The region of Surat Thani in Southern Thailand is rich in greenery, dramatic landscapes, and wildlife, making it a must-visit destination on any trip to Thailand. But one area, in particular, renders its visitors spellbound. Set against the striking scenery of Khao Sok National Park, Cheow Lan Lake is the emerald in Southern Thailand’s crown. Home to a vast array of animal species which includes clouded leopards, Malayan sun bears, and wild elephants, this Khao Sok National Park lake represents an area unlike any other.
The Lake at Khao Sok
Known locally as Cheow Larn Lake (also spelled Cheow Lan Lake due to translation discrepancies), Khao Sok Lake covers an area of 165 km2 of 739 km2 Khao Sok National Park.
This vast body of water is surrounded by ancient rainforest and is the unique setting of Rainforest Camp, the best floating accommodation on Khao Sok Lake. The dazzling green of the lake is scattered with over a hundred limestone karsts, jutting from the water as a reminder of where their mountainous peaks once stood.
The Birth of Khao Sok Lake
A man-made creation, Khao Sok Lake was formed in 1987 by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The EGAT had been investigating the possibility of damming the Pasaeng River for a number of years in order to create hydroelectric power to supply the region. At the time this was a relatively bold move, with hydroelectricity being much less common than it is today.
The industrial power source would prove to be a fantastic asset for the region, but the process of establishing the dam was not entirely painless. In damming the Pasaeng River, the valley in which Khao Sok Lake now sits needed to be flooded, leading to the evacuation of five villages which were based in the area. The buildings of these villages, including houses, temples, and schools, now rest on the lake’s floor.
Sadly the evacuation of Khao Sok’s animal population in the valley was less successful, and while efforts were made to save the many animals that had been displaced by the flooding, several hundred were lost. While Cheow Larn Lake is now a vital element in the survival and prosperity of local animals, at the time it was created the consequences to wildlife were devastating.
Modern Khao Sok Lake
While the initial events involved in creating the lake was disruptive and arguably damaging, it is now an incredibly important part of Khao Sok National Park. The Ratchaprapha Dam supplies sustainable energy created using hydroelectricity to large portions of Southern Thailand, and Cheow Larn Lake itself has created jobs for local villagers and a haven for wildlife.
Job opportunities and income for the residents of Khao Sok National Park were once scarce. Now, Cheow Larn Lake provides opportunities to create a living from fishing or from working with the ecotourism groups which have been drawn to the area. At Rainforest Camp, we employ local people wherever possible, keeping the regional knowledge thriving and allowing our guests to experience the passion of tour guides who grew up in the region.
Having escaped from the pollution that typically goes hand in hand with industrialization, Khao Sok National Park Lake is ardently protected by local communities and organizations that value its importance to the region.
Wildlife at Khao Sok Lake
While the initial impact caused by the creation of the lake had a proportionately negative effect on the animal population, it now supports those same groups by providing a source of water. The food chain benefits at all levels, with an abundance of water, comes increased numbers of insects, in turn, these insects feed the forest’s small animals, creating plentiful food for larger creatures.
The ecotourism industry further supports the sustainability of wildlife around Khao Sok Lake, with conservation projects investing in the long-term health of the environment. Some of the profits from tours to Rainforest Camp are invested directly back into local animal populations, such as through the Wildlife Monitoring Project in which tracking cameras allow for more to be learned about Cheow Lan Lake’s animal residents.
Our cameras have picked up images of wild Asian elephants, tapirs, Asiatic black bears, leopards, gaurs and many more, all within the parameters of Khao Sok Lake and Rainforest Camp. You can find images and videos on the website of Elephant Hills’ Wildlife Monitoring Project.
The lake itself is home to a growing number of freshwater fish, making it an attractive area for birds; over 300 species have been spotted. The treetops are shared by resident gibbons and monkeys and from Khao Sok Lake their calls can often be heard echoing across the valley.
Before Cheow Lan Lake: Historical Khao Sok
Although Khao Sok Lake may only date back a few decades, the area in which it lies is ancient. So ancient in fact, that it is believed to have been created around 160 million years ago, before even the Amazon rainforest. The towering cliffs that can be seen throughout Khao Sok National Park are thought to have formed in the same environmental event that produced the Himalayan mountains – the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates 50 million years ago.
The landscape of mountainous limestone cliffs remains today, with over one hundred peaks remaining visible, even after the flooding which created Cheow Lan Lake.
Why visit Khao Sok Lake?
With its far-reaching history, unrivaled vistas, and diverse wildlife, why wouldn’t Khao Sok Lake be on your must-see list?
A tour of the region allows you to experience the best that the area has to offer, with a variety of activities that encompass the most spectacular elements of Khao Sok.
Both in the water and on land, a tour with Elephant Hills’ Rainforest Camp will offer options for swimming in the lake, trekking through the rainforest, canoeing, exploring the mangroves, all while accompanied by a knowledgeable, local, TAT-licensed tour guide.
The Rainforest Camp is perfectly positioned over the waters of Cheow Larn Lake, making it an all-in-one destination for an active holiday and romantic escape.
Incredibly popular with honeymooners, there is no better place in which to reconnect with yourself, each other, and the beauty of nature. If you have upcoming nuptials or are in need of a romantic getaway, Khao Sok National Park Lake and Rainforest Camp offer an all-inclusive solution.
Referred to as “wondrous” by The Lonely Planet, described as “Thailand’s secret garden” by National Geographic Traveler Magazine, and voted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame by guests for eight consecutive years of excellence, a trip to Khao Sok’s Rainforest Camp is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s not to be missed.
How to get to Khao Sok Lake
If you want to visit the amazing setting of Cheow Larn Lake while you’re in Thailand, you’re in luck. Khao Sok is easily accessible from a range of destinations when booked as part of a tour. Transfers to Khao Sok Lake and Rainforest Camp are included in each package and operate from Krabi, Phuket, Koh Samui and the wider area. Or, if you want to get to Khao Sok from Bangkok, take a flight into Surat Thani or Phuket and we’ll collect you from the airport.
Getting to Khao Sok Lake from Koh Samui
After soaking up the sun, why not explore the wonders of Khao Sok Lake from Koh Samui? Your entire transfer from your Samui hotel to Khao Sok is included, from the ferry transfer to the mainland, and one of our friendly drivers will collect you from Don Sak Pier onwards to Elephant Hills. In just a few hours’ travel you can experience the sand between your toes in Koh Samui and be awed by Khao Sok Lake and it’s rainforest.
Getting to Khao Sok Lake from Phuket
Phuket is one of Southern Thailand’s hottest tourist destinations, but why restrict yourself to experiencing only a small part of what this region has to offer? We make it easy to reach Khao Sok Lake from Phuket by providing a transfer service that covers a wide area, allowing you to visit the beautiful lake at Cheow Larn no matter which part of Phuket you’re visiting.
Getting to Khao Sok Lake from Krabi
Planning on exploring the beautiful inlets and isles of Southern Thailand which have been made famous by Hollywood? Reaching Khao Sok Lake from Krabi couldn’t be easier! Just three hours inland from Krabi town, Elephant Hills awaits. Transfers depart not only from the town itself, but also from Krabi Airport, Aonang Beach/Pier and Nopparatthara Beach/Pier – and every hotel in the area.
Getting to Khao Sok Lake from Khao Lak
Enhance your visit to the popular beach region of Khao Lak with a detour to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The journey from Khao Lak to Khao Sok Lake takes as little as 60-90 minutes and as you travel North up the coast and then East into the rainforest you’ll be treated to more of the stunning scenery that the region has to offer.
Why Settle for Just Two Destinations?
By adding Khao Sok Lake onto your itinerary you can easily create your own twin-centre holiday, but why stop there? Our transfer destinations are interchangeable, allowing you to choose different departure and arrival points. So, why not use the transfers for travelling from East to West and maximise your time in Southern Thailand! It couldn’t be easier to get to Khao Sok Lake or to combine it into a wider Thailand itinerary. Find out more about how to combine transfer options to create your dream Thailand getaway..
How to Behave When Visiting Khao Sok Lake
While many of our guests are seasoned travelers, there are many more who have never ventured to Thailand and don’t know what is expected, particularly when visiting a National Park.
Sustainability of the environment and wildlife is of the utmost importance if we are to keep Khao Sok National Park and its lake as pristine as it is today.
As such, all guests are encouraged to “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”. Litter should be carried out of the rainforest and disposed of at a designated refuse area. For your convenience, when staying at Rainforest Camp you will be provided with a refillable water bottle as part of our waste-reducing initiative.
We also stress to guests that it is important not to feed or otherwise attract wildlife. Encouraging wild animals to become domesticated or to approach humans is not in their best interests, nor is it healthy for them to eat food designed for us. Enjoy Khao Sok Lake’s native fauna for what it is, wildlife undistorted by human interference.
Tours of Khao Sok Lake
For an all-encompassing, eco-friendly tour of Khao Sok National Park, look no further than the Elephant Hills Jungle Lake Safari. As a multi-award winning tour provider, we have created the most exquisite package for experiencing the best of Cheow Larn Lake and surrounds.
In the 3 day/2 night tour you will spend time both within the rainforest and atop the lake, seeing Khao Sok in all its glory. The tour is active but suited to most abilities as it is at a relaxed pace and not rigorous in nature.
A defining feature of Elephant Hills tour packages is a visit to the private elephant park where guests can feed and interact with the resident elephants in an ethical way, free of exploitation.
And with all meals included and transfers provided from and to local tourist hubs, combining a tour with a wider itinerary couldn’t be easier.
While there is a range of tours in the area, this package offers the most comprehensive and ecology-minded tour as awarded by Pacific Asia Travel Association and Responsible Thailand.
Khao Sok Lake Accommodation: Where to stay on Cheow Larn Lake
Looking for a hotel near Khao Sok Lake to stay right in the middle of paradise? Well, look no further. While there are hotels not too far from the lake, there are also floating accommodations on Khao Sok Lake itself. Being able to step out of your room and be immersed in the beauty of a National Park is a luxury that few experience in a lifetime; this is one thing you shouldn’t miss during your Thailand trip! The best accommodation on Khao Sok Lake is Rainforest Camp, as voted by thousands of travelers on Trip Advisor.
Rainforest Camp is an extraordinary, floating boutique accommodation consisting of just 20 luxurious tent which are complete with Western en-suite bathrooms, hot running water and sumptuous mattresses covered with hotel-quality linens.
Tours to Rainforest Camp are on a full-board basis, including delicious, freshly prepared meals which are cooked on-site. You can even pick up some culinary tips from the chefs in one of the complimentary evening cooking classes! In fact, all activities are included in the tour, so whether you want to explore Khao Sok Lake by kayak or be wowed by a traditional Thai dance performance, you’re in for a treat.
From your floating luxury tent atop Khao Sok Lake you can wake to a chorus of birdsong, then greet the day from your private balcony lake-side deck. Staying on-site within Cheow Larn Lake itself allows you to be at one with your surroundings and make the most of every minute of your holiday.
Between the creature comforts, marvelous atmosphere, stunning surroundings and opportunity to truly experience the best of nature, it’s no surprise that it’s the best hotel on Khao Sok Lake.
The wonder of Khao Sok National Park’s lake is a destination in Southern Thailand that’s not to be missed. And there’s never been a better time to book! With a range of promotions discounting solo-travelers, families, and children, your visit to Cheow Lan Lake may be closer than you think.