Overwater bungalows next to lush outcrop of land in Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is the place to stay at a rafthouse lodge, to kayak on Thailand’s most beautiful lake, to follow your nose to metre-wide “corpse flowers”, and trek past whispering bamboo groves and hooting gibbons to remote wildlife sanctuaries.

Occupying Thailand’s southern spit, between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Khao Sok is more than just a convenient stop on the way from one glittering sea coast to another. This national park is part of a 5,000-square-kilometre swathe of protected forest thought to be one of the oldest on Earth — about three times as old as the Amazon — and one of the last surviving habitats in the world for wild elephants, Malayan tapirs, Asian black bears and clouded leopards.

Though you’re unlikely to spot any rare mammals yourself, a journey into Khao Sok’s forested mountains is a journey into the prehistoric. This is the best place in Thailand to immerse yourself in nature — whether you’re waking up to a dawn chorus, clambering over buttress roots in search of cute, winged lizards, or keeping your eyes peeled for flesh-eating pitcher plants and famously pungent Rafflesia among twisted liana vines.

Despite Khao Sok’s awesome age, one of its most striking and beautiful features has only existed since 1987. Cheow Lan Lake was created by the damming of the Saeng River, and has often been compared to Vietnam’s Halong Bay because of the dramatic, densely forested islands towering steeply from its vivid green waters. Today, the lake is dotted with floating bungalows and on-land safari tents from which visitors head out on guided expeditions, visit the Elephant Hills sanctuary, explore hidden coves in kayaks, and go for multi-day, boat-and-trek excursions.

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