Almost two years ago, for my 30th birthday, we did a Kenyan beach holiday with a few days on Safari in the middle. It worked really well and as soon as I read up about Khao Sok, I knew I wanted to do something similar on this trip, especially after learning that the transfer time from Khao Lak was only around an hour. I had firstly looked at the amazing Elephant Hills camp, but it was really pricey and having visited the Sheldrick orphanage in Kenya, felt we had already had a great elephant experience and didn’t require another just yet!
I looked at a lot of different accommodations in the area, made all the more difficult by the fact that Trip Advisor doesn’t show them all under the Khao Sok area, but some under Surat Thani instead. I’d seen Baan Khao Sok and Las Orquideas both discussed in threads but when I saw the treehouses of Khao Sok Paradise, I knew I had found what I was looking for! I was even more taken with the property when I realised that the deluxe tree house, at the equivalent of around £50 per night, had wifi, air conditioning and a full size bath. The tree house also had satellite TV, a safe and tea and coffee making facilities, as well as a few resident geckos! I booked our two night stay back in October, making sure we could arrange our activities when we arrived at the resort.
I had booked the transfer to Khao Sok with Boss from cheaper than hotel taxis, based in Khao Lak. A private transfer was 1200 baht for the one hour journey. Quite bizarrely, just before Christmas, I was informed that one of the customer relations staff from Reethi Beach was now working at Khao Sok Paradise – what a small world! This might explain why after filling out our information card, Eric (the manager) exclaimed ‘Mrs Cox, I’ve heard all about you!’. All of the staff here are so happy and friendly, nothing is too much trouble and someone is always around to help with any queries. One of the biggest surprises for us, was the amazing food served up, it remained consistently amazing and was some of the best food we ate in Thailand, always so fresh and beautifully presented. I could also write rave reviews about the drinks here, from Nu’s fresh Lime Iced Tea to Eric’s customised fruit shakes, it really was all about personal service. My full TA review can be read here.
I’d read up on all the activities and trips available in the Khao Sok area before arriving and had been sure we would do the full day trip to Chiew Larn lake to see the beautiful lime stone karsts and raft houses. However, we felt that by being out for such a long day, we would miss out on exploring the local area and just relaxing at the resort. Instead, we decided to plump for three separate trips; a night Safari in the National Park, a trip to the nearby hot springs and then a canoe trip down the Sok river. From what we saw when walking through the village, tour prices are relatively similar wherever you book, I didn’t ever feel like Paradise were over charging compared to operators in the village. They have also recently built a lovely little Shisha/relaxation area near to reception, we spent quite a few hours just laying on the cushions here and reading books, there was mostly a lovely breeze here with a stunning view towards the National Park. Keep an eye out for the Chipmunk family too, the parents were often seen running along the ceiling beams but Kate kindly showed us where the babies were stored and we managed to catch them coming out to explore one day!
One thing I didn’t know about the area was that there was really one one road through the village leading to the park entrance. Although Paradise is probably one of the furthest out you could walk to the park kiosk in under 15 minutes, over the river bridge and past the main shops. It’s only just off the main road but far enough away that we never heard any noise from passing cars. If you turn left out of reception you can walk down to Baan Khao Sok resort and investigate the river area. The vegetation is very colourful down here, lots of plants and big butterflies! If you walk back up the track onto the main road you will find a mini market and further on there is a number of bars, restaurants and more shops, there is an ATM machine about 10 minutes walk from Paradise should you need it.
The Night Safari
We had a few hours to relax after checking in before our night Safari began. I had visions of wading through ant infested vegetation, batting away mozzies and drowning in my own sweat…..reality was quite different! We were picked up by a local guide who provided us all with a bottle of water and a small head torch. We were then taken to the entrance kiosk to pay our entry fee, it really is dark without the surrounding light but I was pleasantly surprised to find a very rocky but made path for us to follow into the forest. The guide had warned us on our way in that the dry weather had meant a shortage of wildlife but it seems we were to have lady luck on our side that night! Over the course of the evening we saw not one, but two, Slow Loris’, a Civet cat, many spiders, a snake, a few large moths, a huge cricket and even a scorpion. It would seem I am not very good at spotting the reflection of torch light in a creatures eyes but my husband is, he is to be given credit for our first Slow Loris sighting!
It was warm in the evening but not the tropical humidity I had imagined. The tour cost was 500baht each (approx £10) and we were out for a few hours. Whilst hubby found the Loris, the guide did well at finding us wildlife to spot and he did his best to help us get photographs. It was a great few hours!
The Hot Springs
When we booked this trip, Eric recommended that we go either first thing in the morning or later in the evening, hopefully this would mean less people and cooler temperatures so that we could enjoy the warm water. The trip down to the springs took about twenty minutes and there was only one Thai family in the pools when we arrived. There are some basic changing rooms here and a few benches to place towels on. There are four pools, amusingly we were told they were ‘warm’, ‘hot’, ‘very hot’ and ‘too hot’! This was actually a really accurate description. I only managed to bathe in the warm and hot pools, just dangling my legs in very hot was enough and there was no way I was able to get into too hot! The Thai family left after about fifteen minutes meaning we had the pools to ourselves where we enjoyed the warm water and sound of the birds.
Canoeing down the Sok River
This was our last organised trip in the area, after the Bamboo rafting in Khao Lak I was prepared to get wet but as it happened, we stayed incredibly dry! It was a lovely clear day and the scenery along the river side is really quite beautiful. The river was quite low due to the heat but most of the route was clear and we spoke to a lovely English couple who were travelling their way around SE Asia even though they were both in their 70’s. You have both inspired me to dream big! About halfway through the trip the guides beached us on a small rocky cove and proceeded to light a campfire and make everyone coffee in some amazing bamboo cups. I was hoping we could keep the cup but after a few days it had gone mouldy on the inside!
It was almost time to return to Khao Lak, for our last hours we went through another walk through the village, down to the river and then relaxing for a few hours before sneaking in another fantastic lunch and waving everyone goodbye. I wish we’d had more time, I am sure the Lake trip is fantastic! I made a decision not take part in any elephant trekking activities, both in Khao Sok and in Khao Lak, because I felt uncomfortable with the multiple reports of mistreatment. However, I am aware of comments that the company Eric uses in Khao Sok are very elephant friendly, not using hooks to manipulate the animals and that is where I would have been more likely to participate.
We read some fantastic information about the formation of the forest, you can read more about it’s history here
Highly recommend detour from the beaches of Khao Lak, should a bit of nature take your fancy. If an emerald sea and white sand is more your thing, I’d suggest keeping an eye out for Part 3 where I report on our trip to the colourful Surin Islands!