Contrary to what the popular notions may suggest, Thailand really is an extremely beautiful country. Blue beaches and limestone caves make this a nature lover’s treat. But one of its many hidden gems are its marine national parks. While Angthong National Park is still relatively well known, the somewhat unknown one has to be the Khao Suk National Park.
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Where: Surat Thani province, Thailand
How to reach: Fly down directly to Surat Thani. Alternately other major cities in Thailand also have ferries till Surat Thani but these can be time consuming.
Best time to visit: May to October
Entry fees: 300 Thai Baht for 24 hours
Area: 739 sq. km.
Khao Sok is not just any national park but actually one of the oldest rainforests in the world. In true Thailand trademark style, there are limestone caves towering above the waters and a bunch of lakes to explore. The added charm of this park is the wild animals within its deep valleys waiting for you to chance sighting them.
Unlike a number of other national parks where you cannot step outside your vehicle and go exploring on your own, here you can actually wander in the jungle. No, not everywhere but there are selective trails that allow you to explore the wilderness and the mangroves on foot.
The park is home to 311 species of birds, 48 mammals and countless reptiles. In fact, there are more than 30 kinds of bat species found here! Sun bears, gibbons, mouse deer and even wild elephants all reside within the deep dark stretches of this park.
About 485 – 380 million years ago, the sliding down of deposits of pebbles and limestones resulted in the sea becoming shallower which in turn effected in a significant population of marine life and coral reefs also being present here. Then about 28—225 million years ago, they say there was probably a stretch of coral reef here which was so vast that it was bigger than even the Great Barrier Reef of Australia! It ran the length from China to Borneo which is why Halong Bay (Vietnam), Guilin (China), Sarawak (Borneo) and Khao Sok (Thailand) have similar topographies.
The earliest traced records of initial inhabitants of Khao Sok are found from the reign of King Rama II in the 1800s. The Burmese people had attacked the towns and out of fear a lot of people fled to the jungles for safety. But in addition to cover they found a land with rich soil and animal life, deeming it ideal and causing even others to resort to seeking shelter here. It was in 1980 that the area was finally conferred the national park status.
In its dramatic landscape, lies the Khao Sok lake which has been named the Cheow Larn Lake. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones. Within the wide park, the lake itself stretches for 139 sq. km. It is the ideal location to stay at for your visit because from luxurious tents to raft houses, the properties offer an up close and personal experience of living within the throngs of nature itself. And what’s even better is the fact that you can do kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing in certain parts! Now that’s the way I want to explore a national park.
So, if you’re looking for a taste of Thailand unlike the mainstream image, if you’re looking an experience that is as close as possible to nature and wilderness, then take a few days amidst the magnificent karsts and waters of Khao Sok National Park.
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