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Khao Sok National Park

Along with adjacent wildlife sanctuaries and protected forests, it is the largest contiguous nature preserve in the south. It is probably the best ecotourism destination in southern Thailand to observe a wide variety of birds and wildlife.

The panorama of rainforest and limestone karst mountains that we see on arrival at Chiaw Lan Lake is a stunning preview of this wildlife appreciation adventure. Siam Kayak is proud to offer to the family or small group the ideal way to see nature up close and friendly.

There are three ways to observe birds and wildlife at Khao Sok. One can trek the network of trails that cross the vast area. The jungle is rich with the sounds of birds and animals. But anyone who has walked through tropical rainforest knows how rare and difficult it is to observe animals going about their daily activities. There is one exception; it's easy to find leeches!

Visitors to the lake can take motorboat 'wildlife viewing' tours. The boats, none of which have mufflers to reduce the noise, carry tourists along the shoreline at the dawn and dusk feeding times. You can imagine how the wildlife is drawn to the sound of motors, and how easy it is for you to hear the calls of birds and monkeys!

On a Siam Kayak paddling trip, we see birds and wildlife the easy, comfortable, silent way. We use our kayaks! With the floating bungalows as a base, we paddle along the shoreline close to the rainforest or karst mountains. Where the water stops, the rainforest begins. In this way it is similar to watching an ant farm.

Sitting in our kayaks, we see a great variety of birds. Khao Sok is an especially good place to see hornbills. On one trip we saw three types of hornbills without moving our kayaks! Another large, easily spotted bird is the Crested serpent-eagle. Often they perch on dead trees, scanning the area for food. Using binoculars and peering into the forest we can see many other species of birds, including rare and unusual species.

Scanning for movement in the trees we have seen troops of monkeys feeding in trees ripe with fruit. When they travel, they go single file, using the same trees and branches. This is for safety; take the 'pathway' that doesn't break.

Wild boars are easy to spot. They come out of the forest to feed on the banana trees next to the water. It seems they don't notice us, but as soon as we reach for the camera, they move back into the trees.

Our favorite animal is the gibbon. The morning song of the gibbon is the most memorable sound in all the rainforest; no visit to Thailand is complete without hearing it. We usually see them on every trip; their long, graceful leaps from one tree to the next are remarkable!

The rhythms of nature change as sunset turns to dusk, then to darkness. Sometimes we will stay on the lake in our kayaks (not far from the bungalows, of course!) for this transition. We hear the nighttime animals start their search for food. The Wild boars seem especially active and noisy after dark. Then we paddle a few minutes and we're back in time for dinner!

Although we primarily use our kayaks, we have found a few trails, accessible by boat, which are worthwhile. One trail leads to a cave that was used in the 1970s' as a refuge by the communists who used the Khao Sok area as a base camp (indeed, some say it was the presence of the communists in the area that kept the loggers out-it was during this time that destructive logging was rampant in the rest of the country). Remains of the concrete bunker that was used to guard the entrance can still be seen. While it's a fascinating opportunity to see a cave ecosystem, it's not an easy walk and it's an optional part of the trip.

At Khao Sok we stay in floating bungalows. Just as we are close to nature when we paddle, we are close to nature in our thatch bungalows. They are very basic accommodations; the only furniture in each bungalow is the sleeping pad. There is no electricity in the rooms, so bring a flashlight. The bungalows and toilets (separate from the bungalows) are accessed by wooden walkways that are rather uneven. Care and attention are needed when using them, so anyone with a walking impediment or handicap should ask us for details.

This may seem primitive, but typical ugly concrete bungalows would be terribly out of place in this unspoiled wonderland. So visit Khao Sok now, before 'development' comes!

Thailand is much more than the beautiful islands. Historically an important part of southern Thailand is the vast rainforest and its inhabitants. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to see for yourself the variety of monkeys, gibbons, otters, boars, perhaps even elephants, deer or bear that make Asian rainforests such rich and diverse ecosystems. Take the Siam Kayak 'soft adventure' tour of Khao Sok soon; don't put it off!