Spectacular Khao Sok National Park is one of the highlights of a visit to southern Thailand. Dotted with lush limestone mountains and filled with tropical rainforest, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, Khao Sok is home to a staggeringly diverse range of wildlife and plants. Covering an area of more than 700 square kilometres, this tropical wonderland in Surat Thani province was formally established as a national park in 1980.
An entrance fee is payable at all of Thailand’s national parks. The fee for foreign visitors to Khao Sok National Park is 300 Baht (150 Baht for children) and covers a 24-hour stay. The fee for Thai nationals is 40 Baht (20 Baht for children).
Visiting Khao Sok National Park
Although Khao Sok National Park covers such a wide area, much of the park is inaccessible to visitors due to the topography and density of the jungle. There are no public roads within the boundaries of the park. Khao Sok National Park can be split into two main areas. The first is the location of the park headquarters and the visitor centre. The second area is further east at Ratchaprapa Dam and Cheow Larn Lake.
Park headquarters and visitor centre
The Khao Sok National Park headquarters and visitor centre are located just off Highway 401, the road that runs between the towns of Surat Thani in the east and Takua Pa in the west. The small village of Khlong Sok is on the road that leads to the entrance to the park and many visitors to Khao Sok choose to base themselves here. With guest-houses, restaurants, bars, tour companies, transport services and ATMs, the village is a convenient option for tourists.
Cheow Larn Lake (Ratchaprapa Dam)
The boat pier for Cheow Larn Lake is quite some distance from the park headquarters and visitor centre. Tourists can stay in floating bungalows on the lake overnight or alternatively there is a limited amount of accommodation in the nearby town of Ban Ta Khun.
What to see and do in Khao Sok National Park
With rivers, waterfalls, jungle trails and lakes, Khao Sok is a massive outdoor playground. Please visit responsibly and respect nature and park regulations.
Ratchaprapa Dam and Cheow Larn Lake
If you’re visiting Khao Sok, then a trip to Ratchaprapa Dam and Cheow Larn Lake is a must-do. The man-made reservoir is an amazing addition to the Khao Sok scenery. For a unique experience, visitors can stay overnight in secluded floating bungalows on the shore of the lake. Kayaking and river rafting are also on offer at various locations in and around Khao Sok.
There are a number of tour companies in Khao Sok offering elephant experiences, but sadly not all of these are good for the elephant. Please don’t ride elephants with metal chairs strapped to their backs and instead look for interactions that are ethical.
Meet Somboon the elephant rescued from the trekking industry »
It’s possible to go on some self-guided short hikes in Khao Sok, but for longer trails you will require a guide in accordance with national park regulations. A guide will cost approximately 500 Baht for a half-day or 1,000 Baht for a full day (prices from June 2016). Guides can be hired at the park headquarters, travel companies in Khlong Sok and via some guest-houses and resorts. There are a number of trails close to the national park headquarters and visitor centre. Further east, there are some very scenic hikes around Cheow Larn Lake. These are only accessible by longtail boat and will also give you the opportunity to explore some caves.
Flora and fauna
Khao Sok National Park is home to a wide range of wild animals including elephants, bears, marbled cats and wild boar. The area is also a haven for birds with hornbills, kites and kingfishers amongst the hundreds of species seen. Khao Sok is well-known too for its plant life with the most famous being the Rafflesia. One of the largest flowers in the world, there are a number of varieties with Rafflesia kerri the one found in Khao Sok. Known in Thai as Bua Phut, this striking red flower is the official flower of Surat Thani province. The Rafflesia is sometimes called the ‘corpse lily’ because of the putrid smell it gives off to attract flies for pollination. It’s possible to go on a guided hike to see this unique flower, but expect to be walking a number of hours for the privilege.
Where to stay in Khao Sok
Khao Sok is accessible from Highway 401, the main road which connects the city of Surat Thani in the east with the town of Takua Pa in the west. There are no roads open to public vehicles within the park itself. If you are travelling by public transport, buses and mini-vans will drop you off at the bus stop on Highway 401 which is a 2km walk to the national park headquarters. Take any bus travelling between Phuket and Surat Thani and asked to be dropped off at Khao Sok. There are also mini-vans that run between Krabi, Phang Nga and Khao Sok as well as from Ko Samui via Surat Thani.
Sample fares and journey times to Khao Sok National Park:
Khao Lak – travelling by the big bus that starts in Phuket, cost is 140 Baht. Journey time is approximately 2 hours including a 30 minute stop in Takua Pa.
Surat Thani town – bus fare 120 Baht with a journey time of approximately 2 hours.
Surat Thani airport – taxi cost 1,500-2,500 Baht and takes approximately 1.5 hours.
Krabi (Ao Nang) – shared mini-bus is 450 Baht per person for the 3.5 hour trip.
Weather in Khao Sok
Khao Sok National Park is renowned as being one of the wettest locations in Thailand. Whatever time of the year you visit, be prepared for the weather and take a rain jacket or umbrella with you. Average temperatures are warm all year round ranging between 22°C to 36°C. There are basically two seasons in Khao Sok. The dry season typically runs from January to late April. The wet season is from late April through to December with periods of heavy rain common between June and November. Statistically, the wettest months in Khao Sok are September and October. But it is the amount of rain which makes the verdant landscape so spectacular and when the sun breaks through and the low clouds and mist clear it’s a fantastic sight. The park is open all year round as are all of the most popular tours, but during the wettest months some hiking trails are off-limits.