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I’m currently sat in my living with horrendous jet lag, having just arrived home from Thailand after 20 hours of travelling. Reflecting on our trip and the many incredible things we saw, it’s fair to say that our Khao Sok National Park tour, complete with an overnight stay at the Khao Sok Riverside Cottages and floating water bungalows, definitely features prominently in our highlights reel.
Planning our trip to Thailand, we knew that a visit to Khao Sok National Park was a must! Friends of ours had been to Khao Sok 12 months prior to our trip and had waxed lyrical about their experience and about how insanely beautiful it is. So, we knew it was one thing on our itinerary that was non-negotiable.
There are many different companies offering Khao Sok National Park tours, so there’s much to choose from. We wouldn’t normally opt for a tour, as we usually prefer more flexible travel plans without the constraints of being in a large group, but I’d read a few reviews online advising the tours were great value, very insightful and much safer than going it alone. So, we decided it would be better to opt for a tour on this occasion, especially as neither of us had been to Khao Sok National Park before.
After researching a few different Khao Sok National Park tours, we decided to go for the Khao Sok Riverside Cottages package, which included one night at the Riverside Cottages complex, an overnight stay in a floating water bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park and a variety of activities.
Arriving at Khao Sok Riverside Cottages
Checking in to Khao Sok Riverside Cottages, we were immediately struck with just how beautiful the complex was. From the carpark, a raised boardwalk leads you through dense, overhanging rainforest to a beautiful river, where you’ll find the main restaurant and reception area.
We checked in to our room, which was a huge wooden cabin with two double beds and a gorgeous balcony verandah overlooking the river, and headed to the restaurant for some food before making our way to reception to join our first activity of the tour – a canoe trip down the river.
The canoe trip lasted about an hour and was my favourite activity of the trip. It was so peaceful drifting down the wide river just before sunset, with the golden light streaming through the overhanging trees. We saw local families playing and washing in the river, monkeys on the nearby river banks and a huge black and yellow snake in a tree! Our canoe guides stopped halfway down the river, lit a fire on the river bank and made us coffee using bamboo cups and bamboo shoots over the fire. A great experience!
Unfortunately, I later became quite sick with a dodgy tummy, possibly from something I’d eaten the day before at another restaurant, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the Riverside Cottages as much as I’d like. But falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest around us is one of my favourite things, so we settled in for the night and awoke early the next day ready for our tour to the Rajjaprabha Dam, Cheow Lan Lake and Khao Sok floating water bungalows.
Khao Sok National Park Tour
We set off about 9am (still feeling very ill) with our tour group, on a minibus, to a nearby town to purchase supplies. All our meals would be provided at the floating water huts, so we only needed to purchase snacks – and some charcoal tablets for my tummy, which worked a treat! (Seriously, if you ever get a bad tummy while travelling, I can’t recommend charcoal capsules enough. Within an hour, I was feeling almost 100% better and was able to enjoy the rest of the tour.)
We arrived at Rajjaprabha Dam between 10 and 10:30am, paid our national park entrance fee and boarded a boat to the water bungalows. It took about an hour to reach the water huts, travelling through jaw-dropping limestone cliffs and pinnacles, stopping once for our tour guide to explain some facts about the man-made lake and dam. The scenery around the lake is breath-taking – some of the most epic landscape I’ve ever seen, so the boat trip was enjoyable in itself.
Arriving at the water bungalows, we were shown to our floating hut and met in the eating area for lunch. Lunch was nice; a combination of traditional Thai noodle dishes, curry (veggie options available) and rice, with pineapple and watermelon for dessert. The food was simple, didn’t look that great, but was actually really tasty. And it was nice to eat around the table with our tour group, which consisted of some really nice people from all around the world – Irish, Swiss, Dutch, French Canadian, Danish and Polish.
After lunch, we had about an hour to enjoy the area – we could simply relax at the huts and take in the scenery, swim in the lake, or do some kayaking. We decided to swim, relax and kick back for an hour before embarking on a jungle trek at 2:30pm.
Taking the boat, we travelled for about 15 minutes across the lake and disembarked on a bank before making our way into the jungle. I have to say, the jungle trek was disappointing. Our tour guide was a nice, friendly guy, but not hugely professional, and if we were hoping to see any wildlife, we quickly realised our chances were slim, as our guide continually shouted at the top of his voice, making monkey noises and fooling around. In addition, our tour group consisted of 13 people, whereas the website had promised between 8 and 10, meaning a huge group of people trampling through the jungle was sure to scare away any wildlife around us. Suffice to say, we saw nothing.
Heading back to the boat after an hour walking through rainforest, I stupidly managed to fall in a river and bash up my knee pretty bad! Yes, that’s right – I fell in a river, ha! Fortunately, I was OK and our tour guide was really kind and helpful, checking I was OK and helping me back to the boat.
We then spent the next hour cruising around the waterways, looking for any signs of animal life in the trees around us. After about 45 minutes, we did manage to spot a few monkeys jumping from tree to tree and a beautiful toucan, albeit a long way off!
We headed back to the huts for dinner and settled in for the evening. Again, the food was simple but tasty and we spent the evening around the table chatting, laughing and drinking Chang beer with our tour group before heading back to our water hut for peace, quiet and tranquility.
Just to be clear, the water huts are extremely simple. I’m talking no electricity, save for one light which operates from 6-11pm, no WIFI, no phone signal and only a thin mattress and a couple of blankets. Also, there is absolutely no way you can keep bugs, lizards and other creatures out, so if you’re terrified of creepy crawlies, you might not get the best night sleep!
The bathrooms (one shower and three proper toilets) are shared and a short walk away, but always clean and well-managed. It was perfect and we loved it. But if luxury is your thing, this probably won’t be your thing.
We both slept soundly, one of the best nights sleeps I’ve ever had, which was great because the next morning we had to be ready for 6:30am for an ‘early morning mist safari’. We set out on the boat at 6:30 and spent about 1.5 hours cruising around on the boat enjoying the landscape and looking for the elusive wildlife. Again, we didn’t see much except for a chicken swimming in the lake (legit, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen) but the scenery was really pretty, so that’s something.
We made our way back to the hut station for breakfast – yummy banana pancakes with fresh fruit. Tea and coffee are also available for free – anything surplus to this, like beer, you have to pay for. After breakfast, we reluctantly left our huts for the last time and made our way to a nearby cave. The cave was cool and full of bats, although very crowded with lots of other tour groups. The highlight here was the surrounding scenery – absolutely jaw-droppingly breathtaking and the sunlight filtering through was just stunning.
From the cave, we made our way to our final stop – a beauty spot on the lake with lovely views of the iconic limestone pinnacles where we enjoyed a picnic lunch of rice, chicken and watermelon for dessert, before heading back to the dam for the end of our tour.
Our tour ended at about 1:30pm and we were transported back to the Riverside Cottages complex to collect our scooter and head back to our base in Krabi.
In short, Khao Sok National Park is an amazing place that truly delivers when it comes to beautiful, can’t-believe-your-eyes scenery and untouched landscapes. While our tour was a good experience, the highlight was definitely the floating water bungalows. Being able to completely switch off, with no digital distractions, to take in the outstanding natural environment around us was an experience I’ll never forget. Although, we felt that, with all the organised activities and excursions, we didn’t really have enough time to truly enjoy it.
We’ll definitely return to the floating water huts in Khao Sok National Park and the Riverside Cottages complex but, in all honesty, we won’t book another guided tour like this one. Next time, we’ll try to organise a stay in the water bungalows independently so we have more time to ourselves to truly immerse ourselves in the experience. Although, having said that, for first timers to Khao Sok National Park, booking a guided tour is a great way to find your feet, so I would recommend it for your first visit.
If you’re thinking of booking a Khao Sok National Park tour with Riverside Cottages, I hope you found this review helpful. Please let me know in the comments below.
This post is not sponsored by Khao Sok National Park or Khao Sok Riverside Cottages. We paid for our trip in full and this is an honest, unbiased review of our experience.