam.
San Yang Roi viewpoint
A view point on west side of the park, 2 km from the visitor center.
Mae Yai Waterfall
This 30 m high and one-level waterfall is is on the main road between Surat Thani and Takuapa at 113rd km, 5.5 km from the visitor center. The waterfall has very little to offer during the dry season, recommended only during the rainy season. There is no sign on the road telling where the trail starts, but while driving from HQ area west it is on the right rise, few hundred meters after the viewpoint to the left. A small dirt road leading to a open space where car/motorcycle etc can be parked.
Sip Et Chan Falls
This 11 tiered falls is accessible by a nearly 4 km long trail starting from the north side of the camp ground. The first bit of the trail is a wooden boardwalk which tourists are allowed to walk freely, but guide reqired from a trail fork nearly 400-500 meters north. There chances to see some mammals or birds along this trail is better because it is not used that frequently as the main trail west. Great hornbill, bamboo woodpecker, orange-breasted trogon, banded pitta and black-and-yellow broadbill are few of many bird species to be found along the trail.
Bang Hman Trail
Nearly 35 km east from headquarters, there is an interesting trail starting from Bang Hman Ranger Station. A guide for this trail can't be arranged from the visitor center, many hotel personnels in the area wouldn't even know about it. A hiking trip there needs to be discussed with guides to see if they offer service there. It is a long and impressive circular trail through a cave, but the bit through the cave and after may not be accessible if there is risk for rain, the water levels inside the cave can rapidly increase up to several meters. For this reason, this trail is best to be targeted in dry seasons from around late February until May. The first bit of the trail until the cave is 3km, the cave which has 2 exits is nearly 400 meters long. For those seeking challenge, the trail continues 7 km circular back to the ranger station from the other end of the cave, but the trail becomes very difficult to walk, occasionally too steep and very slippery. On way down, there is a 70 meters high waterfall.
Accessible by a 3 km trail from Bang Hman Ranger station nearly 34 km east from headquarters, Cave Underwater is an interesting 400 meter long cave with two exits and a water-stream flowing between both ends. The trail is moderate and requires guide or ranger guidance to get there. Most of the walking inside the cave is through the water-stream up to knee level, but at one point towards the end near the second exit, the depth can be more or less 1 meter through a 4-5 meter wide pond. The surface is slippery from time to time. The cave has some nice stalactites and stalagmites.
Due to tragic deaths in another similar nearby cave in the past, the guides won't let anyone to enter the cave if there has been heavy rain or any risk there will be rain. The water levels tends to increase rapidly, sometimes the water level gets few meters high with very strong stream.
The area around this trail is excellent to see butterflies and reptiles. With bit of luck some hornbill species may show up, great hornbills are quite common in the area. Although sighting is quite rare, huge footprints of gaurs are quite common along this trail, gaurs are 4th biggest living land mammals. Well inside the cave, some frog species and few bats can be seen. Also, if lucky a harmless cave racer (a snake species, also called "beauty rat snake") may show up.
Bat Cave - Tham Khang Khao
The cave has nice rock formations with chambers suitable for various bat species. It is 21km from the visitor center.
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