In my last post I talked about ethical elephant tourism, how to identify an ethical elephant sanctuary, and shared our experiences visiting Elephant Hills Elephant Sanctuary. In this post, I want to share the other side of our visit to Khao Sok National Park, a magical stay at a floating rainforest camp in Cheow Lan Lake.
Khao Sok National Park
Visiting Thailand, you quickly come to learn how much Thai people appreciate nature, and indeed the country has 127 national parks preserving vast swathes of habitat. With 22 of these categorised as marine environments, both sea and land environments are protected.
Khao Sok is the most popular of the country’s mainland national parks, in part because it’s so readily accessible.
Cheow Lan Lake
As well as lush jungle and iconic limestone mountains, it also encompasses a number of rivers and a vast man-made lake created by the building of Ratchaprapha dam.
Elephant Hills’ Floating Rainforest Camp
I already mentioned that our first reason for selecting Khao Sok National Park was a visit to Elephant Hills elephant sanctuary, one of a small number of genuinely ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. The second reason was the floating lake camp run by the same company, Elephant Hills. As soon as I saw photographs of a string of green-canvas tents floating on the blue-green waters of the lake, I was hooked and I knew we had to visit.
We booked an inclusive package with pick up and drop off from local resorts and airports, one night in the Elephant Camp (from which we visited the elephant sanctuary), and one night in the floating lake Rainforest Camp. Other activities included in the package were river canoeing near the elephant camp, and from Rainforest Camp, a jungle trek and guided kayak excursion on the lake. All meals during the stay were also included, with drinks paid separately at the bar.
After talking with our group leader about the difficulty level of the 3 hour jungle trek, we decided to skip this activity and spend extra time swimming and kayaking in the area in front of the camp instead, relaxing and enjoying the cooling water and beautiful views. Likewise, we skipped the guided kayak excursion (which we later learned went at a ferociously fast pace that even a seasoned kayaker was unable to keep up with; she got left behind and turned around while she could still remember her way back).
The tents here are similarly furnished to those in the Elephant Camp, with comfortable beds and furniture, netted windows and a proper shower and toilet in the attached bathroom. They are all connected to each other via rigid pipes from tent to tent and a long wooden walkway running behind them. A smaller walkway leads from the main walkway up the side of each tent to individual decking areas for each, and entrance into each tent is from here, with the front of the tent facing out across the splendid views of the lake.
Spaced along the walkway are two central dining and congregation areas, this allows the camp to effectively split the group that’s just arrived before lunch and will be staying that night from the outgoing group that’s enjoyed their overnight stay and are leaving after lunch.
Each tent has a kayak tethered to the deck, with life jackets provided, allowing guests to venture out onto the lake whenever they like. There are some simple safety rules which also preclude night time kayaking or swimming.
The lake water here is incredibly clear; while you are swimming you can see down into the water to the many large (and harmless) fish that congregate around the camp. The water appears to be a startingly bright blue-green from the shore or decking, but is clear from within, and wonderfully cooling in the heat of the day.
The rainforest around the camp is home to plenty of animal and birdlife, and many of us spot monkeys and birds from the camp and from the water. I also enjoy the butterflies flitting around our tent.
How to get to the Floating Rainforest Camp
A stay at Rainforest Camp must be booked via Elephant Hills, part of one of their inclusive packages. Most visitors spend a night in the Elephant Camp first, before transferring via road and boat to the floating camp.
The boat trip incorporates extra time on the lake to admire the towering limestone mountains, huge and imposing even partially submerged by the man-made lake as they are today.
Reaching Elephant Hills Elephant Camp
Because of limited availability by the time we booked and the resulting need to juggle the order of our itinerary, we had to fly down the day before pick-up and stay a night near Phuket airport, to be collected from our hotel lobby in the morning. However, if you co-ordinate with the Reservations team during the booking process, they will let you know specific flights from Bangkok into Phuket or Surat Thani airports which they will meet on landing, so you can fly in the same morning your package begins if you prefer. Of course, if your itinerary includes one of the beach resorts within their pick-up zone, a hotel pick-up will suit you better. The Jungle Lake package costs from 20,372 baht per adult based on two sharing.
Fitting Khao Sok National Park Into A Thailand Itinerary
We visited Khao Sok National Park as part of an independent holiday, which we organised and booked ourselves. Check out our comprehensive three week Thailand itinerary, including tips on sightseeing, hotels, food and transport.
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