From Karon Beach, Phuket it was a 3 and a half hour journey by minibus up to the Khao Sok National Park where Elephant Hills, Thailand’s first luxury tented camp, is located. We arrived in time for lunch before checking into our accommodation for the night. Although remote, the camp has all the facilities – ensuite permanent tents, a swimming pool, wifi, bar and shop. The tents have proper beds, lighting etc. and are surprisingly spacious.
Our first activity was canoeing down the Sok River. This was a guided canoe so all we had to do was sit back and enjoy the views as our guide did all the hard paddling. The scenery was stunning, although the rain did put a literal slight dampener on things! We arrived close to the elephant camp and then moved on to Elephant Hills most famous attraction: the elephants themselves.
All of the elephants are female since males can become aggressive, and all have been rescued. There is no option to ride the animals – the aim is to keep their routine as close to what they would choose to do themselves. Since the elephants enjoy being bathed and fed, those are the activities that the guests are allowed to take part in. We first watched a couple of the animals playing in the waterhole (above – getting themselves muddy) before we moved to the bathing area. We used a hose and coconut husk to scrub mud from their rough hide. With three of us to each elephant it took a while until they were judged clean (or became bored and wanted to wander off).
Then we moved onto the feeding station. We were shown how to prepare fruit, sugar cane and elephant grass, then how to wrap medicine parcels to supplement their diet. Some elephants had a preference of what they wanted to eat, discarding what they didn’t want. My elephant ate everything before it!
From here it was a ten minute drive back to our accommodation and time for a well-needed shower before the evening activities commenced. These are all optional and so we missed the documentary on elephants but made it in time to see a dance performance (by children from a local school) and a cooking demonstration on Thai curries including a taster. Eight pm was dinner time – buffet style. Guests sit at long tables so it’s quite a social atmosphere. Drinks at the bar are also very reasonably priced.
The jungle is surprisingly noisy at night but the beds were comfortable and so no one was too out of sorts the next morning. Breakfast was buffet again, with a good mix of cooked and cold foods. After getting drenched on the canoes the day before we all invested 30THB (approx. 75p) in plastic ponchos just in case.
We had a 45 minute drive to visit a local market where we had a little free time, before heading on to the Rajjaprabha Dam. The dam was built to help with flood prevention and to provide power, creating the Cheow Lan Lake. It was about an hour by long tailed boat out to our home for the next night – the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp. This is a floating camp consisting of tents very similar to those in the main camp.
The whole camp floats on top of the lake, each tent coming with its own two person kayak. Even out here we had power (provided by solar panels) and hot water, but had to do without wifi or phone signal which was quite liberating. After checking in we had lunch and that afternoon’s activity was a jungle trek (which I will admit I gave a miss). Those of us who remained at the camp could take out our kayaks – there are monkeys in the area, wild elephants (though no one saw one) and I even saw a bat swimming in the water.
It was incredibly relaxing being on the water. On the following morning we took a guided kayak out further into the lake than we felt comfortable doing alone. At lunchtime the next days group arrived and we left in their boat, headed back to civilisation and then on to Krabi…
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