Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour – What to Expect

Cheow Lan Lake Tour

The Khao Sok Lake tour is one you should not miss if you happen to already be in the Surat Thani province.

The awe-inspiring scenery, framed by towering limestone cliffs and lush rainforests surrounding Cheow Lan Lake, creates a breathtaking backdrop. Staying in floating bungalows on the lake is one that you should at least try, especially if you’re looking for slower paced days to relax.

Beyond the stunning landscape, the tour also gives you the option to explore hidden caves to kayaking and wildlife spotting. If you’re lucky, you may encounter the active wildlife, including exotic birds, monkeys, and the possibility of glimpsing elephants along the shoreline.

For nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, the Khao Sok Lake tour at Smiley Lake House promises an enriching and immersive experience in the heart of Thailand’s natural wonders.

Is that enough to get your interested? If yes, keep on reading about our experience in the Khao Sok Lake Tour.


Is the Khao Sok Lake Tour worth it?

That’s a resounding yes, and this is for a variety of reasons.

  1. The Guilin of Thailand was amazing to see in real life
    Experience the magic of nature as you admire the Guilin of Thailand, a comparison that doesn’t do justice until you see it in person. The towering limestone karsts create a unique and mesmerizing landscape, showcasing the wonders of geological formations shaped over millions of years. The view of these limestone towers against the blue green waters are equally as beautiful, albeit more rugged, as the views from Maya Bay.
  2. Spectacular Views and Relaxation
    The stunning views extend beyond limestone towers. There’s also the calm waters, lush greenery, and serene atmosphere that give off that therapeutic vibe. This tour can easily be marketed as a getaway tour because you’re really away from the bustle of touristic placs and large cities. We moved a lot in the past few days before this tour, so I was pretty antsy and restless. This tour helped reduced my stress levels.
  3. Unique Accommodations
    Staying at raft houses on the lake is more than just a place to rest; it’s also a spot to sightsee. The gentle lapping of the water beneath, the uninterrupted views from your floating abode was a nice touch when you wake up in the morning. All that is asked from your in your stay is to just relax.
  4. Wildlife Exploration
    The Khao Sok Lake is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The diverse ecosystem harbors a myriad of species, from the vibrant plumage of tropical birds to the playful antics of monkeys swinging through the trees. Encountering these creatures in their natural habitat provides a profound appreciation for biodiversity and the importance of conservation efforts.

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Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -

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Tour options

There are two options for this tour, the 2 day or the extended 3 day tour.

2-Day, 1-Night Tour

This tour is good if you want a quick look at the amazing Cheow Lan Lake.

Highlights:

  • Safari Tours: See the unique Guilin of Thailand and the wildlife in it.
  • Cave Hikes: Explore interesting caves, specifically Nam Taloo Cave
  • Kayaking: Enjoy peaceful paddling in the massive Cheow Lan Lake.
Cheow Lan Lake

3-Days, 2-Nights Extended Tour

This tour is for those with more time, with some extra activities. It builds on the 2-day one, offering a more relaxed pace and more time with nature.

Some of the extra Activities are:

  • Tubing: Relaxing float on the lake.
  • Elephant Feeding or Bathing: Meet elephants in nature.

What to consider

  • Activities: Both options offer different things, like cave hikes and kayaking. The 3-day one has extra activities like tubing and time with elephants.
  • Accommodations: Both include the same floating houses
  • Wildlife: Both let you see wildlife, with the 3-day option giving you more time for encounters.

Choosing between the two depends on how much time you have and what kind of experience you want at Khao Sok Lake.

Experience at the Cheow Lan Lake Tour

DAY 1

Our adventure kicked off at 08:30 at Smiley Dome Camp in Khao Sok, where Phaïwan, the friendly owner, warmly welcomed us. After a brief but insightful tour briefing, we hopped into minivans bound for the breathtaking Cheow Lan Lake.

Before reaching the lake, a quick stop at a nearby 7/11 allowed everyone to grab essentials. An hour later, we arrived at the dock, boarded local long boats, and set off to the Smiley lake houses. The highlight? The initial glimpse of the Ratchaprapa Dam overseeing the tranquil waters.

School of fish you can feed at Cheow Lan Lake pier
School of fish you can feed at Cheow Lan Lake pier
Boarding the long boat to take us to the floating bungalows
Boarding the long boat to take us to the floating bungalows

A bit of history: Cheow Lan Lake, a marvel created in 1982 by the Ratchaprapa hydroelectric Dam, brought electricity and reduced flooding to Surat Thani. The flooded area, once Ban Khao Phang, transformed into the Ban Cheow Lan Municipality.

As we traversed the lake, the striking Hin Sam Glur rocks, fondly known as the Guilin of Thailand, came into view. The moniker “Guilin of Thailand” pays homage to the resemblance these rocks bear to the surreal landscapes of China’s Guilin. These towering limestone cliffs, adorned with thick moss and greenery, create a breathtaking panorama that has earned them a lasting impression on anyone who explore the Cheow Lan Lake.

I’ve heard that there are some climbers that go here to deep water solo or climb the cliffs and jump down into the water. Sadly, I didn’t find any tour that talks about despite a decent time googling for such a tour.

Noontime brought a nice buffet lunch and free time. Smiley’s meticulous scheduling synchronized our arrival with the departure of the previous group.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Common area at Smiley’s Bungalow

Once lunch was done, we really had the time to ourselves to walk around the lake house, kayak or just swim in the lake.

First impressions of the accommodations? They’re very clean and nice! Smiley’s bungalows may not be the nicest looking lake houses in the massive Cheow Lan lake, but it’s well maintained and clean. I know there’s bamboo bungalows near the Nam Taloo caves but Smiley’s location was by far better and their facilities seem to be better maintained than those “rustic” looking bungalows.

There’s two beds, a fan, and a bathroom with working sewer system for the toilets. Sad to say though that water you use to shower goes straight back to lake, and there’s no signage to avoid using soap to not harm the wildlife.

Each lake house has chairs at the front for relaxation, and a ladder for one to climb up after swimming in the lake. There’s also a pair of kayaks with life vests for every two houses. The lake houses were truly designed for relaxation.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
What it looks like inside the lake houses
Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
What your front “patio” will look like

The common area where most people gather for dinners are spacious, and it’s in this area where you can also plug in your devices. Note though that there’s only a limited number of sockets available. Moreover, they also have wifi that you can use for internet access.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Nice to see that there was even a first aid station

During this free time, we spent an hour kayaking within the lake. The lake is impressively massive, and I’m convinced that you can spend days just kayaking to every nook and cranny of the lake. There’s so many small islets to explore. Soil was red from what I suspect to be high levels of iron. You’ll also see dead trees that make a surreal landscape while padding around.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
There are many islets in the lake

The current also gets a bit stronger the farther you go, so careful when kayaking.

At around 5pm, evening boat safaris begin where roughly 3 long boats head to the small islets with much vegetation and wildlife. We were out for 2 hours keeping an eye for monkeys (we saw a slow loris and a langur monkey) and a water buffalo. The longboats are quite loud which probably scared a lot of wildlife before we even get there.

Despite not seeing a whole lot that evening, the views of the lake at sunset were enough to justify our stay there.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Night safari in action

By the time we headed back, it’s already dark and everyone was ready for a second round of buffet that closes the day for everyone. There’s not much programming in the evening, and it’s mostly socialising with other guests.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Amazing sunset at Cheow Lan lake

DAY 2

The day commenced with a morning boat safari, a second attempt to spot wildlife, followed by a buffet breakfast. A hike to the Nam Taloo cave, available only in the dry season, revealed fascinating stalactites and narrow passages. The trek, though humid, offered a refreshing change from the lakeside lounging.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
We spotted a water buffalo

This trek required using water shoes that you can borrow from Smiley’s free of charge. I would highly recommend taking their shoes if you don’t have any because it does get slippery and their shoes have sufficient grip to avoid slipping in the mud.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Water shoes are available at the lake house
Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
These were the “rustic” looking bungalows we saw on the way to Nam Taloo caves but they seem to be too rustic IMO

Once the hike was done, we headed back to the lake house for our last buffet lunch. We saw the boats heading to the lakehouse which signalled our eminent departure. Next thing you know, the lakehouse was packed with both groups of guests leaving and entering the lakehouse.

We were then called to start boarding the boats to make our way back to the dock. It is recommended to potentially wear a raincoat on the wayback. For some reason, water splashed everywhere on the way back and everyone was splashed with lake water.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Everyone used the life vests to shield themselves from the water splashes on the way back to the pier

Some people had arranged for them to be taken straight to Surat Thani town / Surat Thani airport, Donsak pier (go to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao), Krabi or Phuket. However, most of us went back to the Smiley Bungalows.

Can you DIY the Khao Sok Lake Tour?

Planning your own Khao Sok Lake adventure is absolutely doable, especially if you’re aiming for a delightful day trip. However, if the allure of spending a night amid the lake’s beauty captures your imagination, opting for an organized tour becomes a more appealing choice.

However, if you intend to stay overnight at one of the lake houses, you might as well sign up for a tour. The do-it-yourself or DIY option seem to only make sense if you’re just wanting to go on a sightseeing day trip.

If you are travelling by yourself, first you should take a bus to town of Ban Ta Khun in between Surat Thani and Khao Sok on Road 401.

From there, you can hire a taxi for around 300 baht. Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike for the same price and that bike can take you from start to your destination—the Cheow Lan Lake Ratchaprapa dam. This may be the most fastest and most cost-efficient option.

Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -
Pier at Cheow Lan Lake

At the pier, you can try to find another group to split up the cost of a longboat. A 2-3 hours trip will set you back by around 2,000 baht so it’s really only worthwhile if you can find a larger group to go with.

How far in advance should I book?

Last-minute reservations are possible—we booked a day before our eagerly awaited tour. The array of tour operators ensures a sufficient number of options, although maybe booking a tour on the same day might be cutting it too close.

We still recommend booking it a couple of days in advance.

When to do the Cheow Lan Lake tour?

The best time to go for a Cheow Lan Lake tour is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This is when you can fully enjoy the experience, especially gaining access to the Nam Taloo cave.

The dry season ensures smoother exploration and adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your trip. Aim for this period, and you’ll likely have the best weather and opportunities to make the most of your Cheow Lan Lake adventure.

How to prepare

Just make sure you have everything on our recommended packing list, and just have fun! The tour is intended to be mostly for relaxation.

So if fitness isn’t your forte, fret not. This tour is designed to accommodate various preferences, allowing you to opt-out of the hike if it doesn’t align with your mood and energy levels that day.

Must-Have Packing List for the Khao Sok Lake Tour

  • 300 Baht National Park Entrance Fee plus service fee – this goes down to 150 for children under 10
  • Sun protection like hat, sunscreen, long sleeves
  • Swimsuit
  • Headlamp or torch because it gets really dark in the evening
  • Hiking clothes – expect these to get very dirty once you do the Nam Taloo cave hike
  • Hiking or running shoes
  • Mosquito repellent for hiking
  • Extra clothes in case the van runs cold on the way back to Khao Sok
  • Optional towel – the floating raft houses will sometimes run behind on laundry
Impressive 2 Day Khao Sok Lake Tour - What to Expect -

How much does it cost?

For this tour, we paid ฿2,500.00 each, which translates to roughly USD 35 per person. It’s reasonable considering that it includes all the activities, accommodations, and the buffet meals.

Plus, all the logistics are already planned out and all you need to do is go with the flow.

How to get to Khao Sok National Park?

Getting to Khao Sok a couple of transfers, and we talked about it on our Khao Sok guide.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, an extensive review of our time on the Cheow Lan Lake tour. It’s one of those tours that you should put on your list if:

  1. you enjoy observing wildlife from a comfortable distance
  2. you appreciate stunning geological formations and breathtaking natural views
  3. you enjoy slow-paced travels

Khao Sok is a very quiet town, growing interest from both tourists and locals hints at its rising popularity. Given the chance to do the Cheow Lan Lake tour, do it. You can also bundle up this tour with other experience such as the night safari right at the heart of the Khao Sok National Park.

I can almost guarantee that Khao Sok will be a highlight of your Thailand trip.


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