Most of the Andaman coast’s highlights are, unsurprisingly, along the shoreline, but the stunning jungle-clad karsts of KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK are well worth heading inland for. Located about halfway between the southern peninsula’s two coasts and easily accessible from Khao Lak, Phuket and Surat Thani, the park has become a popular stop on the travellers’ route, offering a number of easy trails, a bit of amateur spelunking and some scenic rafthouse accommodation on Cheow Lan Lake. Much of the park, which protects the watershed of the Sok River and rises to a peak of nearly 1000m, is carpeted in impenetrable rainforest, home to gaurs, leopard cats and tigers among others – and up to 155 species of bird. The limestone crags that dominate almost every vista both on and away from the lake are breathtaking, never more so than in the early morning: waking up to the sound of hooting gibbons and the sight of thick white mist curling around the karst formations is an experience not quickly forgotten.
The park has two centres: the tourist village that has grown up around the park headquarters and trailheads, which offers all essential services, including an ATM at Morning Mist Minimarket and currency exchange and overseas phone services at Khao Sok Track & Trail; and the dam, 65km further east, at the head of Cheow Lan Lake. Most visitors stay in the tourist village and organize their lake trips from there, but it’s also feasible to do one or more nights at the lake first. Take plenty of water when hiking as Khao Sok is notoriously humid.