Cheow Larn Lake

Nestled in the Surat Thani province of Thailand is the dramatic scenery of Khao Sok National Park. Home to hundreds of animal species including Malayan sun bears, Clouded Leopards and wild elephants, this area of the world is truly heaven on earth. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and dense rainforest, lies a body of water that has to be seen with one’s own eyes to be truly appreciated.

Khao Sok Lake is locally known as Cheow Larn Lake (occasionally spelt Cheow Lan Lake – without the ‘r’). It is a stunning place to visit, lying in an ancient rainforest, and is the location of some of the most unique accommodation in Khao Sok including floating hotels.

The lake of Khao Sok

Khao Sok Lake stretches over an area of 165 km2 within the 739 km2 park. The water is a beautiful emerald color, which further adds to the vibrant greens of the rainforest. The lake is vast, and is dotted with over one hundred limestone karsts which jut up from the still water, remnants of what were once mountain peaks.

Since its construction in 1987, Cheow Larn Lake has escaped undisturbed by the pollution that comes with industrialization and has been kept protected by the communities and organizations that value both its beauty, and its function. The lake is also home to a variety of freshwater fish, making it a valuable source of food for the local bird population, which number as many as 311 different species.

The Creation of Khao Sok Lake

In the 1980’s The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand investigated the benefits of damming the Pasaeng river in order to create hydroelectric power for the region. This was a bold move for the country at a time when hydroelectricity was not as common as it is today. It was a move that paid off; this industrial scale power source would eventually become a great asset for the area, but as is often the case, changes first need to be made.

The valley was flooded in 1987, and in the process five villages were evacuated from the area which is now Cheow Larn Lake. The houses, schools and temples of these villages now rest on the floor of the lake; Thailand’s own Atlantis. While efforts were made to retrieve the hundreds of animals which were displaced by the flooding, there were many more casualties than there were rescues. The flooding of the valley was considered a devastating event for the wildlife of Khao Sok National Park.

Khao Sok Lake today

As disruptive as some of the events may have been that led to the creation of the lake, it is now a truly integral part of the area. Not only does the hydroelectricity created by the Ratchaprapha Dam in Cheow Larn Lake supply sustainable power to large parts of Southern Thailand, but the lake itself has also brought jobs to local villagers.

Where income in the area was once very restricted, the lake has provided opportunities to make a living from fishing, or by working in the ecotourism industries which have been attracted to the area. Ecotourism companies have established themselves in the park due to the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife.

Despite the negative impact that the lake’s creation had on the animal population, it is now helping to increase those same populations as it provides a vital water source. With water comes more abundant insects, which feed the smaller creatures of the forest, which in turn feed the larger creatures, and so on cycles the food chain.

The ecotourism companies themselves also play an important role in sustaining the wildlife that remains in this region in Thailand. Conservation projects are investing money back into Khao Sok National Park and supporting the long-term health of the environment.

Khao Sok National Park: An ancient site

While the lake itself may be only a few decades old, the greater area is ancient. In fact, the Khao Sok National Park outdates even the Amazon rainforest, with scientists estimating its creation at approximately 160 million years ago. The cliffs in this area of the country are thought to have been created at the same time as the Himalayas, when 50 million years ago the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates collided, forcing the rock upwards. Read more on the history of Khao Sok National Park here.

Due to the mountainous landscape of limestone cliffs, over a hundred peaks remained when the valley was flooded to create Cheow Larn Lake; only their crests visible above the surface. This leads to it often being compared to the scenery in Halong Bay, Vietnam – but with a lot less tourists! The limestone karsts of the lake create a spectacular vista, as beautiful as it is dramatic.

Why you should visit Khao Sok Lake

Cheow Larn Lake is one of the many stunning elements that make up Khao Sok National Park. The scenery of towering limestone cliffs, lush rainforest, and of course the emerald lake, as well as the vast array of wild mammals, amphibians, birds and insects, create a destination like no other.

The forest is home to many large mammals including clouded leopards, tigers, wild elephants, gaurs, tapir, malayan sun bears and gibbons, just to name a few! While these animals are frequently spotted, we do not interfere with their habitat or try to artificially attract them to the area, so sightings always depend on the luck of the day – as with all wildlife.

Not only will you have the opportunity to look for an array of wildlife, but the activities available at Khao Sok Lake are varied too! In the water or out, you’ll be spoiled for choice with options such as canoeing, swimming, exploring by long tail boat, paddling through the mangroves, the choice is yours!

The perfect balance between an active holiday and a romantic getaway, this is a popular spot for honeymooners from all over the world. What better way to connect with yourself, your new partner and the wonders of nature, all in one trip. If you have an upcoming honeymoon to plan, or are just in need of a romantic vacation to reconnect with your spouse, a break to Cheow Larn Lake may be perfect for you.

Khao Sok National Park has been called “Thailand’s secret garden” by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine and described as ‘wondrous’ by The Lonely Planet – with praise like that, how can you resist making Khao Sok your next holiday destination?! But if you need any more convincing, take a look at this list of what Khao Sok National Park has to offer.

Khao Sok hotels: Where to stay on Cheow Larn Lake

Just the accommodation in Khao Sok alone makes the park worthy of a visit. Where else can you enjoy the chorus of birdsong that comes from the rainforest as you wake in the morning, and end each day listening to the lullabye created by frogs and crickets. Staying on-site in local Khao Sok hotels will allow you to feel completely at one with your surroundings.

While there are several options for Khao Sok hotels in the area, listing them all would go beyond the scope of this article. However, whether you want to stay in the rainforest or on Khao Sok Lake itself, there are some fantastic choices of Khao Sok accommodation to suit your requirements.

Just a quick look at the Khao Sok hotels listed on TripAdvisor shows that travelers visiting the area rank the Elephant Hills “Rainforest Camp” as their favorite accommodation in the park. Based in the heart of Cheow Larn Lake, this accommodation consists of luxury canvas tents that sit just above the water, a great way to experience what Khao Sok Lake has to offer.

A once in a life experience, the wonderful Khao Sok National Park and its spectacular Cheow Larn Lake, is not to be missed. So what are you waiting for?! Khao Sok Lake awaits!

For even more inspiration, or to find out what other excitement you can expect on your trip to Khao Sok National Park, take a look at our recommended tour options here.