CHEOW LAN LAKE – 1 NIGHT, 1.5 DAY EXCURSION
Cheow Lan Lake in Thailand is a beautiful 165sq kilometre lake east of Khao Sok National Park. It was created in 1982 by the flooding of the Ratchaprapha dam.
The National park encompasses limestone cliffs and shimmering waters. The lake allows you to explore the canals, coves and cul-de-sacs along the Cheow Lan Lake shore. There are many tracks to hike and caves you can go into. However, you need to go with a registered excursion company or guide.
I had read about Cheow Lan Lake in the Lonely Planet. I thought that it would be a great place to visit whilst we were in area of Khao Sok National Park.
Scott and I got on the public bus from Phuket to the National Park. It was a cheap (300 Baht) and easy four hour bus ride. Unfortunately the bus smelt like fresh fish for the entire way. I also vividly remember that if had these ridiculous pink curtains…. They seem to like a lot of pink here in Thailand… haha
When we got to the National Park we got into the back of a Jeep to the Monkey Mansion Jungalows. It wasn’t far to walk to the hostel but it only cost 50 baht each to have driver take us there.
The receptionist at the Jungalows was as lovely chap. He assisted us with the overall plan of our excursions after we had taken our bags in the room… We then sat in the cosy jungle retreat to discuss our trip whilst we drank a few cold beers 😉
VALUE & COST
We knew that we definitely wanted to go to Cheow Lan Lake. However, we were unsure if we should do the overnight excursion or try to squeeze a few more trips during our three night stay.
Our host at the Jungalows recommend that we take the overnight excursion. You get more time out on the lake, including a sunset and sunrise safari, all your meals covered and you get to stay the night in a floating bamboo bungalow.
The day trip was 1500 baht but the overnight excursion 2500 baht. So, for the extra cost you got a lot more for your money.
Scott and I were super keen to stay on the lake in a bamboo hut that floats. The nature of the park was what we wanted to sleep and wake up to….. So in a flash we had put our names down and paid for the excursion. We were both excited for our day and a half excursion and one night stay out on Cheow Lan Lake.
GETTING OUT THERE
The mini bus was outside the hostel at 09:00 and was full by the time we had got the rest of people from the hostels.
To get to Cheow Lan Lake takes about an hour. We parked, paid for our park ticket and was told to get into the long boat. Once everyone had their life jackets on, the captain started the boat and we set on our way across the vast lake.
The lake was beautiful with limestone cliffs rising out of the water. It was smooth and calm as we quickly zipped across the top the shimmering reflective mirror top. The people on the boat were happily taking lots of pictures along the way.
The bungalows are about a 45 minute boat trip across the lake. The check in process was quick as they just simply took us to a cabin and we dumped our bags. We then had the opportunity to launch ourselves off the jetty and go for a swim. Some chose to chill out and read outside their cabins or take a nap before lunch.
AND TO OUR SURPRISE
The group all sat together on a long table for lunch. There were about twenty of us from a variety of places all of whom seemed pleasant and happy to be there. Another group was with us too but sat on another table who had cabins on the other side of the resort. We all ate a typical Thai meal which they catered for vegetarians too.
After lunch the guide told us what the schedule was and that we could be in for a surprise. He had said that due to the rainy season they were not able to take the majority of groups into Nam Tulu cave. This was due to the fact that the water level had been so high that it was dangerous to go inside.
But luckily for us, the water was down and we could make the entire track through Nam Tulu cave. This was great to hear. Scott and I had never done any caving together so we were both excited for this.
WHAT YOU NEED
We had to have sturdy shoes, a dry bag to keep our personal items safe, a headlamp, and water. It was also a good idea to wear a swim suite underneath our clothes.
Fortunately the lovely chap at the Jungalows lent us shoes and a dry bag so we were all set to start the excursion. If you do not have shoes or a dry bag you can rent them for 50 baht each at the bar/kiosk on the resort.
The long boat took us down and the river through some mangroves to the trail entrance. The path had a sign post which we could follow to the cave. It was exceptionally wet and there were rivers to walk through which were quite shallow to start. They got deeper as we got further along the tack, one river came up just past our knees.
It took us about an hour to reach Nam Tulu cave and the experience through the cave was amazing. If you would like to read more about the trip through the cave then please check out Nam Tulu cave here.
We took the boat back to the bungalows and took time to cool off in the lake. We were hot and dirty and we had to clean off the mud from the walk. The resort conveniently provides kayaks that are tied up outside the rooms, so some of us went to go for a paddle and explore.
We left for the night safari at 6pm. The excursion was an hour and we spent time to relax and look for wildlife. There were a few monkeys in the tree tops which I found it quite difficult to see, but that was part of the fun. It was beautiful to be out on the lake to watch the wildlife and scenery. The reflection of the trees on Cheow Lan Lake was just magical as dusk set in.
At sunset we went back to the bungalows where we ate dinner and drank a beer which you could buy at the kiosk. It had been a hard day so Scott and I were in bed by 8pm. There was a communal bathroom with showers and toilets which you had to walk across a bridge to get to it. Lights go out at 10pm, so it was a little hard to see in the dark.
To open the door out onto the lake at 5am was just spectacular. There was no need for an alarm as the jungle had its own wake up call. The variety of birds and animals were chattering away for the start of a new day.
We made a tea or coffee from the restaurant and then set out on the long boat again for our morning safari. Again, not much wildlife to be seen but Cheow Lan Lake was so pretty. The reflections on the lake and the sound of wildlife was so peaceful.
We had been on the lake for about an hour then we went back to the floating bungalows and had breakfast. They gave us pancakes and jam which was a great way to start the day. Everyone then chilled out before we checked out at 10am.
LEAVING THE LAKE
We took the boat for the last time and went zooming across Cheow Lan Lake. Stopping at the underwater village that was covered when the dam was flooded. The village is eighty meters underwater so you could not see it. But we got to take some shots at the front of the boat. There were some Tukans in the tops of the trees. We sat and watching them for a while and I was happy that I could see them.
We had thought that we were all heading back to the port after the pit stop to head back to the hostel. However, this was not the case. We stopped at this quaint little beach that backed onto the jungle. The guides had packed a take away lunch for us all which included fried rice, Oreos and pineapple. It was tasty and made us all very happy 😃
To make this stop and have the opportunity to enjoy Cheow Lan Lake for the last time was great. Sitting down on the wood logs to eat a meal and look at the view was just stunning.
We then left the beach and headed back to the port on the long boat where we took the bus to our hostels.
This trip out on Cheow Lan Lake was amazing. If you like to do something a little different whilst you are on your vacation then I would recommend the overnight excursion to to anyone. Touring and sleeping out on the lake was just wonderful. The fact that we got to hike through the cave was such a great surprise.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Book your trips from Khao Sok National Park as you will be charged more if you organise them in Phuket.
Make sure you take a good pair of walking shoes or organise them at the hostel before you leave….Make sure you pick a good pair!
Take money with you as there are no ATMS or anyway of getting cash on the floating resort. We lent a young couple 500 baht that we never saw it again.
Check what walking excursions are available as due to the weather some may be closed.
I would advise on a pair of binoculars if you like your wildlife as the animals are little difficult to spot if you don’t have good eyes.