Plenty to choose from
Published/Last edited or updated: 3rd March, 2019
Khlong Sok village is home to dozens of licensed tour companies, some associated with resorts and others standing on their own. A wide selection of day tours means that there is no need to book a package tour before you arrive. Simply show up and shop around.
The going rate for a full-day group tour of Chiew Lan is 1,500 baht per person, which does not include the 300-baht ticket to the park. Shoving off around 08:30 and returning to Khlong Sok village by sundown, these typically include a rafthouse stop for lunch, time for swimming and kayaking and a hike to one of the caves or viewpoints scattered around the lake. Up to 10 tourists are squeezed into the narrow longtail boats. Expect to get wet.
For 2,500 baht you get the same sort of experience except that you’ll spend a night in a bare-bones floating bungalow. Some companies use park-run bungalows while others have their own budget rafthouses. One of the most popular of the privately run bunch is Smiley, which also has bungalows and a side base in Khlong Sok village. We talked to several young backpackers going the Smiley route from start to finish.
Private lake tours are also available and some of the two-day boat trips up into Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary are well worth considering in the 3,000 to 6,000 baht range per person, depending on how many heads are in your group. Khlong Saeng can be reached with only the help of a boat driver, but we’d want a guide to help us spot the rich array of wildlife.
Tour outfits will also design custom lake tours for travellers with special interests, such as caves and birdlife.
A good trail guide can really make the jungle come alive, and Khao Sok has no shortage of them. The cheapest option is to hire a park ranger, but we’d part with 600 to 1,200 baht per person to go with a tour company that specialises in trekking led by experienced, English-speaking guides.
Many resorts double as trekking companies—Art’s Riverview Lodge, Nung House, Our Jungle House and Rainforest Resort are a few of those offering a team of experienced guides for different interests in the natural world, from orchids to birds, snakes, fish and larger beasts. Most of these have been going strong since the 1990s.
Among the freestanding outfits, we feel comfortable recommending a few easy-to-find spots in the village. The owners of Khao Sok Wild Life, Mr Sak and Mr Lak, draw on the expertise of lifetimes spent in the jungle. At nearby Khai Jungle Experience we were shown photos of a Swiss snake farm owner who returns yearly in wet season to find rare serpents with the help of Mr Khai. The folks at Real Jungle Tour were also pleasant.
Another popular activity is the night safari, offered by the national park and private companies for 600 baht per person. As darkness falls you might spot the slow loris, civet cat, fireflies, even tarantula spiders. These take place nightly when weather is good, leaving from both park headquarters and the park-run Nang Prai Rafthouse on Chiew Lan Lake, among other places.
River tours come with choice of three crafts—tube, flat bamboo raft and inflated canoe—and can be launched from within Khlong Sok village or further east down Highway 401 at Family Bamboo Raft, Khao Sok River Canoe and several other outfits that dot the valley. If exploring with a vehicle you can show up and book a private ride for the same price as tours booked through resorts, but the latter includes pick up at your guesthouse.
A scenic canoe trip that we arranged through Our Jungle House departs from Wat Tham Phra—the temple cave—where you walk through a large cave opening to reach the water. From there the river wends its way through a lush landscape as kingfishers and herons fly overhead.
Canoe tours employ guides steering at the back, and tubing trips usually have at least one guide floating along with the group. Expect to pay 800 baht per person for a canoe or bamboo raft trip, and 500 baht for river tubing. In our experience, life jackets are sometimes available by request only, and children-sized vests may not be available.
In dry season you get a relaxing ride and cooling swim in calm, clear water flowing amid the cliffs and forest. However, river trips are sometimes cancelled due to low water level in March and April. Whitewater often rips in the rainy months, providing thrills for rafters, but only when conditions are just right. Rain comes in big blows from July through September.
Off Highway 401 you’ll find two places offering a day program for meeting and taking care of elephants, and both do not allow riding or other forms of mistreatment, we were told. Charging 2,900 baht per person, the Hillside Retreat is the more upscale option, while Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary is cheaper and closer to the village. Both offer a full day spent bathing the elephants and preparing their meal before joining them for a swim.
There’s also Elephant Hills, a luxury tented resort and elephant sanctuary set a dozen km down the valley from Khlong Sok village. The all-inclusive, multi-night programs start at a cool 13,000 baht per person, including a luxury tent to go with a wide range of activities—with elephants and without.
While it’s still possible to ride elephants in the Khao Sok area, this is increasingly frowned on because it’s not good for the animals.
Guided fishing in Chiew Lan Lake and its tributaries is allowed for those hoping to catch the big-mouthed mahseer and giant snakehead. For a three-night fishing trip into Khlong Saeng, prices range from 5,000 to 18,000 baht depending on number of heads and include food and rafthouse accommodation. Fishing Khao Lak and Thai Fishing appear to be two solid options.
All sorts of multi-night package tours are available and prices vary dramatically based on what you want to do, for how long and your required level of comfort. You’ll find them advertised online and through third-party travel agents in Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani, but you’ll pay less if shopping around in Khlong Sok village.
Elephant Hills Thailand: Highway 401 (13 km east of park hq) ; T: (052) 001 186 ; https://www.elephanthills.com/
Family Bamboo Raft: Highway 401 (14 km east of park hq) ; T: (061) 580 4254 ; email@example.com
Fishing Khao Lak: T: (087) 275 6074 ; http://www.fishing-khaolak.com/
Khai Jungle Experience: 54/6 Moo 6, Baan Khlong Sok ; T: (093) 763 4910 ; https://www.facebook.com/wassana.maew1/
Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary: Highway 401 (3 km east of park hq) ; T: (089) 726 7066 ; (082) 807 8153 ; https://khaosokelephantsanctuary.com/
Khao Sok River Canoe: Highway 401 (15 km east of park hq) ; T: (086) 120 3189
Real Jungle Tours: 262/6 Moo 6, Baan Khlong Sok ; T: (081) 737 7199 ; https://www.facebook.com/realjungletour/
Thai Fishing: T: (081) 597 2631 ; (089) 730 4028 ; https://www.thai-fishing.com/
The Hillside Retreat: Highway 4 (24 km west of park hq) ; T: (076) 410 414 ; (063) 078 2199
Wild Life Khao Sok: 309 Moo 6, Baan Khlong Sok ; T: (098) 741 3130 ; (085) 785 6225
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.