Cheo Lan Lake in Cao Sok National Park
Cheo Lan Lake is part of Koa Sok Nature Park, located in the southern Thai province of Surat Thani, 175 km north of Phuket. The park is a tropical jungle with a biodiversity comparable only to the Amazon forest.
Fifty years ago there was no lake in this place, but only mountains between which people lived. It was the site of fruit cultivation and the trade route that connected the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
As a result of the military coups of the 1970s, rebels who disagreed with the political regime in Bangkok settled in the region. By 1989 they had all been amnestied. Meanwhile, the economic development of southern Thailand, especially its tourist industry, increased the need for electricity. People from the mountain valley were relocated, and the nearby main river of southern Thailand was blocked by a massive dam.
The 94-meter-high Rajapraba Dam (literally "light of the kingdom") has created an artificial reservoir of 165 square kilometers and a depth of 150 meters in the area. It was called Cheo Lan Lake and is used for hiking, sightseeing, and fishing.
How to get there
Turn at the signpost 53 km on the highway leading from Surat Thani to Takua Pa, and drive another 15 km to Rajapraba Dam.
How much does it cost
Entrance to the nature reserve is 200 baht (6$).
Rent a boat with a guide (walk 1.5 hours) - from 1500 baht (44$), one seat - from 200 baht (6$).
The fee to rent a boat to get from the dam to the lake is 1,000 baht (29$).
Excursion tours to the lake and surroundings from tourist companies - from 1500 (44$) (single day) to 8000 baht (235$) (multi-day, with an extensive program of excursions).
A trip to Cheo Lan Lake is ecotourism in its purest form. There are no phones, no Internet and no electricity (despite the power plant nearby). There are karst mountains rising out of the water with vertical walls hundreds of meters high, the turquoise smooth surface of the lake, and a variety of wildlife.
Karst mountains consist of loose rocks such as limestone, gypsum, rock salt, dolomite, etc. - and are present everywhere on Earth, for example, in the mountains of the Crimea and the Caucasus. But here the rocks are in the water, dissolving in which they give it a wonderful shade. If you look into the distance, you can see the clouds clinging to the mountains, and sometimes fog falls on them, creating a unique East Asian landscape.
Several species of monkeys live along the shores of the lake. Bright birds nest on isolated mini islands. If you walk deeper into the jungle, you can meet elephants, tapirs, monitor lizards and wild cats.
In addition to walks on the lake itself, sightseeing tours involve:
- Visiting the caves - Coral and Nam Talu;
- Hiking trails in the jungle with visits to the best viewpoints;
- Kayaking on the Sok River in a single or double boat;
- Expeditions through the reserve with a long route.
Coral Cave resembles all other stalactite-stalagmite formations with the difference that the stone and limestone surfaces are covered with moss, which makes the stalactites look like coral. A visit to the Nam Talu Cave with full confidence can be classified as an extreme excursion. During the rainy season, it is flooded almost completely and closed, in the dry season - the cold water in some places can reach the neck. It is dark in the cave, to illuminate the accompanying person are given flashlights, worn on the head. Walking through the grottoes of Nam Tulu, you can see hundreds of bats, stone and limestone formations, overhanging on all sides.
Special mention should be made of the night and morning walks on the lake organized by guides for travelers who stay overnight at Cheo Lan. The star-spangled sky, the sounds made by unknown nocturnal inhabitants of the lake and coastal areas leave a lasting impression. And in the morning - the already mentioned mists and absolute silence hanging in the air.
For many, Lake Cheo Lan is all about fishing. If you are lucky, there is a chance to catch the river catfish, the endemic of Asian waters - the snakehead, the tropical perch. Divers can look for and explore the submerged houses and temples, which are safely at the bottom. Those who do not fish or swim underwater are advised to swim in the lake: the water is clean and has a comfortable temperature of 26-28 ° C.
Many people come to Cheo Lan Lake as part of a day tour, alone or with a group. For those who want to see the night and morning Cheo Lan, there are several bungalows on the lake.
There is no comfort, all the facilities are outside. Three meals a day is assumed. Accommodation in floating houses on the lake - from 600 to 1500 baht ( 18-44$) per night.