Updated: New information for cheaper, independent travel to Khao sok National Park. See below.
I am not saying I am the expert on Thailand's attractions, because I'm not. I have probably traveled less in my own country than you backpackers out there. What I do know though is how awesome Khaosok National Park is. I have done my fair share of adventure in the national park since I was young, but never have I done it so thoroughly like I did in January of 2016. I mean, did you know that you can hike up a mountain in the lake? Did you know that you can go jungle walking up a waterfall and track down wild animals like the Great hornbill and the illusive Tapirs? Me neither, until I went deeper into the park beyond backpacker's reach and into the wilderness where I was able to experience wildlife flourishing in front of my eyes.
If you are looking for the best place to go in Thailand, the Khaosok National Park is hard to beat.
How to Get to Khao Sok
There are many ways to get to the Khao Sok lake. You can take a private taxi which is expensive but convenient, a shared minivan which I prefer or a public bus. The best way for me was to take the minivan from Surat Thani city to Baan Ta Khun which should cost you no more than 300 baht and then the tour agency I went with transferred me to the national park.
You can also take a minivan from Krabi or even Koh Lanta directly to Khao Sok or from anywhere to Surat Thani where you can find many minivans going to Khao Sok National Park
If you are coming from Bangkok, take a night bus to Surat Thani and let the driver know that you want to be dropped off at Baan Tha Khun, and you will be right in front of the tour agency office. Otherwise, the night bus will drop you off at the bus terminal in Surat Thani city. Keep in mind that you will be arriving at around 4 AM and the tour agency office is unlikely to be open then. For more info on ways to get to the national park from other cities, visit this page.
(Updated) Doing it bacpacking-ly
I have recently acquired a piece of new information about traveling to Khao Sok on a budget. Here is how you can do it for as cheap as 2,500 baht.
First, you have to get yourself to Khao Sok town (it's 65 km away from the pier and Baan Ta Khun town). There are many minivan services running from Surat Thani city, Krabi or even Koh Lanta. From the Khao Sok village, you have access to multiple budget tours that were aimed at backpackers.
You can choose to do a normal overnight tour which starts at 2,500 baht for a night on a selection of government-run raft houses on the lake, all activities, and food included in the price.
Doing it with a tour agency
We had 4 days and we wanted to go deep, away from people and in order to do that, we had to go with a tour agency that knows the park inside out. We went with the Andaman Discovery where they organized everything from food to accommodation for the rest of our trip. We paid around 8000 baht each which include 3 meals per day for the days we were in the park, access to a remote raft house (Klong Yee Raft house), all the activities, a private longtail boat and an English speaking guide.
If you want to book the tour with them, you can contact them via this email and Nick, the only English speaking person there will organize everything for you.Contact Andaman Discovery
In my opinion, I think it was very well worth the price. The raft house was so remote, we had the whole floating bungalows to ourselves. We were also able to see more wild animals than what people usually see because we were deeper in the park, away from loud noises created by obnoxious tourists.
Disclaimer: I am in no way associated to them.
Doing it independently and privately
I know that most of you may want to do it independently and so before I left, I asked our tour guide, "A", his contact number for you so that you can contact him directly and let him guide you through the park personally with his private boat. "A" is a hilarious guy, and he treated us like a family, going above and beyond. He even let me try all sort of Thai Southern seafood, and you guess it, it was spicy as hell!
If you happen to contact him, feel free to mention that you got the tip from "Pete and Aurelie", he might give you a discount.Call "A" at 081 079 8846
Activities included are:
- Exploring and swimming in the Khao Talu cave where you will go through rivers, jungles and water caves. Be prepared to get wet!
- Sunset/night safari, where you will go around the lake with a boat and spot animals while enjoying the sunset.
- Kayaks are provided at the raft house so you can do that while you are there.
- Sunrise safari, where you will do the same as the night safari but you will see more monkeys and birds during this quiet hours.
- Last but not least, on your way back to the pier, you will stop and a ranger's raft and go on a hike into a cave hidden in the mountain of Khao Sok.
Staying more nights
Now if you want to stay more than one night at the raft house, you can tell the tour agency that you will stay longer and they will manage it with the guide so that you can go back to the pier with the other boat on your departure day.
One night at the raft house, including 3 meals will cost you only 800 baht per person. And depending on the tour agency, the boat back will likely cost you 250 baht per person. Before the day you depart, let the staff at the raft house knows and they will organize a boat back for you.
I highly recommend you stay longer than one night so you have more time to go kayaking and swim. People have complained a lot that the tour didn't give them enough time to swim.
Khao Sok Recommended Itinerary
We had 4 days 3 nights in the national park and the tour agency we were in contact with came up with this itinerary:
- Arrive at the Tour Agency office at noon in Baan Ta Khun and get transferred to the national park pier.
- Meet the English speaking guide and with his private longtail boat, goes off to Klong Yee Raft House where you will be staying for 3 nights.
- The first day will just be relaxing and swimming while during sunset, your guide will take you around the lake to watch wild animals like wild boars and buffalos come out and drink water from the lake.
- The second day, early in the morning, you will go hike a mountain up to a lookout point. Stunning view of the whole national park from up there. The round trip will take you around 2 - 4 hrs.
- In the afternoon, you can either rest or take a kayak out and explore the lake on your own until sunset.
- The third day, you will go off earlier than yesterday to go on a morning safari around the lake, tracking down animals and birds in the morning.
- In the afternoon, you will go on another long hike up a waterfall. The forest is infested with leeches so do prepare accordingly. There will be a ranger with you to clear the path for walking. That is when you know that you are really going off the beaten path!
- On your last day, you will go to the Guilin rock formation and the Diamonds cave on your way out of the national park and get transferred back to Baan Ta Khun.
This place is very cheap compare to all the other countries and you can expect to pay around 20 - 30 USD per day per person and including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Thailand, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
What to Do in Khao Sok
Stay at the Klong Yee Rafting House
I mean look at the photo. Need I say more? Klong Yee Raft House is way deep inside the national park and is run by the government, hence why they were able to build in such a location. It was so remote that we were able to have the whole floating bungalows to ourselves for 4 days. The room is facing the east so during sunrise, all you have to do is kick the door open and you will be able to experience one of the prettiest sunrise at a comfort of your bed!
They provide a bucket shower, a flushing toilet and raft houses with a balcony. It was way more than I thought I would get for such a remote place. And no, there is no WIFI or cell service here.
They also provide you with tubes and kayaks so you can cool down from the raging sun any time.
Jump into the water
I know you are probably going to do it anyway if you decided to come here but boy was the water so beautiful and refreshing. Make sure you are able to swim before you jump into the water though because this is a dam after all, and the water can get as deep as 50m. Do me a favor and do a back flip and show us in the comments below. :)
Kayak on your own
There are at least 4 kayaks available at the raft house so be sure to take it out and explore the wild life on your own during down times. Trust me, you will have plenty of down times when you are here.
Hike to the lookout point
If you want to see what Khao Sok looks like from above, tell your guide to take you to hike the lookout point. It should take you no more than 4 hours 2 ways and the climb is relatively easy but do beware as it does get steep at the end. If you are a little bit in shape, you can do the hike easily.
Hike the waterfall and have lunch in the middle of the wilderness
If you have another full day, be sure to go and hike the waterfall with the rangers. If you are lucky, you might even be able to see rare animals like the Tapirs in its habitat. The trail will take you through the waterfall, slippery rocks, dangerously steep ground, leech-infested thick forest, and wet areas, so do prepare accordingly.
Surprisingly, I got less leech when I walked barefoot. Probably because I would notice them right away and I would swipe it out before it starts sucking my blood.
Having lunch with the guide and the rangers in the wilderness.
One of our ranger was chill AF!
Go on a Safari
Go on a safari with your guide and track down wild animals along the lake with a long tail boat. When we were there we were able to see around 13 wild buffalos, 3 - 4 Great Hornbills, a few monkeys from afar and 2 wild boars. If you are lucky, you might even see the tapir!
Trek the jungle to Khao Talu cave
Khao Talu cave is a bottle-shape cave located one hour away from the entrance of the lake. In order to get to the cave, you will have to hike through rivers and muddy jungles for an hour before you reach the entrance. Once in the cave, you will have to go through shallowed and often narrowed waterway for about 30 minutes before you exit the cave, so be prepared to get submerged by water and walk in the dark. Bring torch lights!
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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